"There you go, kid! Be a musician, be poor but be happy!" With those words, Astor Piazzolla blessed his grandson's decision to drop out of University and pursue a life as a drummer. He had started him on that path much earlier by giving him a supermarket bag filled with cash to buy his first drum kit and he would be quite proud today if he could witness his grandson's performance in today's video of Vayamos al Diablo.
To his immense credit, that grandson, Daniel - known to most as Pipi, did not trade on his grandfather's name. He was a serious student of the drum. He built his craft working with a variety of groups and developed enough skill to be recognized as an outstanding latin drummer in New York City. About ten years ago, with musician friends, he formed a band and named it Escalandrum - a salute to his drums and to the sharks (escualo) that he used to fish for with his grandfather. Like many start-up bands, Escalandrum struggled as they explored and developed their own sound - a mixture of funk and latin jazz. But their hard work was recognized with a steadily growing band of fans and a series of successful recordings. Recently, the band decided to further explore their Buenos Aires musical roots and what better way to do that than to study and perform works by Astor Piazzolla. The final result was the release of an album last month, Piazzolla plays Piazzolla, and a series of touring appearances promoting the album. The full story of the evolution of Escalandrum is very well told in an excellent video.
In addition to Pipi Piazzolla, Escalandrum includes Nicolas Gueschberg on piano, Damian Fogiel on tenor sax, Martin Pantyrer on baritone sax and bass clarinet, Gustavo Musso on alto and soprano sax and Mariano Sivori on double bass. The three reeds play like brothers and give the group a unique sound. The work on Piazzolla plays Piazzolla is clearly jazz but it is perhaps the most respectful-to-the-original-quintet jazz I have ever heard. Every musician is top-of-the line and the arrangements are tight and well rehearsed with enough room for improvisation to keep the listener involved. There are ten tracks on the new recording and every one of them is excellent. Today's video is from a live performance at the Bridgestone Music Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The live performance adds about a minute to the drum/bass/piano break found in the recording and gives you a good chance to witness Pipi Piazzolla's creativity.
I know it is too early in the year to make such a claim but I am ready to announce that Piazzolla plays Piazzolla is the Piazzolla Album of the Year for 2011. It is a gem. Pipi deserves to be both rich and happy as a result the music made by Escalandrum. You can help by buying the new album from iTunes or Amazon.com.
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Note added 18 April, 2011: A second video from the Bridgestone Festival has been added: Adios Nonino. A heartfelt interpretation - worth watching.
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