“Piazzolla originals are played with new élan and the ones that must have incurred the ire of the late master—“Laura” and “Lullaby of Birdland”—are re-imagined with absolute mastery that somehow missed the mark before.”
To call a commercial flop and an artistic disappointment “an abomination” may be too strong a condemnation for a landmark recording. But two generations of Piazzolla’s believed that to be the case. The culprit: A 1959 recording Take Me Dancing made by the great Astor Piazzolla as an attempt to create what he believed would be the birth of the “Jazz Tango.” Perhaps that epithet itself was the greater reason why the music flopped rather than the fact that a group of accomplished improvisers were asked to play programmatic music in an idiom they were unfamiliar with. No matter that is all in the past now that the masterful musician and bassist, Pablo Aslan has revived the corpse of a cult classic with his superb take on it entitled Piazzolla in Brooklyn. And more than a re-imagination of that doomed project, Aslan has brought credence to the fact Astor Piazzolla was in fact at least right in assuming that the two idioms could live nestle, cheek-by-jowl in an interminable swaggering shuffle called the “Jazz Tango”.
It took over five decades and a the presence of a third generation Piazzolla to crack the code, but the real ingenuity comes from Pablo Aslan, the Argentine-born, New York native who is one of the deepest thinkers in music. That and the fact that he is a master of the bass violin and plays with absolute pitch and flawless technique, whether it be con arco or pizzicato makes him one of the premier bassists of this era. Aslan not only thinks melodically, but he also employs advanced harmonic ideas gleaned from idioms and metaphors as far apart as classical, jazz and tango. With great sweeps of the bow he is able to conjure not only visions of the verdant landscape of Argentina, but also meld this with impeccable pizzicato—with the noisy urbanity of his native New York. And on this project he excels because his technique mixes in well with the epiphany he had while listening to the original Piazzolla recording. Somehow, Aslan found the key that the great bandoneon player missed. And that was an ensemble that are as much at ease with improvisation as they are with the somewhat rigid art of the tango—at least the one that Piazzolla envisioned.
Aslan has managed to loosen this vice-like grip of the tango meter and introduced the swing and shuffle of idiomatic jazz phrases into the very music that Piazzolla found too stilted for his liking. There is not a wrong note throughout the album. Piazzolla originals are played with new élan and the ones that must have incurred the ire of the late master—“Laura” and “Lullaby of Birdland”—are re-imagined with absolute mastery that somehow missed the mark before. Of course it would be remiss not to mention that Pablo Aslan has a stalwart partner in Piazzolla’s grandson and percussion colorist, Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla. Not for the first time has the young artist contributed monumentally to a major Aslan project, but surely this one shines like a gleaming musical trophy for the percussionist. Moreover, Gustavo Bergalli once again establishes that he can hold his own with the likes of Arturo Sandoval and Claudio Roditi as he sings in beautifully bronzed phrases that make the new tangos even sweeter to the inner ear. The young bandoneon player, Nicolas Enrich has the biggest shoes to fill: those of the master, Astor Piazzolla himself. Enrich acquits himself with aplomb as he is neither overawed, nor cowed down by the situation. On the contrary he swings with spiritual delight as if his entire body is dancing to the music. And Abel Rogantini once more proves—as the young Piazzolla does—to be one of the shrewdest and most accomplished interpreters of Aslan’s music.
This record is a triumph not only because Pablo Aslan pulls off a miracle, but also because he sets a fifty-year-old grudge right; something that can only please the resident spirit of the great Astor Piazzolla who started it all in the first place.
Track Listing: 1. La Calle 92; 2. Counterpoint; 3. Dedita; 4. Laura; 5. Lullaby of Birdland; 6. Oscar Peterson; 7. Plus Ultra; 8. Show Off; 9. Something Strange; 10. Triunfal.
Personnel: Gustavo Bergalli: trumpet; Nicholas Enrich: bandoneon; Abel Rogantini: piano; Pablo Aslan: bass; Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla: drums.
Pablo Aslan – Official website: www.pabloaslan.com
Label: Soundbrush Records
Release date: November 2011
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama