Café Musique fits more than a few different costumes
What better way to celebrate a holiday that encourages identity experimentation than with a band that defines its music as somewhere between a Jewish Ladino tune, a Venezuelan waltz, a Canadian pop song, Hungarian gypsy music and good old-fashioned Americana?
“You put a show on Oct. 31 and there’s no telling what will happen,” jokes Duane Inglish, Café Musique’s accordion player, of the ensemble’s upcoming performance at Don Quixote’s, at 1 p.m. on the Day of the Dead.
At this week’s Halloween afternoon gig, the five-member band out of San Luis Obispo will debut new music from its sophomore effort, Catching Your Breath, released in July. The 13-track album guides listeners on an existential journey from dreamlike “Cascata De Lagrimas,” to Eddie Cantor’s 1920s ditty “Dinah,” to the unofficial Canadian national anthem “Hallelujah.”
“It’s a little adventure that demonstrates the musical map we represent,” says Inglish. “We don’t fit a genre—we have no boundaries.”
With a guitarist who once opened for Jimi Hendrix, a bassist out of the Austin funk scene, a dual accordion and banjo player, a swing percussionist, and a classical violinist who lent her talents to the soundtracks of Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan, it’s no wonder that the band covers so much musical ground.
On paper, the concept of a group that combines classical, swing, gypsy, folk, tango, bluegrass and jazz, sounds like a wacky venture—and it is, but for it works well for Café Musique.
“You’re going to have a difficult time finding a theme or an anchor to our music,” says Inglish. “But we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into it and we’re just having the time of our lives.”
Though the group looked very different five years ago when Inglish and a few other San Luis Obispo musicians met for Thursday jam sessions, Café Musique as we know it today—Brynn Albanese, Fred Murray, Piper Heisig, Craig Nuttycombe and Inglish—has been performing together for three years.
In that short time, they’ve had what Inglish calls “lots of moments of almost fame,” including a request by Paramount Pictures to purchase one of the songs off their first album, The Dancer. While the deal fell through for financial reasons, Café Musique remembers the event fondly as a significant moment in the band’s history.
The band has been successful at getting some surprising responses. Inglish fondly recalls one concert during which the quintet was stunned into silence after receiving a standing ovation at the end of the first song, and another time when a grizzly biker came up to him after the show, shook his hand (nearly broke it), and said, “I hate accordions, but I just love the way you play that thing.”
Inglish understands that the accordion can easily be stereotyped as a corny instrument; he was forced by his parents to play it as a child and switched to drums the day he turned 13. But over time, his own respect for the instrument changed. Today, the accordion plays an integral role in all of Café Musique’s songs.
“I’ve played the banjo for 20 years, though musically, I was not that satisfied,” says Inglish. “The accordion, on the other hand, is so melodic and allows for so much expression. If you play it right, you can capture all of the human emotions.”
When Café Musique is on stage, Inglish says it’s not just about playing instruments, it’s about communicating with the audience. The band members make that connection by choosing songs that they themselves can relate to.
“The title track, ‘Catching Your Breath,’ for instance, has a disquieting theme about judging yourself by others’ point of view and allowing yourself to be intimidated,” says Inglish. “If you look at Halloween as an out of body experience when we question who we are and how we are, then it seems only appropriate that we’re playing on that day.”
Café Musique performs at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 603-2294.