When one piece of a nation’s music reaches popularity among a worldwide audience, it forever becomes emblematic of that country’s music scene. Although it’s truly naïve to believe that even a small country could focus upon only one style of music, most listeners don’t look beyond their one piece of knowledge associated with that country. The general listener can’t take all the blame though; they’ve only been exposed to commercially successful music. In many cases, the commercial versions of these styles don’t completely reflect the authentic performances of these styles; they mix easily digestible pieces of pop music with an exotic edge. Jazz musicians have been victims of the same issue, incorporating popular styles from countries such as Brazil and Cuba, while they miss the inherent possibilities in lesser known genres and folkloric traditions. Most listeners closely tie tango to Argentina, once again overlooking a wealth of music history from a country rich with musical treasures. Bassist and composer Fernando Huergo examines a wide spectrum of Argentinean music through a jazz perspective on Provinciano, developing an artistic vision that authentically encompasses the depth of both influences.
Using The Chacarera As A Foundation
Huergo uses the Argentinean folkloric style Chacarera as a basis for several songs, creatively intertwining a variety of compositional twists. Pianist Mika Pohjola provides lush chords behind flautist Yulia Musayelyan’s gentle melody on “La Luz del Norte,” followed by a more aggressive melodic reading by saxophonist Andrew Rathbun. Huergo establishes a firm line while drummer Franco Pinna supplies coloristic touches behind Musayelyan’s quiet solo. Pohjola’s improvisation connects to Musayelyan’s final theme before driving the rhythm section into a forward motion with his rhythmically assertive statement. Starting with a traditional phrase from a composition by Argentinean composers Los Hermanos Abalos, Huergo expands the idea into a fully formed song on “Chacarera del Carancho.” After a rhythmically inventive solo from Pohjola, Huergo weaves through his improvisation with a powerful thematic development. Pinna builds a powerful statement, drawing upon expanded ideas, thickening texture, and a variety of percussive colors. Pohjola establishes a ten beat structure with a rapid line on “One In Ten,” which leads into a rhythmic melody. The rhythm section aggressively pushes the ten beat feel behind Rathbun’s improvisation, while he utilizes the unique groove to drive accents and displaced figures. Huergo carefully constructs a melodic statement, building into a strong wave of virtuosic runs and rhythmic tension. A staggered series of chords evokes a traditional malambo song on “Provinciano,” coupled with a menacing minor melody. A cascading piano vamp transitions into Rathbun’s solo, which he attacks with a passionate energy. After a return to the melody, the band falls into a rhythmic vamp, providing a showcase for Pinna’s improvisational skills. Each song places the Chacarera in a slightly different setting, establishing it as a strong foundation for jazz composition.
Combining Argentinean and North American Influences
Huergo integrates a variety of influences on some tracks, including Argentinean and North American styles. Rathbun opens “Instinto Matero” with a repeating blues phrase over a funk beat, transitioning into a complete melody over a Chamame rhythm. The rhythm section maintains a thin texture behind Musayelyan’s improvisation, letting her drive a series of ideas through the song. A slight return to funk quickly moves back to Chamame behind Rathbun, as he combines syncopated ideas and fast lines into a statement that receives an enthusiastic response from Pinna. Huergo recalls Piazzolla’s tango sound with a repeated vamp and a melodically intricate melody on “A Mil.” Pohjola begins with typical tango phrases, moving further towards jazz improvisation until his solo becomes a unique statement. Rathbun focuses his soprano sax solo upon melodic development, building from a sparse series of developed phrases into sharply defined ideas. A slightly askew combination of chords over a Chacarera rhythm slides into a swung melody with an open sound on “El Chupacabras.” Huergo touches upon the similarities between the two styles with his improvisation, crafting syncopated lines that both swing and create rhythmic tension. The rhythm section explodes into a double time swing for Rathbun’s solo; as he spins virtuosic lines, the rhythm section stretches the feel to spontaneously include pieces of both styles. A bluesy vamp and a soulful melody over a Chacarera rhythm recalls a classic Blue Note sound on “Chacarera Boogaloo,” Huergo’s dedication to Herbie Hancock and Lee Morgan. Rathbun creates an engaging statement with assertive melodic variations, squelching tones, and changing dynamics. Pohjola’s improvisation appropriately recalls Hancock with his subtly blues tinge and clever thematic developments. Huergo demonstrates the vast flexibility of Argentinean music as a jazz format, carefully pulling together authentic styles with outer influences.
Exploring Compositions From Other Musicians
Huergo expands his concept with compositions from several other musicians, bringing in voices from both the jazz and Argentinean music worlds. Pinna’s “Bochis” combines a Carnavalito rhythm with a repeated melodic phrase that varies in color and texture through a layering of band members. As the structure repeats, Rathbun and Musayelyan begin creating rhythm variations upon the theme, while Pohjola and Huergo vary texture underneath them. The freedom of the structure moves the group into a collective improvisation around a defined idea, exposing strong band interplay. Huergo, Musayelyan, and Rathbun expressively interpret John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” over the melancholy background of a Vidala rhythm. Rathbun spins both subdued melodic ideas and quick runs while the rhythm section maintains a bluesy simplicity beneath him. Huergo takes a brief but poignant solo, thoughtfully combining pieces of the melody with thematic variations. Huergo connects his musicality to the Argentinean tradition with a solo bass interpretation of Carlos Gardel’s “El Día Que Me Quires.” Drawing his inspiration from a solo bandoneón performance by Astor Piazzolla, he combines a variety of chord voicings, dramatic runs through several registers, and pianistic phrasing. Huergo’s artistry shines brightly on this album highlight track as he re-imagines two icons of Argentinean music and the role of the electric bass in the music. The integration of several musical voices into Huergo’s concept helps broaden the scope of his approach while exposing several possibilities inherent in the music.
Demonstrating The Possibilities of Argentinean Jazz
Huergo brings together an extensive jazz knowledge with a broad group of Argentinean genres on Provinciano, presenting a distinctly different Latin Jazz approach. Throughout the album, folkloric styles such as Chacarera, Zamba, Vidala, and Chamame work as rhythmic foundations, organically serving as compliments to Huergo’s original ideas. Huergo calls upon his compositional instincts to construct the music, and then finds natural connections between his ideas and Argentinean genres. He reflects upon modern ideas such as the Iraq war and Blue Note jazz artists, but he never looses his link to the music’s traditional aspects. Huergo freely intersperses stylistic elements of funk, swing, and blues, but always maintains a natural coherency to his sound and respectful acknowledgement of his influences. His performance as a bassist reflects an influence of modern players such as John Patitucci and Oscar Stagnaro, a thorough study of jazz improvisers, and an intimate link to Argentinean music. His band shows a deep dedication to Huergo’s concept and his compositions as well as a passionate musicality through their improvisations. His music is complex on many levels; they play with a confidence and pride that reflects a deep study of the songs. Huergo definitely shows the world that Argentinean music contains more than tango on Provinciano, but his statement goes much deeper – he demonstrates that the largely unexplored world of Argentinean Jazz holds massive artistic and creative possibilities.