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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