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Pedro Giraudo: Córdoba to Köln via New York

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Pedro Giraudo by Erin Patrice O’Brien
Pedro Giraudo by Erin Patrice O’Brien

Pedro Giraudo – Photo credit: Erin Patrice O’Brien

Depending on where you come from Martha Argerich may be the greatest Argentinean icon. Some say Juan and Evita Perón are, but culturally speaking, perhaps not. There is, of course, two other things Argentinean – The Tango and Astor Piazzolla – that have been capturing the hearts and minds of people across the universe today… and Martha Argerich, of course. So if you’re one of those people who believe that three things have brought more attention to Argentina you might, in a sense, be right. But a whole generation (or two) of Argentinean musicians has been drawing attention to the fact that there might be much more to that country’s contribution to the world of music and dance. Digging just a little bit deeper you’ll find that Pablo Zeigler, who just won a 2018 Grammy Award for the Best Latin Jazz Album, Pablo Aslan, and of course the legendary Carlos Franzetti, all of whom have been featured on these pages… And then there’s another bassist and composer, Pedro Giraudo…

Every Argentinean musician keeps returning to the tango, for inspiration. It’s an obsession with them. But there is a lot more to the world of Argentinian music and dance. In his remarkable 2018 recording with The WDR Big Band, Pedro Giraudo is letting on that there is certainly much more to his music than the proverbial “Tango Obsession” because there simply is so much more to Argentinian music and dance. Make no mistake, this magnificent “obsession” is nothing to be scoffed at; quite the contrary with music from Astor Piazzolla – the creator of Nuevo tango – as well as Pablo Zeigler’s and Pablo Aslan’s re-imaginations of the tango, all of which have certainly enriched (by their own admission) collisions with the Jazz idiom that so continues to beckon them and many other musicians from South America.

With Mr Giraudo, one has always had a sense that something more was brewing in his music. Somehow it seemed, no matter even that he was writing for and performing in a smaller ensemble, many more forces seemed to be at work. Not only was his palette wider, but so was his entire sound world. This has always been borne out by his ambitious work with large orchestra and, as he also calls it, his Big Band. His “Pueblo” suite from Cordoba (ZOHO Music, 2011) and the “Angela Suite” from Cuentos (ZOHO Music 2015) gave notice that a larger work was imminent. Gathering his thoughts we have the epic work An Argentinian In New York, which incorporates the truly impressive “Desconsuelo Suite” which makes up the second part of that album which Mr Giraudo travelled all the way to Köln to make whilst conducting an iconic ensemble, The WDR Big Band live at the Kleine Sendesaal in that city.

Turning his attention to leading another adventure with his long-time quartet Pedro Giraudo returned to original source of his inspiration: the traditional music of his beloved Argentina. Here he throws himself wholly into the various song and dance forms that first inspired the musician in him. Vigor Tanguero is the result of that sojourn. Curiously, though, something more than just the Argentinian music unites the two albums; it is really the nature of Mr Giraudo’s sound world which seems to stretch not only from tradition to modernity but seems to find expression on a large soundscape no matter that in his smaller group he works without piano, drums, and still manages to convey a kind of orchestral sound. This is certainly true of Vigor Tanguero. His German stopover was the first in this recent expedition.

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Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Tribute to the Masters

Tribute to the Masters: Mario Rivera

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Mario Rivera "El Comandante"

Mario Rivera was a gifted musician, composer and arranger that played more than 15 instruments, which included piano, vibraphone, drums, trumpet, timbales, congas, flute, and piccolo. But Rivera was known for how he kissed and caressed the tenor, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones. He could play all of the family of saxophones on a virtuosic level as a soloist and section player and was one of the very few saxophonists who also mastered of the flute in the Cuban charanga style. Unlike most musicians, Rivera played all these instruments at an exceedingly high level of musicianship. Rivera dominated the “straight- ahead” jazz and Latin Jazz, Salsa and many other genres.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante"
Mario Rivera “El Comandante”

Mario was born July 22, 1939 in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic. After he arrived in NYC in 1961, he worked with Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. His most significant musical associations through the years include Tito Rodríguez (1963-65), The Machito Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Típica 73, The George Coleman Octet, Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, Slide Hampton’s Jazz Masters, the Afro Blue Band, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chico O’Farrill’s Orchestra and especially Tito Puente’s Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble with whom he worked for on and off for decades.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante" the merengue-jazz - Guest: George Coleman - Groovin High
Mario Rivera “El Comandante” the merengue-jazz – Guest: George Coleman – Groovin High

Even though Rivera was one of the hardest working sidemen in the jazz and Latin music business he also led two groups of his own Salsa Refugees and The Mario Rivera Sextet. Although having appeared on virtually hundreds of recording, Mario recorded only one disc as a leader named after his sobriquet, “El Comandante.” It has fine examples of combinations of the native rhythm of his homeland, merengue from the Dominican Republic and jazz improvisation. Indeed it can be considered not only a tribute to his homeland and his mastery of jazz harmony but an homage also to one of his inspirations and yet another unsung hero, fellow Dominican saxophone master, Tavito Vásquez.

Mario Rivera "El Comandante" and "The Salsa Refugees" - Back row L-R: Mario Rivera, Andy González, Jorge Dalto, Jerry González, Papo Vázquez, Nicky Marrero - Bottom Row L-R: Elías Peguero, César Ozuna
Mario Rivera “El Comandante” and “The Salsa Refugees” – Back row L-R: Mario Rivera, Andy González, Jorge Dalto, Jerry González, Papo Vázquez, Nicky Marrero – Bottom Row L-R: Elías Peguero, César Ozuna

Rivera’s passing has been felt very hard in the Latin music and jazz community and he is sorely missed. But we have his stories, music recordings, photos, and videos to remember this grand musician because what he left us makes him truly immortal.


We leave the readers with these final thoughts from Mario himself: “In my case, the day becomes the night and the night becomes the day. There are no vehicles on the street; there are no sirens at night. There is nothing that could block the inspiration. My home is like a musical laboratory because I have to accomplish so many things, I have to learn to play so many instruments. I spend all of my free time at home, practicing like a maniac, refining my chops. This is why I play 24 instruments. When it comes to music, one must be actively militant. Music demands your entire attention and dedication. If a musician is not willing to make that commitment, he will end up floating on a sea of turds, along with the other idle and mediocre characters.”

Mario Rivera passed in August, 2007, may he play on.

Content source: James Nadal

Photos from the Facebook Tribute Page: Mario Rivera “el Comandante”

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