Thursday, December 3, 2009

Piazzolla in Poland

I am no longer surprised to discover classical musicians in Eastern Europe providing superb interpretations of Piazzolla's music. It is a little more unusual to find an an interesting jazz approach to Piazzolla or an authentic nuevo tango sound in the region. However, last month brought two of the best jazz and nuevo tango performances I have seen all year and they were posted from Poland - not a country that has been a center of Piazzolla's music. Of the nearly 4,000 Piazzolla performances appearing on YouTube so far this year, only 44 have come from Poland.

First to appear was a performance of Escualo by the group Tangata Quintet. Escualo was written in 1979 and the title translates to "Shark" - a tribute to Piazzolla's hobby of shark fishing. It is rhythmically one of the most challenging pieces Piazzolla wrote and the Tangata Quintet play it perfectly. The violin part is particularly challenging and violinist, Grzegorz Lalek, is to be congratulated on his performance. Other members of Tangata are Klaudiusz Baran - bandoneon, Hadrian Filip Tabęcki - piano, Piotr Malicki - guitar, and Sebastian Wypych - double bass. Background on these musicians appears on their website (but is unavailable as I write this). This quintet has a very authentic sound and the high quality of the audio and video make the video a fine viewing experience. Their website makes it clear that Piazzolla is an inspiration and a focus for the group.

The second to appear was a jazz group, Tango Corazon Quintet headed by Marcin Wyrostek on accordion. The group plays the standard Libertango in today's video but it is anything but the standard version of Libertango. This is relaxed, classic jazz played by highly skilled musicians that understand the music and coax new vignettes out of the piece that others have missed. It is an extended performance, more than nine minutes long and almost every musician gets a chance to shine. My only regret is that the piano is a bit too low in the mix - there is some very nice piano work but it is difficult to hear. A highlight for me was the guitar solo by Daniel Popiałkiewicz about 4'15" into the piece but I hesitate to mention it because every solo is excellent. The other three members of the group are Agnieszka Haase - piano, Mateusz Adamczyk - violin and Potr Zaufal - contrabass. There is a sixth member in the video - an unnamed percussionist. He deserves to be recognized for his understated and supportive work on drums. Their website also makes it clear that Piazzolla is a focus and inspiration for their work. The website also contains mp3's of two other Piazzolla works and a slightly different version of Libertango. They are worth a listen.

I do wonder if the two groups have ever met?

If the videos do not appear below, click here for Tangata Quintet and here for Tango Corazon Quintet.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

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