Musette Explosion is a trio from New York City featuring Will Holshouser (accordion), Matt Munisteri (guitar) and Marcus Rojas (tuba). In this very special band they bring the beautiful Parisian musette style to new places through virtuosic improvisation and original pieces, sonic surprises and adventurous playing, shot through with a sense of fun and an emotional depth.
Marcus, Matt and Will keep busy backing up some of the world’s foremost artists (Regina Carter, Paul Simon, Catherine Russell, Steven Bernstein, Henry Threadgill, Mark O’Connor, David Krakauer, and others). Over the last fifteen years, they’ve indulged in a labor of love: exploring the beautiful and challenging French musette repertoire. Their debut album was featured in an interview on NPR's Fresh Air in November 2014 and spent a week on Billboard's "Jazz Albums" chart. In 2015, they played at Monterey Jazz Festival, Chautauqua Institution's Logan Chamber Music Series, San Antonio's International Accordion Festival, and Djangofest Northwest, among other places.
Some background: Paris in the early 20th century was a cosmopolitan melting pot, like New Orleans or New York. A true “musette explosion,” musical and cultural, was taking place. Paris was “in the throes of explosive growth as poor migrants flocked in. Where people of all classes rubbed shoulders, places of amusement multiplied … Cafés, clubs, brothels, and dance halls were the crucibles in which were forged new musical forms" (according to Didier Roussin, musette historian and guitarist). The original bagpipes (“musettes”) of the French Auvergnats were replaced by the Italians’ accordions, but gave their name to the new style of music; Roma guitarists and violinists brought in Eastern European and Spanish influences; American GIs introduced jazz, the banjo, and drums. German and Polish waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas were also in the air. This trio, with its unique instrumentation, continues the “explosion” in our era through its new interpretations, sonic surprises, and original compositions.
from the liner notes ...
As we began playing some musettes, we found ourselves emphasizing the American (or African-American) side of the music's family history: rhythm, swing, and improvisation. Rather than reenacting the old records, we followed the music as it led us somewhere: the simple harmonies and perfectly structured forms of musette were fun to improvise on, and that became a path to finding our own interpretations. Our intent was not to reconstruct or deconstruct the repertoire, but to play it in our own way, with our own voices, while keeping the melodies, rhythms, and proportions that give the music its beautiful flow more or less intact.
We took a major step along this path when Marcus Rojas joined the band on tuba -- which is not part of the traditional musette ensemble. In his virtuosic hands, the tuba can play the role of bass, horn, bird call, or whale song, adding a whole range of possibilities. Matt's absolutely unique early jazz rhythm guitar expertise and blistering, adventurous solos kept the engines humming. Accordion is traditionally the lead instrument in musette and it was a thrill for me to play this role, learning these challenging melodies and improvising on them, while trying to emulate the old accordionists who were as expressive as any lead singer. We brought in ideas from our work as side musicians in jazz, pop, and classical music but kept our arrangements simple so there would be plenty of freedom to improvise. Musette became a gateway to an exciting way of playing as a trio. I wrote three new tunes to bring some more of our own sound to the mix, not swing waltzes per se, but pieces inspired by the luminous style and smoldering emotions of musette.
We owe a special word of thanks to our friend Scott Lehrer for convincing us to finally get this band into the studio and for engineering and advising brilliantly. It wouldn't have happened without his artistry and expertise.
-- Will Holshouser