Art Van Damme, Pete Barbutti & The Cordeen

In the right hands, the accordion can be a wonderfully evocative instrument. To name a few jazz masters of the accordion: George Shearing, Joe Mooney, Eddie Monteiro, Pete Jolly, Ernie Felice, Angelo DiPippo, Tommy Gumina, and Sivuca, whose harmonic and rhythmic use of the accordion enhanced so much fine Brazilian music. Gus DeWert was a splendid accordionist from Kansas City. In his time, Art Van Damme may not have reached the general fame of Dick Contino (“Lady of Spain”), but he was immensely popular. Rifftides contributor Paul Conley of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, California, prepared a report on Van Damme, who died last week on the threshold of his tenth decade. To listen to Paul’s piece, click here.
In the wrong hands, the accordion can be reduced to an object of ridicule and cruelty so universal that there is a web site solely devoted to accordion jokes.
For fifty years, the master of cordeen humor has been Pete Barbutti, a triple-threat musician and a comic capable of reducing audiences to helplessness with his accordion routines. Here is his most famous one, from a Tonight Show broadcast during the program’s Johnny Carson zenith.

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  1. says

    There are several fine younger players on the instrument including Ted Reichman and Will Holshouser. Can’t forget Richard Galliano and Gary Versace. However, Art Van Damme sure could swing!

  2. Ken Dryden says

    My former radio partner died at 86 last fall. He shared this gem with me a number of years ago, claiming that back in the 1950s, his program director insisted that he announce the accordion player on the air as “Art Van Darn.”

  3. Dennis R says

    The accordion is the most wonderful instrument in the world.
    In the wrong hands, any instrument can be torture. The violin is beautiful, but when one is learning, it is torture.