Munnelly’s strongest musical influences include Brooklyn-born melodeonist John J. Kimmel (1866-1942), nicknamed the Irish Dutchman; the Waterford-born Flanagan Brothers, who recorded during the 1920s and early 1930s; and Boston-born Joe Derrane, who surpassed Kimmel in virtually every technical area and is still going strong at age 75.
The homage to the Flanagan Brothers is explicit in the title of Munnelly’s second solo album, “By Heck,” which was the title for a medley of barndances recorded by the Flanagans in May 1931.
The homage to John J. Kimmel was equally apparent in “Kimmel’s Jigs,” the second medley appearing on the “By Heck” CD and the second medley performed on July 27 at Satalla, a club on West 26th Street in Manhattan, by David Munnelly and his band. The latter comprises his brother Kieran on snare drum, bodhr_n, and flute, Galway’s Andrew Murray on vocal, Wicklow’s Gavin Ralston on guitar, and Galway’s Fergal Scahill, All-Ireland senior fiddle champion in 2002, who recorded the Irish Echo’s 10th-best trad album of 2002, “A Flying Start,” with harmonica player Paul Moran. During the “By Heck” medley, Scahill replaced a snapped fiddle string on stage and managed to rejoin the band on a change between tunes.
The homage to Joe Derrane, who called his own recorded tribute to Kimmel an “Accordion Fantasy” in the mid-1940s, was detectable in Munnelly’s frequent use of tight, cascading triplets and his refreshing use of both sides of the box, melody and bass keys, as he played. He doesn’t use the bass on his box just for sporadic accents but instead employs it to summon up a fuller, richer palette of tonal colors and complementary texture.
Like Derrane, Munnelly also knows how to swing (his first solo CD in 2001 was entitled “Swing”), and that was engagingly evident throughout the Satalla concert.
“The American Polka” was played by Munnelly and his band with a verve and virtuosity that Ellington and Basie would have approved. “The Two Bridgies’ Barndances,” named for Munnelly’s grandmothers, centered on his two-row playing with Scahill’s fiddling in another highlight. The reels “Miss Montgomery’s/Tailor’s Thimble/Over the Moor to Maggie” rose in impact step by step: starting with the two-row and fiddle, then moving to the box and flute, and finishing up with all four instrumentalists playing together. Another reel, “Lively Leah,” written by Meath musician Tina Price for her daughter, also sparkled in the hands of the four tune players.
But it was David Munnelly’s tender, evocative, two-row accordion solo on a slow air learned from fiddler Frankie Gavin and button accordionist M_irt