Filippo Gambetta / Imuntzo eta Beloki

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Filippo Gambetta
Otto Baffi
Self-published (

Imuntzo eta Beloki
Elkar (

The Genoese diatonic accordion player Filippo Gambetta brings together two dozen musicians in his recent 12-track studio effort. Gambetta introduces us to a variety of folk dances which incorporate such diverse dances as tarantellas, mazurkas, and even forro, the genre originating in northeastern Brazil featuring the accordion and triangle.

This is a very polished, professional disc, with two dozen musicians contributing, mostly from the Ligurian region.

Among the contributors are bass player David Woodhead and pianist Emilyn Stam, who contribute via Woodhead's studios in Toronto. For those with long memories, Woodhead has a pedigree in Canadian folk music, having appeared with Perth County Conspiracy, Stan Rogers, and a host of other iconic Canadian performers. Stam's piano playing is reminiscent of La Bottine Souriante and is featured on three tracks including the catchy opener “Tamburietta.”

Listen "Zigoela" (excerpt)

On “Zigoela,” Fabio Biale's violin blend with Carmelo Russo's guitar and the diatonic for a beautiful waltz, a slow mazurka, perhaps, for me the most attractive track on the album. Another interesting piece is “Waste Land/Libereso” featuring a clarinet quartet and Piero Leone, on pandeiro. On the lively “Elicriso/Embraud”, manouche territory is explored with Francois Breugnot (violin) of Clermont-Ferrand, and Fabio Biale (guitar).

Listen "Waste Land/Libereso" (excerpt)

Gambetta composed all of the tracks and also produced this fine recording in Genoa. He plays a Castagnari Lilium and a Castagnari Nik, both two-row, eight-bass diatonics. He's adept at working with a wide variety of musicians, and exploring different tempos and styles.


Another wide-ranging accordion album of recent vintage is Egurre, the most recent effort by Imuntzo eta Beloki, the Basque accordion-tambourine duo. Like the Gambetta record, it canvasses a variety of genres such as Mexican and cumbia. But while the Gambetta disc is an accordion teacher's record, this has a completely different feel.

With at least half-a-dozen recordings, most of which I seem to have accidentally accumulated, this veteran duo seems to personify just about everything about country music – Basque Country that is. You can imagine you hear this music in the cabs of truckers winding their way down the mountain from Altsasu into the heart of the Basque speaking territory.

The words “authentic”, “return-to-roots”, and “trad-folk” don't even begin to describe what is happening here. While not quite descending into rural cliché, Egurre moves the duo in a direction away from the smoothness of their Jean Phocas-produced discs of recent years, and away from the more polished sound on 2003's Ganbaran Bai – towards a cider-house sound under the guidance of Victor Sanchez reminiscent to that of Kupela Taldea.

Fun to listen to – and probably to record, the selection includes traditional tracks such as J.M. Bedaxagar's “Nafarroa” and also several with lyrics by contemporary bards like Andoni Egana. As on most of their records, Jimmy Arrabit provides a hand with the drum kit where called for, and with Maider Ansa a female vocal provides sonic variety, with the alboka of Jon Galarraga lending the air of another time on many of the 13 tracks.

All of the tracks express a rustic energy to go along with the superb playing of the Urola Valley duo, unencumbered by ideas of what music in 2016 ought to sound like, “Mikel Goñi” being a good example. On “Nahia” legendary entertainer Joxemari Agirretxe (Porrotx) lends a hand on the final chorus The final track “Martxea Albokeagaz” would appear to be right out of an Allen Lomax field recording, featuring Maurizia Aldeiturriaga, inspiration for all such duos in Basque territory --and for many rock bands as well.

Imuntzo is one of the half-dozen or so most famous Basque “trikitixa” (diatonic accordion) practitioners and continues to showcase his considerable skills on the Zero Sette. All is certainly well in diatonic accordion land when two such compelling and diverse discs are available to showcase this most versatile of all folk instruments. - David Cox


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