Thursday, September 30, 2010

Libertango - Gorilla Orchestra

If you are fortunate, perhaps once in your lifetime the door will be opened for you to an experience like the one in today's video. A tiny bar. Four customers. Two musicians until the bartender pulls out his violin and starts to play. It's hot and smokey but the music is so real, it will return in your dreams. It could be anywhere in the world but this one is quintessentially in Japan - perhaps not the most likely spot in the world to find a beautiful young woman playing the bandoneón (and playing it well) but that is part of the charm of the video.

Google translates the title on the video to something like Gorilla Orchestra Libertango 2010. I wish I knew more, but I don't.

There is a second video, perhaps even more evocative, of Por una cabeza. Please watch it also and enjoy the "yaaaahs".

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Libertango - Jazz Trio

Today's video is not a jazz trio playing Libertango as the title suggests, it is actually a trio of jazz performances - each different, each interesting.

The first is by the Joel Tortul Trio from Argentina. Tortul is very creative, driving pianist who backs off just enough once in a while to ease the tension. Supported by sidemen Diego Ferreyra on contrabass and Pablo Rodriguez on percussion, his jazz is on the hot side but retains a thread of tango. If you enjoy their music, the trio has a new CD, Punta Vivo and you can find more of their music on elsuricataful's YouTube channel.

The second is by the Eriko Hagiwara Quintet from Japan. Their jazz is far cooler than that of Tortul, almost mellow except for a few bursts of energy here and there to lift the crowd from their revery. That is Eriko Hagiwara, a master of syncopation, on the piano (she also does vocals but not on this video). She is a gifted jazz pianist. She is joined by Haruna Fukazawa on flute, Yohta Syohji on guitar, Mikami Yoshimi on bass and Kawano Naohiro on drums. I believe the performance is from an August 30, 2010 appearance at the Satin Doll in the Roppongi district of Tokyo but it would be welcomed at any jazz club anywhere in the world - these guys are good.

The third is by the Mala Junta Trio, regulars at the Harlem Jazz Club in Barcelona but found here busking in Parc Güell. The bass guitar player has some technical problems with his instrument but even without the bass in the early part of the video, it is clear that we have a third contrasting jazz style. These young musicians, all originally from Argentina, play swing jazz with a tinge of Gypsy in the swing. The musicians are Germán Prieto and Lucas Turquié on guitars and Roy Apartin on bass. Do a search for Mala Junta on YouTube and you will find some wonderful examples of this swing jazz trio. They have a CD on the way - I hope they get international distribution and don't just sell it in the park.

Do you want to pick a favorite?

If the videos don't appear below, click here for Tortul, here for Hagiwara and here for Mala Junta.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Contrabajísimo - Sverre Indris Joner

The first rule in arranging music is "start with a good piece of music." I don't know what the other rules are but Sverre Indris Joner met the first rule and all of the others with his orchestral arrangement of Contrabajísimo which is featured in today's video. Contrabajísimo was composed in 1984, in honor of contrabassist, Héctor Console, a member of Piazzolla's second quintet. It is one of the longer, over eleven minutes long in the original, and more serious pieces composed by Piazzolla. Some would even say, it is the best piece composed by Piazzolla. The Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, reports that Contrabajísimo sounded from the cemetary's speakers as Piazzolla's coffin was taken to its final resting place at the Jardin de Paz, the only piece of his music so honored.

It must take some courage to attempt a symphonic arrangement of such an important piece. Joner's courage has been rewarded with what I believe is a masterpiece of arrangement which deserves a permanent place in the contrabass/symphonic repertoire. This is an audience pleaser and, judging from the faces of the performers, a musician pleaser too. There are four stars here: the bassist, Steinar Haugerud; the violinist, Atle Sponberg; the pianist (and arranger) Sverre Indris Joner; and the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Rolf Gupta. Each deserves five stars for this performance.

Joner is a composer in addition to being an arranger and, clearly, a student of Piazzolla's music. You can find some of his music on the indris63 YouTube channel. Most of his Piazzolla work has been done in conjunction with the group Tango for 3 which includes Steinar Haugerud, the bassist in today's video. That groups first album is available as a download. But if you are looking for just one more of Joner's symphonic arrangements of Piazzolla, I suggest you view this video of Adios Nonino.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bordel 1900 - Randall Family Reunion

Most of the 350 or so performances shared in this blog have been polished performances in clubs or concert halls but a few have been on the street, or in a park or in a home. There is a refreshing reality to such performances that remind us that Piazzolla's music is not just for the musical elite. Some of my favorites feature Piazzolla in a simple family setting - ordinary people enjoying the music of our favorite composer in their own surroundings. Today's video falls in that category: we are at the Randall family reunion.

The music is Bordel 1900, the first movement of the Histoire du tango. The Histoire series was composed in 1985 and dedicated to the Belgian flute player, Marc Grauwels, who premiered them. Bordel 1900 is one of the most popular of the series and is consistently in the top ten most frequently performed Piazzolla compositions.It is played by a father, filmed by his daughter, enjoyed by his mother and a dozen or so other Randall family members and the family cat, Monster. The American flag waves outside the door. The comments are touching. The flute playing is quite good. The guitar accompaniment comes from the portable CD player probably playing this CD.

Mr. Randall mentions that he recently played this piece in an audition for a position in a symphony. If he played as well there as he does for his mother here in this video, I suspect he got the job.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adios Nonino - Sexteto Mayor

The performance of Adios Nonino by the Sexteto Mayor in today's featured video is from an August 1, 2010 broadcast on Crónica Televisión in Buenos Aires although the performance is clearly from a period before December, 2004 when lead bandoneónist in the video, José Libertella, died. The Sexteto Mayor held their first performance on April 29, 1973 at a tango bar called "La Casa de Gardel." The group was modeled on the 1924 sextet of Julio de Caro and used the instrumentation of that famous group: two bandoneóns, two violins, a piano and a contrabass. The initial group included José Libertella and Luis Stazo on bandoneón (both appear in this video), Reynaldo Nichele and Fernando Suárez Paz on violin, Armando Cupo on piano and Carlos Baillejos on contrabass. Based on the chronology found here, I believe, that the other musicians in the Sexteto at the time of this video were Mario Abramovich and Eduardo Walczak on violin, Oscar Palermo on piano and Osvaldo Aulicino on contrabass. That group was captured in 2002 by Guillermo Tello in a documentary film. The trailer for that film can be seen here.

For more than thirty years, Libertella and Stazo, defined the sound of the group: always instrumental - no vocals, and arrangements which honored the traditional tango but accepted the nuevo tango of Piazzolla. The group traveled the world in those thirty years and became well known as international ambassadors for the traditional tango. The group still exists today with violinists, Mario Abramovich and Eduardo Walczak, providing continuity to the current Sexteto Mayor. It seems likely that 2013 will bring a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Sexteto Mayor and I expect that Adios Nonino will be part of that celebration.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Adios Nonino - Leopoldo Federico

Born January 12, 1927, Leopoldo Federico is a living icon in the tango world. A composer, an orchestra leader and a world class bandoneónist. Piazzolla played his music and Federico played Piazzolla's music. We have an example today: Federico and the Orquesta Escuela de Tango Emilio Balcarce play Adios Nonino in a May, 2009 concert at the Argentine National Library in Buenos Aires.

Based on the many comments in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, the two men genuinely admired each other. Their relationship goes all the way back to the 1946 Orquesta Tipica de Astor Piazzolla in which Federico played bandoneón beside Piazzolla. In 1953, when Buenos Aires (Opus 15) was premiered, Federico was one of two bandoneónists in the orchestra. That piece was to lead directly to Piazzolla's winning of the Sevitsky prize and his studies with Nadia Boulanger. In 1957, when Piazzolla formed the Buenos Aires Octet, Federico was a member and one of Federico's compositions, Neotango, was included in their recording, Octeto Buenos Aires. In 1970, Federico and his bandoneón were once again beside Piazzolla for the recording a bandoneón quartet playing Recuerdos de bohemia. This masterpiece of bandoneón performance can be found on the recording, Concierto para Quintet. In the last recorded interaction between the two men, at Piazzolla's introduction of his final Sextet in 1989, Federico was heard to whisper to a friend, "He continues to be the best of all of us." As time has thinned the ranks of those who played with Piazzolla, Leopoldo Federico now carries the mantle of "the best of all of us."

If the video does not appear below, click here. Spanish speakers may enjoy Federico's comments at the end of the video.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moderato Tangabile - Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla, in person, plays Moderato tangabile in today's featured video. The performance was captured in 1979 in an Italian television program series, "Una valigia tutta blu." 1979 was a busy year for Piazzolla. It was his first full year with the second quintet and they toured extensively but as reported in the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, "In July, he flew to Europe for a couple of weeks to record television appearances in Rome, Naples and Paris." This video is no doubt from the Naples appearance.

Una valigia tutta blu (literally, "A suitcase all blue") was a short-lived, summer series, originating in Naples, on the Rai 1 channel. It was hosted by the fading Italian film star, Walter Chiari, and featured song writers of the day. Prior to the appearance of this Piazzolla video, it was perhaps best remembered for the appearance of the 1979 version of Lady Gaga, Patty Pravo, and if you watch this video from the show, you may understand why.

Piazzolla's choice of Moderato Tangabile for the show is curious. It is from the recording, Persecuta, which was discussed here in a recent posting. He never recorded it again, nor to my knowledge, did he ever perform it again. It is essentially a bandoneón solo in this video. It is difficult to tell if there is a live band accompanying him or if he is playing to a recording of the piece. I believe it is the latter - the fingering goes curiously in and out of sync with the audio. It seems probable that Piazzolla played along with the track directly from Persecuta but what the television audience hears is actually just the track from the recording.

I believe this is the first appearance of this video on YouTube and for that I am grateful to "TheJourney64", whoever he or she is.

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Note: Tangabile is a musical descriptor created by Piazzolla. A play on the term cantabile, which means singable or songlike.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

August, 2010 Review of Piazzolla Videos

There were 678 videos of Piazzolla’s music posted on YouTube in the month of August, 2010, an increase of 40% over August, 2009. 427 (63%) of the videos were performance videos featuring live performances. The others were videos which used Piazzolla’s music as a sound track for dancing or photo/video montages. I highlighted my journey through these many videos in this blog.

Forty-four percent of the performance videos were in the classical mode, 16% in jazz, 17% in nuevo tango and 23% in pop.

Here are the most frequently performed pieces this month (Libertango was the most frequently played – 33% of the total; the others follow in order):

1. Libertango
2. Oblivion
3. Adios Nonino
4. Histoire du tango - Cafè 1930
5. Histoire du tango - Bordel 1900
6. Milonga del angel
7. La muerte del angel
8. Escualo
9. Histoire du tango - Nightclub 1960
10. Invierno Porteño and Tango Suite (tie)

The top three on this list seem to be fairly stable month-to-month but the bottom seven change every month. Sixty-two different compositions were covered in the videos this month.

The performance videos came from 55 different countries. Argentina posted the most videos: 76. The top ten posting countries are listed in order here:

1. Argentina
2. Italy
3. USA
4. Brazil
5. Japan
6. Germany
7. Spain
8. Russia
9. France
10. Netherlands

There were nine Piazzolla original performances posted. All have been previously posted.

Quality of performance varied from excellent to bizarre. My choice for best of the month is the performance by the Berlin quartet, Vibratanghissimo, of Buenos Aires Hora Cero. If that video does not appear below, click here.

The choice for most bizarre this month is a dance version of Libertango from Israel. If that video does not appear below, click here.

I have put a table with links to all 678 videos as well as some more information on the videos on the August, 2010 link in my Piazzolla on Video website.

Best Video of the Month

Most Bizarre Video of the Month

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gary Burton: Piazzolla Reunion

In May of 2009, this blog featured two reunion performances of Gary Burton with three members of Piazzolla's quintets: one from Rosario and one from Buenos Aires. The second of the videos was removed because of copyright concerns and that same fate may well befall today's featured video so enjoy it for free while you can and then go buy the DVD, Gary Burton: Piazzolla Reunion, so you can enjoy the whole concert. The DVD was issued in June of this year but received very little publicity. I only learned of it through this posting on YouTube. Hopefully, the producers of the video will recognize the value of the publicity they are receiving and leave it posted for a while.

The featured video includes performances of Buenos Aires Hora Cero and Escualo. Both are superb performances by Burton on vibraphone, three quintet members - Pablo Ziegler on piano, Héctor Console on bass, and Fernando Suárez Paz on violín - along with Ricardo Lew on guitar and Marcelo Nisinman on bandoneón.

Wonderful music.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adios Nonino on the Piccolo Clarinet

Most people associate the word "clarinet" with the black instrument found in the hands of Benny Goodman or Paquito D’Rivera. It is actually the term for a family of a dozen or more instruments which together cover almost all of the notes on the piano keyboard. Today's video features a member of that family, an E flat clarinet sometimes called a sopranino clarinet or a piccolo clarinet. It sounds a fourth higher that the standard Goodman/D'Rivera B flat clarinet. It is not uncommon to find them in orchestral music but it is unusual to find one in a chamber music setting as in today's video. In the hands of a good clarinetist, the E flat clarinet brings a bright sound to the music; in the hands of a bad clarinetist, it is just screechy. Fortunately the musician in today's video, Javier Llopis, is an excellent clarinetist.

Llopis performs Adios Nonino in today's video accompanied by Natacha González on the piano. His opening cadenza is facile, musical and the phrasing is wonderful - a genuine musical treat. Ms. González is an able accompanist but the clarinet is the show here. Some of the success of the performance must be attributed to the arrangement which was originally created by the Japanese composer (and bandoneónist), Têhô, for alto saxophone and piano. It was adapted by Mr. Llopis for E flat clarinet. From his website, it appears that Têhô has arranged many Piazzolla works but they seem to be not readily available outside of Japan. If this is a typical example of his work, more western musicians should seek out his arrangements.

If you enjoy listening to virtuoso clarinet music, I encourage you to visit Mr. Llopis YouTube channel. You will find an interesting variety of music there.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Oblivion - Guillermo Fernández

When Oscar López Ruiz comments on the excellence of a performance of Oblivion, people listen. Mr. López Ruiz was the guitarist in Piazzolla's first quintet, a close friend of Piazzolla and according to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, was a musician Piazzolla respected and turned to for musical advice. He is also the author of the difficult to find book, Piazzolla Loco Loco Loco, the story of his travels with Piazzolla. His comments were made in the forum of two days ago and he was hoping someone could identify the tenor singing Oblivion in a television program he had seen. The answer came back yesterday, not through the forum but apparently through a conversation with Horacio Ferrer who identified the singer as Guillermo Fernández. Also yesterday, perhaps not coincidentally, today's featured video of Oblivion was posted on YouTube.

The video contains neither comments nor tags but toward the end, the video itself identifies the singer as Guillermo Fernández. The video was posted by Gustavo Fontana. Maestro Fontana is the conductor in the video and the orchestra in the video is the Orquesta Filarmónica de Mendoza. Oblivion was originally composed as part of the score for the movie Enrico IV and is one of the top three most frequently performed Piazzolla compositions. While there were no lyrics in the original, several have provided lyrics. Those sung by Fernández were created by the above mentioned Ferrer, you can read them here. The orchestral arrangement is excellent and may be the work of Christian Zárate, who arranges much of the music on Fernández's recordings, but I have been unable to confirm that.

If you, like Mr. López Ruiz, enjoy the singing of Guillermo Fernández then you should be interested in his CD, Conexion Piazzolla Ferrer, which contains his interpretation of twelve Piazzolla canción including Oblivion (also available as a downloadable single).

This is a bravura performance - a highlight in the 2010 season of Piazzolla performances. If the video does not appear below, click here.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Windy - Minneapolis Guitar Quartet

Windy was a Yorkshire terrier and still just a puppy when Piazzolla composed the piece which carries her name in 1976. It appeared on one of Piazzolla's more experimental recordings, Persecuta. The album notes suggest that the music "flowed to a new rhythm, the tangabile." Perhaps not too new since Piazzolla first used the term for the piece Allegro tangabile which appeared in his operita, Maria de Buenos Aires, in 1968. I don't know the meaning or derivation of the word tangabile but would agree that there is something new and different in the music. Like most of the other pieces on Persecuta, Windy is not a piece that can instantly be recognized as a Piazzolla work. It has a strange combination of new age repetitiveness, a Schoenberg-like serialism and Renaissance rhythms near the end. The only Piazzolla "hooks" are the early melodic theme, which is recycled from the cinema score for Il pleut sur Santiago, and a brief interlude on the bandoneón in the middle of the original.

The piece is very rarely performed. Today's video is the only live performance of the work available on YouTube. The performance and arrangement are by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. Both the arrangement and the performance are superb. The voices of the four guitars are distinctive, the technique is flawless and the performance is very musical. Perhaps more important is the arrangement which is truly inspired leading to a finished product which is, in almost every way, better than Piazzolla's original. This performance is the gold standard for Windy.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lo Que Vendrá - Juan José Mosalini

Juan José Mosalini is without a doubt one of the most important tango musicians in the world today. This is true by almost any measure: as a bandoneónist, as a composer, as an arranger, as a performer or as a teacher. In today's featured video, we see him as a performer with his orquesta típica, the Grand Orchestre de Tango, playing Piazzolla's Lo Que Vendrá. The arrangement is no doubt his own but the devotion to Piazzolla's original is clear. Lo Que Vendrá was composed in 1955 or 1956 and first appeared on the rare LP, Tango Progresivo. It is one of Piazzolla's best and most famous traditional tangos presented here in absolutely perfect traditional format. You will find no better performance.

Piazzolla was twenty-two years old when Mosalini was born but twenty years later, the two would become friends. You can see them perform together in this mute, but interesting video (that is young Mosalini at Piazzolla's right). Mosalini has recorded extensively as a soloist, in duos, in trios, in quintets, with symphonies and in orquesta típica. While I admire his tango nuevo work - he is one of the few who successfully composes in the same vein as Piazzolla - it is his work in the traditional format that I find most appealing. I highly recommend his CD, Bordoneo Y 900, for its traditional sound. The excellent discography on his website provides a guide to his other recordings although they are difficult to find outside of France, where Mosalini has resided since 1977.

Mosalini and his Grand Orchestre de Tango continue to tour and please audiences around the world. If you have the opportunity to see them, don't miss it.

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