I just discovered your page. I compiled the "Deeper Polka" CD for Folkways and somebody suggested I do a search for reviews and found yours. I'm glad you liked it.
My compliments on your insights contrasting the Klezmer paradigm shift with the polka continuity. The musicians who have started new-concept polka bands have generally come from outside of the tradition--often it's been a humorous schtick thing, like Rotondi, Happy Schnapps Boys or the Polish Muslims. Polka hasn't had its Henry Sapoznik figure emerge: an intellectual musician who will mine the old recordings painstakingly and then form an ensemble that seeks to reproduce and revitalize the best of the old nuggets. Some younger musicians like Copper Box and Freeze Dried from within the polka tradition are looking for new directions and are anxious to show their versatility and familiarity with other American musics, like blues, Cajun and bluegrass which they perform with a polka accent. Of course Eddie Blazonczyk has been doing something similar with Country material ever since the 1960s, although he thoroughly adapted that repertoire to his own band's trademark sound.
You mention that you can't distinguish the Dutchman from the Czech style. Let me give you a hint. In an analogy to another genre, if Czech is old time Country Music, then Dutchman is Western Swing. To understand what I mean, first you should listen to more Czech bands. The Texas Czechs you mention have a regional style that has been influenced by their Southwestern environment. Their Moravian origins (with few Bohemians nearby) and their geographic distance from the Midwestern Czech/Bohemian scene has resulted in a delightful but idiosyncratic style.
Check out bands from the core of the American Czech/Bohemian genre, for example some Romy Gosz or Dick Rodgers from Wisconsin, Ernie Kucera or Al Grebnick from Nebraska. Notice how the brass and reeds eschew the pear-shaped tone and take turns playing the lead part. Notice how the bass horn (tuba) plays a squared-off rhythm. Then contrast it with Dutchman where the horn players aim for a smoother tone, how the arrangements emphasize reeds and brass playing together (except in the Hoolerie numbers, of course), and the tuba does a bouncy, syncopated bass line equivalent to a jazz "walking" bass. Then in Dutchman, the Chemnitzer concertina has a much more exalted role than do the squeezeboxes in the Czech traditions where they tend to be overshadowed by the horns (except in some Nebraska bands). It's funny how there are always exceptions to the "rules."
Anyway, I hope these rambling thoughts are of interest. Nice to find your page. Good work.
From: "March, Rick"
To: "'Barry Nostradamus Sher'"
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 6:35 PM
Regarding Czech/Bohemian, the place to start has to be with Romy Gosz. His band codified a style the way Bill Monroe did with bluegrass.
His recordings have been reissued on CD in the last few years and can be purchased at the Polkamart website where they sell Polkaland and Cuca Records reissues. Here's the Gosz page. CD 602 would be a good one. It has several of his signature tunes. For Gosz, the 78s era recordings are the way to go. It's like getting vintage Louie Armstrong as opposed to his post-Hello Dolly material. They have a lot of clips to listen to on the website.
The next most influential band might be Dick Rodgers. Dick Rodgers took the Gosz sound and added right over the top of the arrangement the madcap accordion improvisations of Dick Metko, a true original. He had a popular TV show for many years. You can't miss on the CDs of his material. I can scarcely choose between them. CD 627 or 628 tie for first place, I guess.
Of course there are several other excellent bands that recorded for Polkaland: Joe Karman, Rudy Plocar, Gene Heier, the Greiner Brothers, Jerry Goetsch, etc.
There is also the smoother Bohemian sound made famous by Lawrence Duchow, but maybe I won't confuse you with that style now. He blended influences from the likes of Glenn Miller and Wayne King and it winds up converging with Dutchman in tonal quality.
For the Nebraska sound, Ernie Kucera is a great place to start. I see Karen Gerlovich has a couple of CDs of Ernie's on her website. Personally I only have LPs of his band, but both of these CDs look good. The second one has more tracks so maybe that gives it the nod.
http://polka-store.com/erniekucera/ [link broken]
I see that there are eight Al Grebnik CDs, the other big Nebraska influence. You'll have to roll the dice or pick a number out of a hat. They all look very good. Again, I only have his stuff on LPs. Maybe it's time to buy some CDs?!
http://polka-store.com/algrebnick/index.htm [link broken]
I hope this doesn't give you the impression that I'm some kind of a fanatical advocate of the Czech polka. Actually I like all the polka styles when played well. Right now I'm thinking about Czech stuff a lot because I'm in the process of helping organize the Midwest Czech/Bohemian Music and Dance Festival coming up July 18-20 in Kewaunee, WI.