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AEPEM/Claudie Schiller Music / AEPEM

Claudie lives in the Sierra Foothills of California and is a family member of French gurdy-player/ producer/ musicologist Jean-Michel Peru. Jean-Michel and his bagpiper friend Jacques Lanfranchi have produced three excellent recordings of themselves and their two friends who are collectively Carre de Deux. They also run a small record label called AEPEM, which carries their recordings and those of a handful of other French trad bands. Almost everything on AEPEM is a must-have, as far as I'm concerned, and you can order them from Claudie in California, saving yourself hassle and expense.

For people in the US, all CD's are $20 each, including shipping. To purchase, contact Claudie Schiller at claudie@calwisp.com.

For people in Europe, contact Jean-Michel Peru directly at AEPEM in Paris. The email is aepemasso@gmail.com.

These are the recordings:

Paris Centre -- Cornemuses en Ile-de-France

Paris Centre is a compilation of central France bagpipe music, played by a considerable collection of the current players -- some famous in the scene, some not, but all fine players. There must be 10 or 20 different pipers featured, plus some notable box and hurdy-gurdy players. There are solos, duets, and a roomful of bagpipes on one cut. There are big cornemuses (20 and 30 inch), lots of cabrettes, and even a little bit of the sweet little royal court bagpipe played by Dominique Paris. There are many tunes here, mostly somewhat obscure, all of them very nicely arranged. This CD is great listening, and a nice sampler of what can be heard on the pipes in central France these days. Highly recommended.

Clips:


J.B. Bouillet Bourrées & Montagnardes

Where Paris Centre is focused on the bagpipe, Bourrées & Montagnardes is all about the hurdy-gurdy (vielle a roue). It features Jean-Michel heavily, with Jacques backing him up on pipes, and very little other musical accompaniment, and the material comes from the collections made by J.B. Bouillet in Auvergne in the mid-1800's. They are great tunes, very cheerful and danceable, and there are lots of them (no surprise). This album is fun for the casual listener (much like Paris Centre) who just wants to enjoy the hurdy-gurdy in its element, but also contains a lot of interesting tunes for the experienced player to learn. Very nice stuff.

Clips:


Carré de Deux -- "Les Transformations"

"Les Transformations" is, like the previous two JM/Jacques CD's, chock full of tunes, mostly unfamiliar to me. This one specializes in dark tunes, primarily from the Nivernais (Nevers) area of Berry. The instrumentation and arranging are great, keeping a very traditional sound without things getting repetitious. There are fiddle-box duos, two piper duos, fiddle and hurdy-gurdy, fiddle and pipes...you get the idea. While everyone is a terrific player, I especially enjoy Gilles Poutoux on diatonic. He is one of the very few box players I've heard who delivers a very traditional sound playing along with pipers and gurdy players on minor and modal tunes. Gilles gets featured a lot on this recording, and I really like everything he does. Julien Barbances on fiddle and pipes is no slouch either, and Jean-Michel and Jacques are enjoyable as always. Definitely get this one if you're hungry for interesting new tunes.

Clips:



Carré de Deux -- "Tout en Accompagnant Leur Danse"

"Tout en Accompagnant Leur Danse" is the latest from Carré de Deux, released in Summer 2009. It features another 20 great tune sets and songs from the Nivernais and Berry regions. This one is a little more subdued than Les Transformations, but as always, the playing is terrific, and the tunes are interesting and unusual. I especially enjoyed the vocal music selections, very dark like the tune sets, but very memorably -- my particular favorite is "Meunier Blondin." If you like your French trad music dark and snarly and full of gurdy and pipes, you should own all of these guys' recordings.

Clips:


Carré d'Auvergne -- "Musiques a danser du Massif Central"

Carre d'Auvergne consists of four musicians whose specialty is old-style Auvergne music in the Martin Cayla tradition. Dominique Paris on pipes should need no introduction, and Christine Donnard on hurdy-gurdy is an excellent player (and a delightful person as well), along with Christine's husband Francis on fiddle and Jean-Marie Cantaloube on chromatic accordion. This music is great fun if you like Auvergne music (and maybe you should get to know this stuff if it's unfamiliar), complete with pipes and accordion with lots of tremolo. I play this one a lot. They did a terrific job, and the selections are mostly not ones you encounter. Highly recommended.

Clips:


Duo Artense

If you enjoy the old-style Auvergne music of Carre d'Auvergne, you probably will also like this happy compilation of Auvergne tunes by fiddler Basile Bremaud and chromatic button accordionist Herve Capel. It's just the two of them, plus a bit of foot stomping, and they are fine players and creative without extending past the limits of the traditional Auvergne music genre. Basile appears in various bands on other recordings (notably the wonderful Fai Petar on AMTA) and is just a terrific fiddler, as well as singing on a couple of the traditional tunes with lyrics. Herve is no slouch on the chromatic accordion, either. Great stuff!

Clips:


Laurence Dupré and Olivier Wely - "Dzouga!"

This is another recording of Auvergne music that demonstrates just what two musicians can kick out without any studio tricks or other musicians. In this case it's fiddlers Laurence Dupré and Olivier Wely, and the two together have just an amazing sound on two fiddles and a tapping foot. The style is mostly hard-driving Auvergne bourree, in the tradition of Cafe-Charbons 30 years ago. They also throw in the other dance genres of French trad music, all of it eminently danceable. You could happily dance to these guys for hours. I really like this recording.

Clips:


Philippe Randonneix -- "Un Tot Pitit Bocin"

Philippe "Rando" Randonneix plays the chabrette, the pipes of the Limousin. They're similar to the musette du centre of Berry and a little like the cabrette of Auvergne, but sweeter. This CD is delightful, and hands down the best solo cd by a central France piper I've heard. All of the tunes are sweet and danceable, and it is very lightly produced with bagpipe taking center stage and the several side musicians who appear (typically one to a cut, including some enjoyable traditional singers) never distracting from Rando's playing. I really love this recording. You can listen to it again and again.

Clips:


Christophe Burg -- "Musique d'Aubrac"

This is the second recording by cabrette player Christophe Burg (his first, "Bal al Mazuk," was with chromatic accordionist Guy Chauzy on AMTA). However, because this one is on AEPEM, you can easily get it in the States. Much of the recording is solo cabrette, except for accordion on one track from Guy and a bit of banjo from Christophe's wife Gaelle on another. While an entire CD of solo bagpipe may not be everyone's cup of tea, enthusiasts of traditional Auvergne music (southern Auvergne in this case) and the cabrette in particular will play this one again and again. There are a number of standards like Paro lo Loup and La Tricoutado, but several of the tunes were unfamiliar to me. Nice job!

Clips:


La Machine -- "Les Rodeurs"

Alright, so I'm a grouchy old guy who likes his traditional music traditional, and I am not much of a fan of doumbeks and ouds with my cornemuses and hurdy-gurdies. So La Machine will appeal to a different crowd than myself. I do, however, respect their talent, as Julien Barbances on pipes and Gregory Jolivet on hurdy-gurdy are great musicians (Julien plays with Carre de Deux, Gregory plays with the current incarnation of Blowzabella). And there are some very good orginal compositions here. So if world-music fusion with French trad is something up your alley, definitely check out La Machine.

Clips:


La Machine -- "Il Est Encore Temps"

La Machine is back with a second recording, very much like the first but perhaps a little more subdued and more polished. The band is very tight. If you liked the first La Machine, you'll definitely like this one as well.

Clips:


Gregory Jolivet -- "Alt'o Solo"

I make the same disclaimer about Gregory Jolivet's music that I make about La Machine, which is the band he is in. Namely, this isn't really my kind of music. But damn, the fellow can play hurdy-gurdy! The compositions (all original) are energetic and edgy, and really show off what he can do on the instrument (an alto hurdy-gurdy in his case, deeper voiced than the conventional ones). Very impressive playing.

Clips:


Julien Barbances -- "Approachez Pour Entendre"

This is a meditative, rather introspective solo recording by piper Julien Barbances, featuring a number of original tunes as well as an interesting assortment of lesser-known traditional tunes from Cantal, Lot, Correze, and elsewhere. Several of the originals have a Middle Eastern flavor, much like his work with La Machine, and others are more rooted in French trad, but all of them interesting. Put on this recording after a frantic day and space out on the pipes.

Clips:


Alexandre Savignat and Antonin Pecoil -- "Violons du Cezallier"

Michel Esbelin has collected and re-edited a number of excellent tunes from two of the great central France fiddlers of the mid-20th century, Alexandre Savignat and Antonin Pecoil. The resulting recording is full of great tunes, especially bourrees de Auvergne, a little like listening to old Michael Coleman Irish recordings but not as scratchy. Complete with an excellent booklet of information about the music, including liner notes by Esbelin and Basile Bremaud (in French) and some great old photos. Some nice tune repertoire here.

Clips:


La Societe Fraternelle des Cornemuses du Centre -- "De Grand Matin"

The Fraternelle is a REALLY large group of players of central France bagpipers (I count about 40 in the photo) all gathered together in one room and recorded playing classics of the French trad genre together, plus some more obscure Nivernais material. The arrangements are by Julien Barbances. I personally don't find this kind of group presentation as satisfying as one or two pipers in the more traditional context, but give the clips a listen and see if the music grabs you.

Clips: