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.