Viazzani Takes Stok – Romano Viazzani (2007)

Viazzani Takes Stok - CD Cover

The third in the trio of albums released in 2007.  This album celebrates the music of the popular Italian virtuoso accordionist Gigi Stok (Luigi Stocchi) whose recordings were the first accordion music that Viazzani would listen to as a kid thanks to his father’s record collection. Stok’s superbly crafted music is not played here with a traditional rhythm section of guitar/piano and double bass/bass guitar but just on solo accordion demonstrating Gigi Stok’s desire to use his left hand even in a popular dance band context when most other accordionists abandoned it. The album includes some of the master’s best known compositions such as Elettrico, Brioso and Il Silenzio Fuori Ordinanza but also includes a few rarities like Doges City and L’Italiano a Parigi.


Sleeve Notes:

As a child I remember feeling a sense of occasion when my father played his treasured collection of vinyl and bakelite records on our old valve Portadyne radiogram.  It was usually during Christmas or some other celebration or when the television broke down which in the 1960s and 70s was quite often!  Among his record collection were a number of 45rpm singles and EPs and one LP that featured an accordionist with a distinctive sound, an accordionist that sounded more exciting, more polished and whose own compositions sounded more memorable than the rest.  That accordionist was Gigi Stok.  Occasionally my father would take out his accordion and play one or two of his favourite Gigi Stok pieces too so with this amount of exposure to the accordion it was inevitable that after having taken piano lessons from the age of seven the time would come when I would want to play the accordion too.  I remember feeling a real sense of achievement when I managed to get my young fingers around one of his pieces.  I also remember feeling a sense of awe to the point where I was almost speechless when I first met him in 1982.  When I led L’Orchestra Rara and The High Society Dance Orchestra we would play quite a number of his compositions at Italian weddings and balls and more recently at the London Accordion festival in 2001 I was pleased to arrange a medley entitled Gigi Stok Fantasia to be played by Corrado Medioli, Mauro Carra and Myself backed by the BBC Concert Orchestra as a prelude to the presentation of the festival’s Life Achievement Award which Medioli accepted on his behalf because Stok was to ill to attend.  Sadly Gigi Stok passed away in February 2003. He was buried on the 2nd of March in the village of his birth, Bianconese in the province of Parma where he began his career accompanying his father.Gigi Stok was born Luigi Stocchi in 1920 the name to which some of his early music is accredited to. He studied the accordion under the guidance of Maestro Marmiroli, who together with Maestro Savi, was amongst the best accordionists of his era. At the age of 13 he made his public debut together with his father, a singing storyteller, and here started his road to fame. After the interruption of the second World War, Stok joined the Tamani Orchestra a famous ensemble of its day, and began to include some of his own compositions in the orchestra’s repertoire.

He and other accordionists of his generation, were the players that introduced the element of virtuosity into dance music. After all Harry James on Trumpet and Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman on Clarinet had achieved the same thing with the American Swing bands of the 1940s. At the end of the 1940’s, after an audition where he played one of his own compositions namely Elettrico, His Masters Voice/EMI in Milan, realising his virtuosity offered him a recording contract, a relationship which was to last until the 1970’s.
His successful recording career still required him to promote himself by a tiring touring schedule.
In addition, in 1966 he was asked to compose a piece for a Film that was to star the actor Ugo Tognazzi, well-known in Italy if not so much abroad. The film was L’Immorale and the piece was Vecchi Ricordi.
Gigi Stok and his peers made young players of his generation and later my own generation aspire to playing pieces where a good technique rendered a piece exciting and involved a certain level of bravura. His left-hand semi-quaver runs in fast waltz tempo made many players realise that the left-hand keyboard was for more than just vamping along. Gigi Stok limited himself to playing the dance music he knew best but raised the profile of the accordion and its technical possibilities within that genre.


I fully acknowledge and appreciate the influence his music had on me as an enthusiastic teenager wishing to attain the clarity and crispness of this man’s dazzling technique and this album is a way of paying tribute as well as bringing his music to my own audience.  Although it is customary with popular music to present one’s own interpretation of someone else’s music, I found myself wanting to interpret many of the pieces as they were written or recorded by Stok himself so I have not allowed myself to stray too much from the original arrangements.  In addition I wanted to present the pieces as accordion solos without backing band but as much of the sheet music was printed in a format consisting of single melody line, chord names and, very rarely, a bass line save for the occasional bass run, one has a certain degree of freedom of accompaniment.

In this selection of pieces one will find some Gigi Stok favourites such as Brioso (Lively), Armonica Indiavolata (Bedevilled Accordion), Vecchi Ricordi (Old Memories) and of course his huge success Elettrico (Electric), but one will also find some of his lesser-known gems such as L’Italiano a Parigi (An Italian in Paris; one of the few musette-style waltzes he composed), Penombra (Half-light)and Cuore Vagabondo (Vagabond Heart).  A few of his collaborations have been included too such as Signora Fisarmonica (Lady Accordion) which he co-composed with his pianist Bruno Mussini and Tango Gagliardo (Vigorous Tango; herein given a more Argentine feel rather than a European-tango one)  which he co-composed with another brilliant accordionist from Parma, Nando Monica.  The aforementioned Mussini is also credited on the sheet music of Il Silenzio Fuori Ordinanza which is a take on the Italian rendition of the Last Post (Il Silenzio), the music played by the bugler at lights out during national service.  Il Silenzio was turned into a slow 6/8 rock number in the 1960s by trumpeter Nini Rosso and became an international success.  The “extraordinary” set of variations in Gigi Stok’s version have the militaristic suffix fuori ordinanza which literally means “out of ordnance”.  Furthermore I have also included the set of variations written by Stok on Capitani’s mazurka La Doccia.  The only piece I have never heard a recording of by anyone amongst this list is Doges City and this may possibly be a first.  The Doges were of course the rulers of the city of Venice and being a Boogie-Woogie the play on words in the similarity to Dodge City is very much intended here!