Sunday, September 2, 2012

PIAZZOLLA ELECTRÓNICO

The third generation of Piazzolla Electrónico made its debut at the recent Tango Festival of Buenos Aires.  That festival was devoted to the music of Astor Piazzolla in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his death. A highlight of the festival was the performance by Daniel Astor "Pipi" Piazzolla's Electronico ensemble featured in today's video.

The first generation Piazzolla Electrónico was that created in 1975, when Astor Piazzolla decided to modernize his sound by "plugging in" and formed the Electronic Octet. He replaced the acoustic bass of his Quintet with an electric bass guitar and added synthesizer (played by his son, Daniel), electronic organ and a full set of drums to form the octet. The group had some success, they performed at Carnegie Hall, and their performances are captured in a series of eight YouTube videos which begin here.  There was a brief second version of the group formed in Europe with a completely different set of musicians except for his son, Daniel.  According to the Azzi/Collier book, Le Grand Tango, Piazzolla did not view the Octet as a success and fairly quickly returned to the sound of his Quintet.

Shortly after Piazzolla's death, his son Daniel, who retained the original scores of the Electronic Octet, reformed the octet, the second generation Piazzolla Electrónico, and made a recording in honor of his father. Three of the tracks on that recording follow the original Octet scores. The sound of that octet can be heard on the recording, Piazzolla by Piazzolla.  Significantly, Daniel's son, Pipi, played drums in that octet recording.  It was perhaps the first time that three generations of Piazzolla's had been united musically - Astor's music played by son and grandson.

And now we have the third generation Piazzolla Electrónico - not an octet but an extended version of the group, Escalandrum, which produced the album named by this blog as Piazzolla Recording of the Year, Piazzolla Plays Piazzolla. Added to Escalandrum were Lautaro Greco on bandoneón, Lucio Balduini on guitar, and Esteban Sehinkman on synthesizer.  Martín Rur replaced the usual Escalandrum bass clarinetist, Martín Pantyrer. And, Pipi's father, Daniel, made his return to the stage playing percussion alongside his son.

The group performed all four of Piazzolla's Seasons. To my knowledge, Escalandrum has not previously performed the Seasons so this was new new territory for them.  Escalandrum's pianist, Nicolas Guerschberg, provided the arrangements and they are excellent. In an interview, Pipi mentioned that his Electrónico's version of Verano Porteño was based on the version Piazzolla created for his Nonet which you can hear on the 1983 recording, Concierto de Nácar.  You will find reviews of the concert which suggest that the other Seasons are based on the original Electronic Octet scores but in the absence of recordings from the Octet, that is difficult to confirm.

The quality of the sound in the video below is not very good but a video found here is much better suggesting that we may someday have a recording directly from the sound board - maybe even a DVD.  You will hear three of the Seasons in today's video.  The first is Invierno Porteño and except for the synthesizer prelude it is a very standard version of the work - modified only for the unusual instrumentation of the group. The second piece, Primavera Porteña which begins at 8'50" begins to show the jazz capabilities of Escalandrum with an improvisational section at 12'40" and a nice piano solo. The third piece, Verano Porteño, which starts at 14'30" into the video, is the most creatively arranged.  It opens with a synthesizer prelude which can be described as creative but irrelevant. After the prelude, it does indeed follow the Nonet arrangement for the first five minutes, although with some liberties taken with rhythm and counter-melodies.  At the five minute point, the Nonet version enters a lyrical string phase and Guerschberg wisely makes a decision that lyrical strings are not an Escalandrum strength and brings the work to a close with some of the best jazz of the concert.  The Electrónico's version of Otoño Porteño is not included in the video below but is available on YouTubeOtoño opens with a drum solo, giving Pipi a chance to show his skills, and proceeds in a fairly standard manner.  Greco's bandoneón work in Otoño is excellent, played with feeling and expression. Guerschberg's transposition of some of the violin parts to bass clarinet works well - I wish he had made more such decisions to give prominence to the violin parts in the other Seasons. The saxophones finally get a chance to break loose at about 8'30" into the video but the arrangement returns then to a classic ending.  

All things considered,  the concert was a success and a fitting tribute to Astor Piazzolla.  I hope better quality audio or video of the concert is eventually made available.

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1 comment:

  1. Don! Were you at Birdland last Sunday? How was it?

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