Tag Archives: Astor Piazzolla

Tango Jam Volume 1 Astor Piazzolla

James Crabb (accordion) and friends`

reviewed by Neville Cohn


“My bandoneon has become more to me than an instrument; it is like my psycho-analyst. I start to play and I blurt everything out”. How grateful posterity should be to Argentinian tango-master Astor Piazzolla for expressing his often troubled thoughts, not to a psychiatrist but in concrete musical terms through the medium of his square-built button accordion and accompanying instruments.

Here’s a recording that will be of particular interest to those who heard ace British accordionist James Crabb and friends during a recent concert tour of Australia by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. For those coming to this all-Piazzolla compilation for the first time, it might well be a revelatory experience.

Crabb, who is professor of classical accordion at the Royal Danish Academy, has had the rare experience of working with members of Piazzolla’s own quintet and this adds a further dimension of authenticity to his playing. Here, he is in ensemble with Richard Tognetti (violin), George Vassilev (electric guitar), Maxime Bibeau (double bass) and Benjamin Martin (piano).

As a team, these musicians cast fresh light on familiar notes. Libertango, expressed in glittering, diamond-bright tone, has about it a pulsing, steamy quality that seizes the attention. Tognetti’s violin has a sweet-toned, come- hither quality in Milonga del Angel; its slow, haunting, laid-back unfolding is a fine foil for the striding piano motif that ushers in Concierto para Quinteto. Its whooping violin conjures up images of couples sweeping across the dance floor. Mumuki, too, with the quintet’s beautiful lift to the phrase, is a gem with its leisurely guitar theme and melancholy mood. There’s much else on offer, all of it at an impressively high level. Recorded sound is uniformly excellent.

When it came to expressing the darker emotions in tango terms, few could equal Piazzolla. Yearning, loss, leave- taking, disappointment, nostalgia, even grief are the very essence of much of Piazzolla’s output. And the quintet which give us Tango Jam is well to the forefront of ensembles which endeavour to bring Piazzolla’s tango-time musings across to audiences whose appetite for the Argentinian master’s musical offerings seems far from satiation.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

Elandra Ensemble

Elandra Ensemble

Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Tapping into the seemingly limitless repertoire of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, the musicians of the Elandra Ensemble (a loose coalition of professionals drawn mainly from the W.A.Symphony Orchestra) played a number of his idiosyncratic tangos as well as music by Istvan Marta and two of the Elandra musicians. But while Piazzolla represented the lion’s share of the program, it was Blues for Gilbert by Mark Glentworth that proved the chief joy of the evening.

Percussionist Paul Tanner, who has been a stalwart of the local music scene for a good many years, was at his persuasive best at the vibraphone. Much of the work is couched in gentle, languid terms and here Tanner did wonders, using his mallets to produce delicate arabesques, note streams clothed in auras of glowing sound. And in more robust episodes, he employed multi-mallets with trademark control and accuracy.

I very much admired, too, the ensemble’s account of Piazzolla’s Fugato which came across as a fascinating exercise in quasi-Bachian style, with Catherine Cahill (clarinet), Zac Rowntree (violin), Tanner on percussion, Tom O’Halloran (piano) and Peter Jeavons on double bass demonstrating an iron nerve and a cool mind to bring this tango to exhilarating life. Stylistically, it was entirely convincing.

And O’Halloran’s own Guapo which oscillated between swagger and swoon, employed rapidly repeated chords to dramatic effect.

Piazzolla’s Soledad was another delight, not least for its wide range of timbres, including warm, dark tone from the clarinet’s chalumeau register, a groaning double bass and vibraphone keys struck with the wooden reverse ends of the mallets.

Also on the bill was Piazzolla’s Michelangelo ’70, an engaging miniature with little screams on the violin and an irresistible, toe-tapping rhythmic underpinning.

© November 2003