Pablo Aslan, Astor Piazzolla and Jazz-Tango Fusion
The MDC Live Arts series closes its 2012-13 season with the Brooklyn-based bassist and Argentinean bandleader Pablo Aslan and his quintet performing Piazzolla in Brooklyn this Saturday, April 20, at The Colony Theatre. Aslan’s work from his 2011 recording and follow-up to his Latin Grammy and Grammy-nominated Tango Grill, continues a tradition in fusion of jazz and tango first explored by Astor Piazzolla, tango composer and bandonéon virtuoso, the father of nuevo tango in the 1950s. After World War II both jazz and tango moved out of the dance halls and ballrooms and into the popular clubs and concert halls, both becoming music to listen to with a much more diminished role for dancing. What saxophonist Charlie Parker and the other early beboppers were doing for jazz, Argentinean Piazzolla was doing for tango. Piazzolla, while living in New York, was looking for commercial success in the United States, which led to his jazz/tango work Take Me Dancing, recorded in 1959. His nuevo tango introduced sax and electric guitar to tango, mixed electric and acoustic instruments, and fused harmonic and melodic structures. Miami Herald, JazzTimes and Artburst contributor and critic Fernando González wrote in his 2013 Grammy-nominated liner notes for Piazzolla in Brooklyn that “the Piazzolla of Take Me Dancing was a musician desperately juggling artistic ambitions and subsistence needs. He was back in New York City, where he had spent most of his childhood, but now with a wife and two kids, and looking for a fresh new start for a sputtering career. “The pearl of this work was supposed to be Take Me Dancing, a recording of both originals and jazz standards interpreted by his Jazz Tango Quintet, comprising electric guitar, vibes, piano, and bass, plus small percussion.” The recording was anything but a commercial success, and as González recalls, even Piazzolla remarked how dreadful it was. However, his ideas about jazz-tango served to inspire Aslan to reevaluate the work and give it an open-minded listen. A master himself in the fusion of the languages of jazz and tango for the last 20 years, Aslan revisited Piazzolla’s pieces with the sensibility of jazz. In his interview with González, Aslan says of Take Me Dancing that “the themes and the ideas were very strong and original, but some of them just went by too fast. I felt there were many places where the music could be opened up and developed further. That was the Eureka moment, when I realized that the material in this record had a potential that just needed to be unleashed.” González further says that the arrangements by Piazzolla for nine of those original 1959 pieces became the “road map” for Aslan’s Piazzolla in Brooklyn. Besides having the earlier work as a guide, one important element that Aslan had that Piazzolla didn’t was “an ensemble of musically bilingual players as knowledgeable and comfortable with the vocabulary, syntax, and rhythms of tango as they are with jazz.” Piazzolla in Brooklyn should not be confused for a tribute album or a remake. Instead it is the culmination of an ongoing conversation between jazz and tango, over 50 years in the making. As part of MDC Live Arts’ commitment to create meaningful educational experiences, two classes will be offered for MDC students, geared towards providing a musical and historical framework to this fusion of jazz and tango. In the first class, González leads a multimedia, curated listening session that will explore the music of Piazzolla within the history and evolution of tango. The second class is a live music clinic led by Aslan for NWSA music students that traces the innovations and techniques that popularized tango and jazz in the Americas. Both events offer students a unique opportunity to draw connections across cultures, nations, generations, and genres. MDC Live presents Pablo Aslan Quintet on Sat., April 20 at 8:00 p.m., the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd.,, Miami Beach. Tickets are $25 for general public and $10 for MDC students; 305 237-3010; www.mdclivearts.org.