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Charles Magnante "Soundies" on DVD

The Charles Magnante Quartet

Digital Video Disc (DVD)
5 tracks
Total Time: 14 minutes, 5 seconds
Track listings in English
Biographical Notes in Italian
Label: Bella Musica Roma
Released 2008
Imported from Italy


    1 Charles Magnante: Waltz a la Accordion (Swing Arrangement of Frédéric Chopin’s Valse, Op. 64, no. 1 [Minute Waltz])
    2 Charles Magnante: Tantalizin’
    3 Ernesto Lecuona: Andalucia (from Andalucia Suite)
    4 Will J. Harris and Victor Young: Sweet Sue, Just You
    5 David Rose: Dance of the Spanish Onion

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Review by Henry Doktorski

It is a thrilling day for lovers of fine music everywhere to experience the joy of watching and hearing the legendary American accordionist Charles Magnante and his trio during these historic 1946 studio sessions directed and produced by William Forest Crouch. These priceless “Soundies” (an early version of the music video) were thought to be lost, but were recently rediscovered by some accordion aficionados and released by the Italian company Bella Musica Roma.

I was particularly impressed with Magnante’s command of his instrument, his ease of playing, his virtuosity, and his humble stage demeanor. Although I never had the pleasure of personally meeting Magnante, I can tell from this DVD that he was not a flashy showman on the stage, he was a consummate musician who didn’t need to wow his audience with cheap tricks to impress them like some other less-talented accordionists; his musicianship and extraordinary technique was all he needed to command the audience’s attention and respect.

In addition, I found the arrangements and ensemble to be superlative. Magnante surrounded himself with the best musicians. He was not afraid to play with the best, and the results are extraordinary. What a quartet! Jack Smith on electric guitar and George Wright on organ and piano often trade thematic motives with Magnante. Their artistry is amazing! And Eugene Ettore (also a fine accordionist, composer and arranger) pumps out the beat with his double bass. What a treat!

Also noteworthy are the two beautiful female dancers (Suzanne Graves and Connie Wege) who display their artistry during Magnante’s music, and the unnamed baritone vocalist who sings Sweet Sue, Just You.

I put this on my DVD player and pressed “repeat” and listened to it all day long without getting tired. I congratulate Bella Musica Roma (which released the historic 6-CD compilation L’abilità artistica di Pietro Deiro in 2007) for another great release!

Liner Notes, translated from Italian

Soundies were an early version of the music video: three-minute musical films, produced by professional film crews in New York, Chicago, and Hollywood between 1940 and 1946. The films were displayed on the Panoram, a coin-operated film jukebox, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers. Soundies covered all genres of music, from classical to big-band swing, and from hillbilly novelties to patriotic songs. The quartet members are (1) accordionist: Charles Magnante; (2) guitarist: Jack Smith, (3) organist and pianist: George Wright; and (4) double bassist: Eugene Ettore.

Charles Magnante (1905-1986) was an American piano-accordionist, arranger, composer, author and educator. His artistry helped raise the image of the accordion from an instrument considered suitable only for folk music to an instrument accepted in many music genres. Magnante's father was a well-known amateur musician, and performed at Italian wedding receptions and other dance venues. Charles sang along with his father beginning at the age of five years, and at the age of seven, he secretly learned to play his father's accordion. At the age of sixteen his reputation as an accordionist had grown so much he was receiving many offers to join tours with stage bands, which he declined due to his continuing musical studies.

Charles Magnante started his professional career playing in Italian restaurants and on the Staten Island Ferry. However, he wanted to break free from the O Sole Mio image of the stereotypical Italian-American accordionist which his audiences expected to hear. In the 1940s, he was the leader of a successful trio with guitarist Tony Mottola and organist George Wright, and played regularly on NBC radio broadcasts. He worked also as a sought-after studio musician.

At the peak of his career, he played 30 live radio broadcasts and eight studio sessions each week. He performed also as a solo concert musician, and once performed a solo concert at the Civic Stadium of Buffalo, New York for an audience of 40,000. Magnante was one of the twelve founding members of the American Accordionists' Association (founded in 1938), and also served as this organization's president for three terms.

Magnante wrote method books for accordion players and numerous arrangements of contemporary popular standards, polkas and classical pieces. Many of his arrangements can still be found in the standard repertoire of accordionists throughout the world. His most famous original composition is probably the novelty Accordiana. His arrangements and compositions stretch across a number of musical genres, including easy listening, jazz and boogie-woogie, and light classical pieces.

Magnante was featured as accordion soloist on more than two dozen albums (many with studio orchestras), released by Columbia, Grand Award, Command Records, Decca Records, and other record labels.


Just received and played (twice already) the Charles Magnante “Soundies” DVD. Phenomenal, outstanding, thrilling, exciting, absolutely love it. What a find. Thanks much, a keeper for sure.

Chris Leach
Gale Ferry, Connecticut

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