Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #11: Astor Piazzolla - Tango: Zero Hour

Welcome to Twist & Shout’s “I’d Love To Turn You On” a fortnightly column by our deeply knowledgeable staff of hardcore collectors and music lovers who want to spend some time turning you on to some of their favorite releases of yore; titles that may have slipped out of the public favor, or perhaps never quite found the audience they deserve. Dig in to some terrific musical esoterica and enjoy the sounds.

I wouldn't even begin to suggest that I enough enough about tango music - hell, even about Astor Piazzolla's output - to tell anybody how these stand up as a representation of Argentina's most famous musical export, or of the extensive catalog of its premier composer. Nor would I offer up the idea that I could place Piazzolla within the continuum of tango's development - is he a traditionalist? A rebel? An avant-gardist in relation to the music as a whole? All of the above? (This seems to be the correct answer.)

But what I can suggest - hell, I can say with utter confidence - is that this is a great album. Piazzolla himself, who began his performing and recording career in the 1940's before solidifying his own style of tango (known as New Tango) said of this 1986 album: "This is absolutely the greatest record I've made in my entire life. We gave our souls to this record." And you can hear it in every track here. Piazzolla's quintet - violin, piano, guitar, bass and Piazzolla himself masterfully playing the bandoneon (a bulkier cousin to the accordion) - puts across his ideas with tunes and playing that at once evoke not just the soulful Romanticism of the tango, but also the rhythmic flexibility and improvisation of jazz, and the complexity and structure of the classical music that Piazzolla studied, wrote, and performed for decades alongside his native Argentinean tango. It's also a marvelous vehicle for Piazzolla's compositions, which in addition to evoking the melange of music that he was versed in, also manage to draw listeners across every mood imaginable, from the propulsive, moody drive of the opening track and the lighter feel of "Milonga Loca" to the lengthier multi-part suites that whip you back and forth from elation to the soledad (solitude, loneliness) that is tango's hallmark. And know that however masterful Piazzolla's bandoneon playing is, he's equalled by the work of his New Tango Quintet here, especially the violin of Fernando Suarez Paz. New Tango is the soundtrack to a dozen or a hundred relationships, it's the sound of love and life. As they note: Tango + Tragedy + Comedy + Kilombo (Whorehouse) = New Tango. -- Patrick

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