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Café Musique lives up to its name with a musical pallet that includes gypsy, swing, tango, folk and their self-defined genre, “wild classical”. The five members seem to eat, sleep and breathe music. They’re from the central coast of California and all five come from wildly different backgrounds, but together they’ve found kindred musical spirits in one another. Having performed around the world and been on the stages of several world-class music festivals, Café Musique has made thousands of fans of their powerful, emotive and beautiful sound. They have shared the stage with Doc Severinsen, David Grisman Quintet and Los Lobos and performed and recorded with Grammy award winner Louis Ortega, musical madman Joe Craven, songwriter Jill Knight and Broadway vocalist Sarah Kleeman.
In 2003, accordionist Duane Inglish and violinist Marlene Williams had a musical encounter that resulted in a beautiful sound that was not to be forgotten. The pairing of these two instruments was not only enchanting but somehow had a deep emotional feeling that needed to be explored. It was from this serendipitous moment that the idea of Café Musique was born and the two musicians suddenly found themselves performing in clubs and venues throughout the area.
Whoa! Oh my God! Hell’s bells! The debut album by Café Musique is wicked good! I seriously can’t say enough good things about this album, which demonstrates a level of musicianship and an emotional impact rarely found.
– Glenn Starkey, Music Critic, New Times, San Luis Obispo
It was in 2006 that renowned violinist Brynn Albanese, songwriter Craig Nuttycombe and vocalist Piper Heisig joined the band. With their combined talent, Café Musique became a musical force and went into the studio to record their first album, The Dancer. The effort was met with critical acclaim and quickly propelled the group to a level of recognition throughout the state and beyond. They appeared at major festivals and venues such as the Kuumbwa Jazz Club in Santa Cruz and performed for over 4,000 people at the Live Oak Music Festival in Santa Barbara.
Following the success of their first album, multi-instrumentalist Fred Murray joined the group on bass and the quintet was complete. It wasn’t long before their second album, Catching Your Breath, was produced in 2010 and the band continued to grow in popularity with appearances at significant venues such as the Millpond Music Festival and the California Worldfest Music Festival. It was at this time that the band started to feature more of singer/songwriter Nuttycombe’s music in their performances much to their fans delight.
2011 was a seminal year in the band’s musical journey seeing their first trip to Europe. Through a collaboration between a local travel agency, Café Musique tapped into its incredibly loyal audience and chartered a riverboat in France that sailed the Rhone River from Lyon to Arles, giving the band opportunity to perform in some of Europe’s most historic cities. This experience was shared with over a hundred fans who joined the band for its journey through the heart of France. The trip was so successful that repeated journeys have been made to Portugal’s Duoro River (2013) and the Netherlands (2015). An ongoing friendship with Joe Craven was forged after joining the band on percussion for the last two riverboat journeys and Mr. Craven continues to guest perform with the band when the two meet up at various locations.
By 2013, with over a thousand performances under their musical belts, the band caught the attention of Maestro Michael Nowak. He invited the ensemble to collaborate with him for the 2013 Pops by the Sea in Avila Beach, California featuring the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Nowak contacted Hollywood orchestraters Brad Dechter and Tim Simonec, (who have orchestrated and conducted hundreds of films) to orchestrate five of Café Musique’s tunes, including Craig Nuttycombe’s beautiful love ballad, Half Step Behind.
Brynn Albanese … plays to the heart with all her energy and passion
–Michael Nowak (film soundtrack conductor for Life of Pi, The Hangover,
The Kite Runner, King Kong (2005), American Gangster)
The departure of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Piper Heisig in 2013 presented the band with new opportunity. With the clarity and musical vision of a new beginning, Café Musique recorded their third album, Half Step Behind, in 2013. The project celebrated and embraced their experiences from travelling abroad and opened the door for collaborations with many other musicians. Out of that, a new member was invited to join the band, string wizard Eric Williams. He brings a life-time of musical experience to the band’s fabric forged by his touring and recording with Taj Mahal, Rita Coolidge and appearing on over 100 recordings.
The success of Half Step Behind resulted in appearances at several new venues and festivals including the Strawberry Music Festival, the Freight & Salvage Coffee House and collaborations with other symphonies such as the Santa Maria Philharmonic. In leveraging that success, the band sought to bring in more songwriting along with a stronger emphasis on the musical dynamics and interplay between the accordion and violin. A quote from Lisa Manning (entertainment director, Hidden Valley Music Seminars, Carmel Valley, CA) captures the band’s new direction perfectly:
“Leading the way is the siren song of violinist Brynn Albanese. She charms, seduces, and delightfully entertains the audience through a whirlwind of musical genres. The group dynamic is part of the fun, with a sassy, musical interplay between accordionist Duane Inglish and Ms. Albanese. The band offers range as well as depth, moving from exhilarating tango to the intense folk music of Eastern Europe to the truly lovely songwriting of guitarist Craig Nuttycombe.”
All this leads up to Café Musique’s most recent accomplishment, their fourth album, Ebb and Flow. From the breathtaking first note of Astor Piazolla’s Libertango to the sweet gentleness and warmth of the last song, Ebb and Flow, the project embraces the range and depth of Café Musique’s dedication to its vision. Throughout the album there is a dance between the accordion and violin interlaced with the songwriting of Mr. Nuttycombe. Ms. Albanese’s violin is featured prominently on many songs, solo and in harmony with herself, allowing her to bring to the forefront her virtuosic command of the instrument forged from years of performing under some of the world’s most prominent conductors such as John Williams (Hollywood film music master of the Boston Pops) and Jaap van Zweden (current conductor of New York Philharmonic). Her tutelage under Itzhak Perlman jumps out at you with her pizzicato technique in the tunes El Choclo and Metsakukkia.
Ebb and Flow will not disappoint fans of Café Musique with the range of raw emotion, power and beauty the band has become known for. Swing aficionados will celebrate the Stéphane Grappelli re-incarnation on Sweet Lorraine. Lovers of classical music will embrace the ‘wild-classical’ arrangement of Vittorio Monti’s gypsy musical extravaganza, Czardas. And of course, there is plenty of beautiful arrangements on tunes such as Crested Hens and Lovers Waltz that the listener can simply close their eyes and float away with!