Dienstag, 30. Dezember 2014

Carel Kraayenhof & Juan Pablo Dobal: „Puro. Música Argentina“

An appealingly designed cover is a good `opener´ to approach new music. With their 2012´s CD Puro, the Dutch bandoneonista Carel Kraayenhof and the Argentine pianist Juan Pablo Dobal managed exactly this, inclusively a well featured booklet with several nostalgic photos to indicate what the listeners may expect. Namely a musical journal through different regions of Argentina with their different styles of music (i.e., zamba, chacarera, cueca, guarania, tango, milonga etc.). The duo selected 14 songs of Argentine composers from the first half of the 20th century, i.e., from Giménez (*1904), Yupanqui (*1908), Troilo (*1914), Barbieri (*1914), Salgán (*1916), Piazzolla (*1921), Falú (*1923), Toro (*1941) and Nieva(*1932), but also from Kraayenhof (*1958) and Dobal (*1964) themselves. The fact that all songs were recorded at one day surely preserved the rich dynamic of their interpretations. With Puro, Kraayenhof and Dobal - who started to play together in 1989 with the quartet Viento del Sur and are performing as a duo since 2010 - picked up the melancholic
impression of the photos from the booklet (i.e., Piazzolla´s lovely „Solitude“, Falú´s touching „Zamba De La Candelaria“, or Dobal´s melancholy „Remanso“). Yet they don´t stick at this nostalgic feeling, and that way Dobal´s „Cuando Despierto Mañana“ surprises with a lively polyrhythmic, or Salgán´s dynamic „A Fuego Lento“. Over and over the delicate sensitivity of both musicians appears – they succeed to they give `space´ for the melodies to unfold, and for their duo partner, too.
Even when the „good old times“ may have gone, the spirit still lives on, invites to dream, to laugh, to weep – and maybe to dance. But for all that, nothing is really gone when someone remembers – and this is what this excellent duo manages to do. 
Even if one may have wished that some of their selected songs would have been presented with a quartet to fathom their full depth, piano and bandoneon are tonally so rich and both musicians so sensitive in their interpretations that one starts smiling after several rounds of listening – actually nothing is missing. Beautiful the way it is.
Do these songs invite to dance? Not really (even when one could dance to all of them, of course): I was fascinated as a relished listener. But stop, there is this strange feeling in my toes: „El Antigal“…  („This is not a true tango!“, „Indeed, it is a zamba.“)

The German language version of this review was published first in Tangodanza (Nr. 60, issue 4/2014).

Mittwoch, 3. Dezember 2014

Anibal Berraute Tango Fusion: "As Tangoes by"

Once upon a time, when Astor Piazzolla came up with his compositions, several tangueros were quite dismissive: "This is not what we would like to dance to, this is jazz." Today, he is recognized as one of the innovators of the Tango Nuevo genre.
When I first heard Anibal Berraute´s CD “As Tangoes By”, I was quite impressed: Fresh and resolute compositions (seven from Berraute himself), presented with some jazzy flavors – but definitely contemporary tangos which hold all the tasty ingredients we would like to hear. The ensemble consisting of Anibal Berraute (piano), Walter Rios / Yukie Kawanami (bandoneon), Federico Britos (Violin), Renyel Rivero (Bass), and Tony Trapanoto (Percussion / Drums) definitely knows how to attract the audience.
If you intend to start listening, you may try “As Tangoes by” (with kind regards from Casablanca) which is a good example for Berraute´s compositions with their different facets. The melodic pattern develops with bass and piano, and attracts with its simple falling cadences played by the bandoneon in the chorus, changes the atmosphere, just to come back to the main motive and the beautiful chorus.
One of my highlights is the contemplative “Romanza”. It pleases with a very slow pas, and a beautiful melodic pattern played by bandoneon and piano, carressed by the violin. For me, it catches the mood of the last hours of a long day, until we close our eyes to find some rest.
“Tango en Siete” is different, energetic but discreet, creating a good atmosphere which invites to dance (although dancers may have a problem with the change of binary and ternary beat). “Eelna” is a beautiful vals which catches us with a fine piano melody (chopinesce, as Berraute suggested), further developed by bandoneon and violin, passed back to the piano, and so forth. The nostalgic “Milonga En Otoño” has the quality of a Piazzolla song, both by composition and arrangement – really moving. You surely have no heart when you are not touched by this piece of music 
Oh yes, it is true, some songs are in fact somewhat jazzy, for example Bronisław Kaper´s “On Green Dolphin Strest”. Listen to Keith Jarret´s or Bill Evan´s version and you may appreciate the tango conversion of this old jazz standard. Definitely, Berraute´s ensemble plays it like a typical jazz standard, but you may dance it as a tango, too.
Not too surprisingly, it was the aim of the Argeninia piano player, composer, arranger and producer Anibal Berraute to combine Piazzolla´s tango brand with jazz and other flavors of music.
From my side, this “Tango Fusion” deserves much more attention!

EPSA Music (2014) 

For more information, visit 

Yona: "Tango a la Yona"

Sometimes inspiring and wonderful new tangos may grow in dark and cold areas such as Finland. While one may have the preconception that tangos from Finland are all camouflaged marches (let´s call it dynamic ballroom tango), Yona´s 2014 album “Tango a la Yona” may change the listener´s mind. The music of the Finnish folk and jazz singer Johanna Pitkänen has so much more to offer. For example track 7 (“Sen teen”)  is starting with a double bass line to define the harmonic structure, followed by Yona´s cautious voice which gently starts to fly during the chorus, some curious cello harmonies here and there, and decent piano voicings in the chorus. A colorful violin solo contrasts with the strange cello harmonies, and later on the listener is surprised by some clarinets. Very touching. - Oh, by the way, this is the Finnish version of Francesca Gagnon´s “Querer”, written by the Canadian composer René Dupéré (who wrote for the Cirque du Soleil). Kudos to the pianist and arranger Sami Baldauf who has done an excellent job. 
The opener of this album (“Soi maininki hiljainen” written by Fridrich Burk) is a duet with the Finnish `tango king´ Kyösti Mäkimattila. Accompanied by decent strings, double bass, guitar, drums and bandoneon, both singers create an atmospheric slow tango, again transparently arranged by Sami Baldauf.
Indeed, several songs impress by unexpected and transparent orchestrations. Yona´s own song “Syyssävelmä” starts with a percussive string arrangement (and bandoneon) which brings Tom Waits´ “Bone Machine” to my mind (not the album, the instrument), leading to a well-balanced sing-along chorus which reminds us that the dark side is only out for a short break.  
“En enää vaieta mä voi” invites to swing with a close harmony vocal trio (Siskot), accompanied by guitar, piano, bandoneon, bass and drums (and a jazzy trumpet solo), perfect for a Quickstepp.
Not all of these nine songs are originally Finnish tangos. "Sulle silmäni annan" is the Finnish version of the pop song "Ti regalo gli occhi miei" from the Italian singer Gabriella Ferri (1942-2004). Also the Italian-Belgian composer and pop singer Salvatore Adamo is credited for one song, or the Russian composer Nikita Bogoslovsky (1913-2004). However, particularly this last one challenges me to adjust to a (unnecessary) `lalalala´ choir…
In summary, I fully recommend this album which surprises with so many interesting facets of a beautiful singer. Give Yona´s tangos a chance to convince you, too.   

Donnerstag, 30. Oktober 2014

Rosana Laudani and Carlos Libedinsky: “Otra Luna”

So far Carlos Libedinsky´s Narcotango was an outstanding instrumental project with only some rare vocal flavors of the singer Rosana Laudani. While he was one of the early pioneers in the genre called “electro tango”, Narcotango´s songs are definitely different from several others who simply compile some uninspired grooves with weak melodic structures. Most of Narcotango´s songs have wonderful melodies and good groves, while their last album Cuenco (2013) continued what started with Limanueva (2010) and Libedinsky´s new band mates, Fernando del Castillo, Marcelo Toth and Mariano Castro, i.e., more jazzy arrangements and a lot of room for improvisation. For me, with their approach to music Narcotango goes beyond the boundaries of what tango has to be or should be.
Now in 2014, completely different from Narcotango, Carlos Libedinsky performed with the singer (and also his wife) Rosana Laudani classical songs from Anibal Troilo, Lucio Demare, Juan Carlos Cobián, José´Dames and Homero Manzi, but also from modern composers such as Fito Paez and Liliana Felipe, and three of his own songs – all with lyrics, and Libedinsky´s bandoneon as main instrument.  
Most of the 10 interpretations and arrangements are very atmospheric rather than straight forward (the only exception is Libedinsky´s grooving composition “Plano seuencia”). In fact, Carlos would confirm the suggestion that this duo project is intended for listening and seeing. “We are very intense on stage”, he stated – and it is easy to believe that these songs unfold a very special and intensive atmosphere.
Rosana explained that - after a career as actress and singer in musicals - meeting in music with Carlos and his bandoneon was a “new and fascinating experience”. Moreover, she says that she is convinced that their instruments vocals and bandoneon “were chosen before we ourselves realize of that `we did´ when we choose a song to share”.
When asked about the background of this new project, Carlos Libedinsky stated, “When I played guitar with Rosana, we didn’t have the connection we needed to experiment. But when I play bandoneon at home, the experience becomes very intense between us, as artists and also as a couple. This was a great challenge for me, because a duo of voice and bandoneon is not very typical, and it encouraged me to experiment with different possibilities of this incredible instrument. This specific sound gave Rosana a new atmosphere to explore her voice.”
Most songs start very intimate, very slow and with only a few melodic lines and harmonies played by the bandoneon. Libedinsky used the bandoneon rather as a flavor than a dominant instrument. Listen to “Un vestido y un amor” by Fito Paez, and you know what I mean. Later on, a bass played by Horacio Mono Hurtado, supports the harmonic and rhythmic structure of this wonderful song, and a string quartet lets it shine. Very moving!
The CD opens with one of Carlos Libedinsky´s most impressing instrumental songs from 2003´s album “Otra luna”, now with lyrics and a new arrangement, i.e., vocals, bandoneon, piano, bass and gentle drums. This song might be seen as a blue print for the underlying concept to present the songs as highly reduced versions, and they succeed to keep the listeners attracted, even the strict duo versions are fascinating. This acclamation can be ascribed also to Rosana Laudani. She is singing without any pathos or dramatic attitude – instead, simple, candid and respectful towards the songs. This natural approach convinces.
It was their Argentinian producer and arranger, Mariano Agustin Fernandez, who took the concept of their way to interpret the songs, and decided which additional flavors would fit best (i.e., piano, guitar, double bass, drums, or strings). They all are convincing in their specific `clothes´ - simple but not mean.
This duo is not begging for applause, they deserve it!

Booking info: laudanilibedinsky@gmail.com

A shorter version of this review appeared in the German language quarterly Tangodanza (issue 2/2015)


Dienstag, 30. September 2014

Ariel Ardit: „Ni más ni menos“

Thirteen opportunities to enjoy Ariel Ardit´s wonderful and sentiment interpretations of classic songs from the “Golden Age” of Argentine tango music (some made popular by orchestras of Pedro Laurenz, Osvaldo Pugliese, Horacio Salgán, Carlos Di Sarli, Aníbal Troilo and other).  
The former singer of the Orquesta "El Arranque" surely is an outstanding vocalist with a warm timbre, perfoming with elegant grandessa, and gentle passion. Whatever he sings, it is beautiful – a bit old-fashioned, but in a good way to feel `at home´. 
The music, published in 2008, lives by the great musicians, Andrés Linetzky (piano), Gustavo Mule (violin), Nicolás Capsitsky (bandoneon) and Pablo Chaile (double bass), and by its transparent arrangements (seven from Andrés Linetzky). Although the vocals are clearly in the foreground, the instruments are not simply ornamentation – they entrain, they slow down, they move forward, and they let the songs shine, particularly when they take over the melody after the verses.
For me, one of my favorite albums! Whenever I listen, it makes me smile. - “Nothing more - and nothing less.”  (www.arielardit.com.ar)

Mittwoch, 17. September 2014

Yasmin Levy on Tango ... and more

In October 2014, the new CD / DVD TANGO of the Israeli singer and songwriter Yasmin Levy came out. Her old fans might be surprised because they may love her because of her Ladino songs, and now she breaks out of their expectations. The tango purists might be indignant because their `evergreens´ are presented with a symphonic orchestra and arrangements which are quite different from the `orquesta típica´ tradition.   
Find here the full-length interview with this exceptional singer. My ciritical critical appraisal of her CD was published in the periodical Tangodanza (issue 2/2015). 

Sonntag, 22. Juni 2014

Desorden Perfecto: "Desorden Perfecto"

I have listened to this music, which was already published 3 years before (2011), again and again, have lived with it, have compared it with other music in this neo tango genre - and came to a very simple answer: YES, I really like it, it us really worth it!
They have a good grooving rhythm section consisting of piano, contrabass, and drums, further a string quartet, and the obligatory bandoneon. Thus, we have the typical neo tango sound, flavored with some `modern´ grooves and samples. Particularly when comparing it with other projects within this genre, it is very clear that Desorden Perfecto has some really attractive and inspiring songs to offer - some are very energetic with a good feeling for timing and breaks, and others creating wonderful ambient atmospheres. And all  songs are `danceable´.
In charge for the `plus´ is Roberto Galbiati, composer, arranger (including grooves and samples), and piano player. Kudos to him.
You may start listening with “Evolucion” (from my side, their best track on this CD with mild hiphop groove and nice melodic structure), “Ojos Morenos”, “La Espera”, and of course “Desorden Perfecto“ (which seems to be a tribute to Gotan Project).  
Oh, by the way: Desorden Perfecto is from Turin (Torino, Italy), and not not from Buenos Aires…