Tribute: Jac Lavergne

Jac Lavergne
Jac Lavergne plays accordion, oud, violin, flutes, and percussion with Compagnie Léon Larchet, a performance unit that melds traditional French and North African music with world rhythms. It's a very driving sort of music -- called tradimodern -- and Lavergne and company perform it in a spectacular, theatrical way, building layer upon layer of well arranged energy. That's today.

Twelve years ago, for me, Jacques Lavergne was a name on a cassette at the Button Box, bought in the same stack as Frédéric Paris' Carnet de Bal. Driving home from Amherst, a beginning accordionist, I popped in Lavergne's Cadences d'Auvergne and was blown away.

Jacques Lavernge, L'Aurriacoise

As this waltz demonstrates, Cadences d'Auvergne -- put out by the Agencies des Musique des Territoires d'Auvergne (AMTA) -- is a solo accordion recording that presents a very traditional Auvergne repertoire played in a very unique way. Striking melodic playing is backed up not by the usual bass-chord-chord but by right-hand chordings and double-stops. Also, dig the foot tapping in the background. Such precision amid the flourish! So intriguing, I spent that trip with my jaw dropped wondering, "How does he do that?"

Jacques Lavergne, Marche de Noce de Valmier-Polka du Lot

It's wonderful, but it's not entirely mysterious. In that time of my inexperience, it took me a while to realize that Lavergne was playing a three-row accordion in a very characteristic three-row way, with much legato row-crossing and cross chords. In other words, he really was doing things on his box that I could not do on a two-row box. Fair enough! But the philosophy behind his playing, creating settings that were harmonically and rhythmically intricate really did foreshadow his music with Compagnie Léon Larchet, with its focus on drama and story. Also, there's no denying his technical facility and artistry. Jac (Jacques) Lavergne inspired me greatly. He is a master. Under appreciated, I think. Every accordionist should hear him.

Lavergne's recent output is available through the Compagnie Léon Larchet web site, either as CDs or downloads. Cadences d'Auvergne is criminally out of print, though recordings of it can be gotten at Mitch Gordon Music.

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