Sergei Tumas is a well known tango choreographer and dancer so it was big news when he announced that he was creating a stage production dedicated entirely to the music of Astor Piazzolla. His show was titled Tango Nuevo Cabaret and the public got its first look at it in June, 2009 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in California. Music was provided by Walter Rios on bandoneon with an Armenian tango group, Cadence Ensemble. The show was successful enough to attract investors into supporting a world tour version of the show.
In October, 2011 that show premiered at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater just across the Hollywood freeway from the more famous Hollywood Bowl. Reviews were mixed and it remains to be seen if the world tour will ensue. Nevertheless, any large scale production based on Piazzolla's music deserves attention from this blog and the recent posting of sixteen videos from that show provides the opportunity. You can find all of those videos on Sergei's YouTube channel.
Quite a lot changed in the move from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to the Ford Amphitheater. Walter Rios is gone, replaced by Peter Soave. And the Cadence Ensemble is replaced by a collection of talented jazz musicians from the Los Angeles area assembled under the name of the Tango Jazz Chamber Orchestra. While Soave is listed as the nominal leader of the group, the videos certainly suggest that it is Miles Mosely, the bassist, who is in charge. I have chosen to feature their performance of Buenos Aires Hora Cero in this blog - not because it is the best of the sixteen but because it is typical of the performances.
And, how were the performances? In a word, terrible. The music is absolutely lifeless. There are moments where things work: for example, Kamasi Washington's introduction to Libertango where the jazz element is unfettered and the vocal performance of Balada para mi muerte by Martin de Leon is superb (note however, it is to recorded accompaniment - the band is not playing). But there are other times where musical disaster appears imminent as in the opening of Primavera Portena. But most of the time it looks like a set of musicians uncomfortably sight reading new scores producing inarticulate, unaccented facsimiles of Piazzolla's music. A little more rehearsal time and a little more guidance from Soave or Rios, both of whom know their way around Piazzolla's music very well, might have saved the day. That day will probably never come again - a world tour seems unlikely to me.
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