Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Show Review: Jay Cartwright, Solo on the Accordion

Jay Cartwright
Nightlight, Chapel Hill
November, 18 2009

Last Wednesday in Chapel Hill Jay Cartwright, stalwart of the Durham underground rock scene and life-long accordion player, led song at Nightlight to a darkened room of adorers thoughtfully listening to the unique shades of color his solo accordion arrangement created.

As one of the few practicing accordion players in the folk arena these days, Jay takes the stage as the lone heir to a fortune of highly developed civilization and culture from an earlier time. Before Robert Moog changed the face of rock and roll with modular synthesizers in the sixties' the apparatus of choice for buzzy stretchy brown sound dynamics was an accordion strapped to your chest. Early pioneers of big band and swing filled the spaces of radio with it in the first half of the last century and maintained its relevance right to the edges of rock and roll before it was set down, walked away from, and forgotten about by popular music.

While the golden age of accordion music flickered to darkness more than a half of a century ago, the modern folk music movement and old fashioned folk aesthetic that it seeks beckons the lights back on. The Felice Brothers infuse their heart break narratives with the accordion and those lucky enough to have caught them at Local 506 their last time through may have been brought to tears by James Felice's earth moving accordion work on "Goddamn You, Jim". By The Rosebuds Kelly Crisp, Built to Spill, and others across the indy spectrum, the bygone vintage of the accordion is being coaxed back into relevancy.

With sixteen years pushing the reeds however, Jay isn't among those seeking the olden aesthetic that the accordion represents...his character and presence as a musician is entangled in it. An accomplished piano player as well, Jay brings keys to many of the bands he is a member of...yet when the call of the solo stage summons him forth it's the accordion keenly accompanying. Jay's set last Wednesday re-imagined classics such as Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and The Supremes' "Come See About Me" with his accordion's harmonic textures of cream and wistfulness so unique that they were washed to a near original quality.

Jay doesn't have any more solo accordion shows on his calendar but you can see him perform as part of Felix Obelix, The Fictional Detectives, or in the participatory sea-chantey collective Oyster Destroyster. Jay Also presses the aerophone for Durham's very own Baroque Rock showmanship revivalist marching band The Scene of the Crime Rovers. --Carrboro Ninja

Jay Cartwright
Jay Cartwright
Jay Cartwright
Jay Cartwright
Jay Cartwright

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