Left to right: Michael Papillo, Courtney Von Drehle, Bela Balogh, Kyle MacLowry and Gary Irvine of 3 Leg Torso. Percussionist T.J. Arko has replaced MacLowry. - Photo by Eugenia Vasquea

Chamber pop

There is an organic, acoustic sound that colors music by Portland group 3 Leg Torso. It's the accordion, an instrument that is showing up more and more in pop music.

"Without a doubt," says Courtney Von Drehle, a founding member of 3 Leg Torso. "I learned guitar, sax and piano, but later I was drawn to the accordion. It has a sound that is both humorous and soulful, and it can generate elements of accompaniment and melody."

Those elements are shared in a group such as 3 Leg Torso, featuring Béla Balogh on violin and trumpet; Michael Papillo on double bass; Gary Irvine and T.J. Arko on percussion and mallets; and Von Drehle.

"Anything that you can do with a synthesizer or organ, you can do with an accordion," Von Drehle says. "Like the voice or a saxophone, it's wind-powered, which gives it more human expression.

"And, historically, it sounds great with a violin. It's a marriage of sounds that is very expressive," he says.

3 Leg Torso will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Alex's Restaurant, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

Other artists at the forefront of bringing the accordion back into pop music include Jennifer Connelly of The Decemberists, Seattle-based troubadour Jason Webley and alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, among others, Von Drehle says.

Older Eastern European and classical influences also fill arrangements and original compositions by 3 Leg Torso.

"We focus on what we want the narrative flow of the music to be," Von Drehle says. "That is the part of our music that is influenced by chamber music, that classical attention to detail.

"At the same time, many of our pieces are improvised much like in jazz," he says. "Our arrangements are organized, but also have a spontaneous energy."

3 Leg Torso's music is instrumental, but some of the songs have stories that go along with them.

"Pretty tall ones, to tell you the truth," Von Drehle says. "Before the songs, we like to draw the audience into an arrangement with the story."

3 Leg Torso formed in 1996 as a violin, cello and accordion trio with the idea of creating modern chamber music.

The group has released four albums, toured the nation and performed with several symphony orchestras.

Von Drehle and Balogh, the principal composers in 3 Leg Torso, have written film scores for Joan Gratz's abstract animations "The Dowager's Feast" and "The Dowager's Idyll," along with other scores for documentaries. One of their songs, "Moroccan Jig," was featured in Morgan Spurlock's documentary, "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?"

Cover for the show at Alex's is $3. Call 482-8818.

Share This Story