various artists,
The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music
(World Music Network, 2002)

The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music contains 25 tracks that capture the evolution of Parisian cafe music, from bal musette to rock-musette. The founding fathers of bal musette, Emile Vacher, born in France in 1883, and Italian Charles Peguri, born in 1879, would have been proud to see the tradition retained and built upon by the young stars of the 1990s and beyond.

"Les Ogres de Barbeck" and "Debout Sur Le Zinc" have continued the acoustic sound into the new millennium, more than 100 years after its birth from the dances of the Auvergne played on the smallpipes. This album certainly gives a rich flavour of Paris.

The cover notes give a two-page history of the musette movement, from the small cafe-charbons of the Auvergnat immegres through the "guinguettes" along the riversides to the jazz ballrooms during the war, where the influence of Django Reinhardt resulted in the swing musette style. Despite its decline in fashion in the post-war period, Edith Piaf and other singers retained good accordionists to accompany them, and gradually fashions turned again so that the instrument began to become more popular in the 1980s, a century after the birth of the "fathers of the movement." With the ascendancy of the accordion and the inspiration of the musette heritage so rich in France and particularly in Paris, emerged jazz musette and rock musette, blending the more distant past with the punk and rock 'n' roll of the recent past to create a popular and particular style.

The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music won't be everybody's cup of tea, but if you are partial to a Pernod and cafe, it might just be right up your street. Offering recordings from the 1920s and '30s in-between offerings from the present day, songs from Edith Piaf and other less internationally recognisable figures, this is a history in music.

It is dedicated to the memory of Babik Reinhardt, who passed away 48 years after his famous father, in 2001, and contains Django's "Minor Swing" played by Babik's New Quintette du Hot Club de France.

This is an interesting album for those with an appreciation of the history and traditions of musical style; an enjoyable album for those who savour the sound of the "French accordion" and an ideal mood-setter for those familiar with this side of Paris.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 17 May 2003

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