In the music world, the prejudice against the accordion and its many musical relatives is strong. That prejudice undoubtedly has it least some of its roots in issues of class and ethnicity. Because of its portability and power, the accordion has always been the instrument of choice for immigrant cultures. On the other hand, the enduring popularity of Lawrence Welk reruns suggests that some of the anti-accordion sentiments are a matter of good taste.
Yale Strom doesn’t play one himself — he’s a violinist — but he was an apt choice to curate a program celebrating the accordion traditions of the Lower East Side being performed on Oct. 27 at the Museum at Eldridge Street (3 p.m., 12 Eldridge St., (212) 219-0302, eldridgestreet.org). As a klezmer bandleader he has worked with a profusion of accordionists and has experience writing for the instrument as well.
“Eldridge Street has been a place that has been very good to me and for me,” Strom said in a telephone interview last week. “I’m always trying to find new ideas for the venue, and I was thinking, ‘What about doing something that celebrates the different ethnic groups of the Lower East Side?’ The accordion is a ubiquitous instrument that covers a lot of these traditions. Let me bring together a group of the world’s best.”
The result is the Lower East Side Accordion Arkestra, with Peter Stan, Lou Fanucchi and Cory Pesaturo in the leads. Stan has been a member of the Strom’s band for over 25 years, and is steeped in both klezmer and Roma music. Fanucchi represents the Italian and Italian-American accordion traditions, and is a frequent West Coast collaborator of Strom’s. The most unusual resume of the group belongs to Pesaturo.
“He’s a graduate of the Berklee School [of Music],” Strom explained. “He has major jazz chops, plays a lot of bebop on the accordion. But he likes playing all kinds of music and we just played together at an accordion festival in Orange County [Calif.].”
The culmination of the event will be the premiere of a new Strom composition for accordions, “Soup of the Day.” The title is Strom’s affectionate joke on the lush musical stew that is the Lower East Side.
“When restaurants finish the day, they have leftover vegetables and the next day they’ll take them and use them to make a new soup,” Strom said. “This piece will be a combination of the different influences that Peter, Lou and Cory bring to the table.”
So the accordion is a handy musical instrument to have.
“It gives you the full range of harmony, melody and rhythm in a single box,” Strom said. “I love it.”