Published in City Newspaper (Rochester) April 14, 2004

Li'l Anne and Hot Cayenne

by Bill Chaisson

Zydeco is the music of the Creole (African-American, French speaking) population of Louisiana. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s a lot of non-Creoles began first dancing to and then playing the music. Chanka Chank, Rochesterís ěrust belt Cajun-zydeco bandî, split up in 2001. Chanka Chank accordion player Russell Roberts then founded Swamp Padres. And former Chanka Chank vocalist and rubboard player Phil Sanguedolce and mandolin player Lew Papenfuse joined Liíl Anne and Hot Cayenne. But Liíl Anne herself is not from Rochester.

In the late 1990s Anne Stork was pursuing a Ph.D. at Cornell, but she looked forward to that July night when Keith Frank would play zydeco until dawn in the Dance Tent at the Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg. After finishing her degree she started a post-doc in New Hamphire and Stork kept hearing a voice telling her ěLearn to play the accordionî.  For a while she just said ěI canítî. Then one day she took a Preston Frank CD down to the Button Box, an accordion mecca in Amherst, Massachusetts. Pointing to Mr. Frankís instrument, Stork told them ěI want one of thoseî. They sold her a used single-row Hohner and a book on how to play Cajun tunes (there are no books on how to play zydeco).

On Labor Day weekend 2001, she made a pilgrimage out of the ězydeco desertî of New Hampshire to the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Charlestown, Rhode Island. For two years Stork had  practiced six to eight hours a night, which evidently paid off. At the festival jam sessions her playing attracted the attention of guitarist Kevin Murphy and drummer Doug Chatman, both of Ithaca. Right then and there they asked her if she would like to form a band. Murphy then called Sanguedolce, who had married and moved from Rochester to Connecticut, and convinced him to join.

Two years ago bass player Rick Kline of Ithaca had hardly heard of zydeco and he had certainly never played it. But then he ran into Murphy, who told 

him ěI found this amazing accordion player. You want to be in a zydeco band?î Kline listened to some records and then Stork sat him down and played tunes at him while he made up what he figured were serviceable bass lines. He calls his initial approach ěfreight train zydecoî because his method consisted of doubling the melody played by the accordion. ěThere seemed to be a good response to this out on the dance floorî.

Kline got some unexpected advice during a jam session with an actual Louisiana Creole player. Sean Ardoin of Zydecool told him that his playing was too busy and that he should ěleave some holes in it and let it marinate.î Within the band, however, nobody tells anybody else how to play. The players have varying musical backgrounds and they all ěbring something different to the tableî and, as Kline says, ěitís the same meal with different spices.î A lot of the imagery in zydeco, Kline notes, revolves around food.

Liíl Anne and Hot Cayenne played their first gig, a house party, just a week after they recruited Kline in January 2002. In July, with a yearís worth of gigs already booked, Murphy quit.  But local zydeco promoter Bruce Handelman hooked them up with Rochester guitarist Bob Halperin, and Lew Papenfuse was induced to pick up the guitar, which he hadnít played for years. Stork says that the two are perfect complements because Lew on rhythm ěhas a real feeling for the musicî while Halperinís blues background generates some stinging leads.

Last summer Sean Ardoin brought Stork down to his Louisiana studio and recorded some of her melodies, added lyrics to them and insisted that she sing them. So now she is sharing vocal duties on stage with Sanguedolce. Both Stork and Kline concur ěsomething really special happens when we all play togetherî. With one CD out and another one on the way, Liíl Anne and Hot Cayenne are a dream come true.

Liíl Anne and Hot Cayenne will appear Saturday, April 17 at Harmony House, 58 East Main Street, Webster at 8 p.m. Dance lesson at 7:15 p.m.  Tix: $10.  533-1616

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Last revised:  May 3, 2005