Will Holshouser: Exploring the Space between Folk and Jazz



Will Holshouser  (Photo by Gunther Groeger)

Just as brilliant colors of a sunset blend, and blur together, music genres converge. While all have characteristics in common, each is distinct from the other, and each possesses its own dynamic, its own musical parentage and its own spirit. Virtuoso Accordionist, Will Holshouser, in his restless pursuit of the connections between the genres, brings to us a new understanding of the space between Folk music and Jazz.

Will is one third of the trio under his own name, The Will Holshouser Trio as well as the collaborative trio, Musette Explosion. He has played for many years with the brilliant American Jazz violinist Regina Carter and has performed on two of her albums, “Reverse Thread” and “Southern Comfort“.

Regina Carter, Violinist performs “Hickory Wind”, accompanied by Will Holshouser, Accordionist

Nearly two centuries have passed since “Folk” music was recognized and in spite of the enormous body of work surrounding it, there is still no specific definition of what it really means. Music within this genre is also called “Traditional Music” and it is seen as an “authentic expression of a way of life now past, or about to disappear.” Artists Regina Carter and Will Holshouser are reinventing and reinterpreting the genre with exciting original work, presenting an entirely new musical perspective of Folk music. Upon awarding her a MacArthur Fellows Award, the Committee stated, “Regina Carter is a master of improvisational jazz violin….pioneering new possibilities for the violin and for jazz.”

Live on Soundcheck, Regina Carter, Violinist, performs ‘I’m Going Home’ featuring Will Holshouser on accordion.

Jazz originated in the United States, over one hundred years ago, in the neighborhoods of New Orleans. It is rooted in African-American experience, the indigenous music of Native American people and Euro-American traditional music that emanated from various regions of Europe. As these musical styles came together, early Jazz emerged as the popular music of the day in New Orleans. It spread and developed, throughout the twentieth century, into what we now recognize as Jazz.

Will was studying Jazz piano at Wesleyan University, when a friend found an accordion at a rummage sale, purchased it, and gave it to him. “It got me out of my Jazz headspace.” He says, “It was a good way to connect with a lot of Folk music that wasn’t really part of the piano repertoire and a doorway to a lot of music that I really enjoyed.” Will became an accomplished accordionist by listening to records. As his career took him to New York City, Will found a mentor, William Schimmel, an accordionist who has performed with Tom Waits and others.

 The Will Holshouser Trio performs, ‘Reed Song’

As Musette Explosion, along with guitarist, Matt Munisteri and tuba player, Marcus Rojas,  Will takes French Musette in an American direction and places an emphasis on improvisation.  Musette Explosion has worked as a backing band and has recorded with Folk music legend Louden Wainwright III, and most recently, with Chaim Tannenbaum.  Musette Explosion’s debut album, was featured on the National Public Radio program “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, in November of 2014.

“The nostalgic aspect is there, and we love the old repertoire, but we want to bring something new to it so we do it in a New York way; we improvise a lot.” Will has also written new tunes in the style, and says that there are a lot of bands finding old music and doing new things but, “This is the only one that I know of that combines these particular flavors in this way.”

Musette Explosion performs the classic “Swing Valse”

Because the versatile and fearless Will Holshouser moves seamlessly between French Musette, Klezmer, back to Jazz and then again, to American Roots music, his talent as an accordionist is in demand. Will is constantly touring, recording, and performing all over the world as an improviser and composer. Additional projects include touring and recording with Amsterdam-based improvisers Han Bennink and Michael Moore, clarinetists David Krakauer and Andy Statman, and pop visionaries, Antony and the Johnsons. As a freelance accordionist, Will has appeared on a wide range of recordings and in live concerts, with Kiran Ahluwalia, Martha Wainwright, Uri Caine, Arnold Hammerschlag, the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, The Western Wind, Mark Morris Dance Group and the Raymond Scott (tribute) Orchestrette.

Will Hollhouser,accordion
Musette Explosion (Photo by Reuben Radding)

 NPR interview:  http://www.npr.org/2014/11/10/363051645/accordionist-interprets-french-waltz-tradition-in-musette-explosion

Will Holshouser appearing with Regina Carter Tour Dates:    http://reginacarter.com/tour


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