The Accordionist - Soundtrack From The UK Stage Production
Released in April 2011, Bethany Jameson and Romano Viazzani's The Accordionist is the soundtrack from the UK theatre production of the same name, currently running (until 24th April) at the New End Theatre, Hampstead, London NW3 (from where the album may be obtained during the production run).
Soundtrack recordings don't always hold up too well divorced from their theatrical or cinematic context. However, this is not the case here, I'm glad to say. The Accordionist stands up superbly as a recording in its own right. In fact, it is an absolute joy of an album!
Bethany Jameson, who is bi-lingual (English/French) on account of having grown up in Belgium, is an outstanding singer-songwriter, cabaret performer and singer, both solo and with her three-piece band The Dixie Chicks. She is particularly renowned for her Piaf interpretations. Romano Viazzani is principally a classical accordionist and composer who studied under Frank Lilley and the great Professor Owen Murray, professor of accordion at the Royal Academy of Music. Viazzani is renowned as one of the very finest of modern accordion maestros, and among numerous other credits, already has his own Concerto For Accordion And Orchestra (performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Nick Davies) under his belt. In addition, Maestro Viazzani is equally adept at genres as diverse as tango, musette, popular music (where he has worked with Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and Grace Jones), jazz (with Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Orchestra), or popular Italian dance music.
The Accordionist is not the first time Ms. Jameson and Viazzani have collaborated. In 2009, Ms. Jameson devised and toured the successful cabaret style Piaf homage evening, On The Banks Of The Seine, with Viazzani.
The theatre production of The Accordionist tells the story of a Piaf tribute singer, long trapped in a failed marriage with a hard-driving accordionist husband and with a dream of becoming her own kind of singer; she leaves her husband and, years later, struggling with the demon drink, she tries to resume her career with a new accordionist, with whom, it turns out, there is a shared past... The story is told as much through songs as through the spoken word.
Thus, the material on The Accordionist is principally a blend of Edith Piaf repertoire, including some of her most iconic songs, and originals, with lyrics mostly by Ms. Jameson and music mostly by Viazzani. The originals hold up well here. Although contemporary in idiom and context, they don't stray too far from the genre and sit well with the Piaf repertoire. Viazzani's compositions are exquisite in their own right and capture the mood to perfection. His arrangements are equally exquisite and a sheer delight. Indeed, the Piaf repertoire seems to benefit from the voice and accordion only arrangements, they lend an added authenticity to the material itself as well as the setting.
Bethany Jameson's interpretations of the Piaf songs are stunning and exquisite, enhanced by her subtly understated performance. It is precisely because she does not imitate La Piaf that her interpretations are so engaging and sheer oozing with authority and authenticity, while at the same time clearly bearing the stamp of Ms. Jameson's individuality. The latter also applies to her equally superb renditions of the original songs. Ms. Jameson never delivers anything less than perfection.
When it comes to Romano Viazzani's accordion, it would be hard to imagine a more finely judged, indeed perfect performance, underscoring every last nuance of emotion and atmosphere of the music. The combination of these two extraordinary performers on The Accordionist is awesome and utterly devastating.
This album is as consistent as you could wish. Moreover, it is totally riveting and addictive. The Accordionist is going to play here till, ooh, at least eternity. It is simply gorgeous. And it's so much more than just another collection of Piaf repertoire, telling a story in its own way beautifully. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of the tragic and optimism and even humour. This is beautiful, deeply felt music that is timeless.
To say that Bethany Jameson and Romano Viazzani's The Accordionist is way beyond essential in any kind of cabaret/Piaf repertoire/chanson collection, would be not just stating the obvious but positively an understatement. Grab this if and while you can!
© 2011 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
1. Parallel Universe Lounge Bar Overture (Romano Viazzani) - 1:20
2. Medley: Toujours Aimer/Padam Padam (Raya/Dumont; Contet/Glanzberg - arr. Romano Viazzani) - 4:32
3. Jacqueline's Escape (Romano Viazzani) - 2:04
4. La Foule (Dizeo/Cabral/Rivegauche) - 3:04
5. Overture To Jacqueline's Old Routine: Extracts From Mon Manège A Moi/Toujours Aimer/Milord/Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien/L'Accordéoniste (Glanzberg; Dumont; Monnot; Vaucaire/Dumont; Emer) - 5:02
6. Get Out Of My Face (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani) - 2:07
7. I Just Bought a Brand New Dress (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani) - 3:14
8. Life Story (Bethany Jameson) - 3:25
9. Separation (lyrics Mark Bird, music Romano Viazzani) - 3:57
10. La Vie En Rose (Piaf/Louiguy) - 2:58
11. Can We Take It From The Top? (Romano Viazzani) - 2:33
12. Your Smile Was Meant For Me (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani) - 2:02
13. A Tango For One (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Romano Viazzani) - 2:38
14. Dressing Up (music Romano Viazzani, Karen Street) - 2:10
15. Prelude No.2 In C Minor, 48 Preludes & Fugues Book I, The Well Tempered Klavier (J.S. Bach) - 1:50
16. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien Vaucaire/Dumont) - 2:27
17. Parallel Universe (lyrics Romano Viazzani, Bethany Jameson, Andy Morton, music Romano Viazzani) - 2:37
18. Milord Moustaki/Monnot) - 4:02
19. Just Her Younger Man (lyrics Bethany Jameson, music Bethany Jameson, Karen Street) - 3:17
All arrangements Romano Viazzani