Musicians carry vast libraries in their brains full of essential information about genre, style, and repertoire, giving them the foundation to make rich statements. They hold massive song books that allow them to recall chord changes and melodies on demand, enabling them to spontaneously jump into a performance at any time. They store essential licks and phrases in their heads that help them construct stylistically appropriate improvisations or spontaneously compose music. They keep patterns, rhythms, and song forms in their heads that spice up their performance or make it stringently typical. They maintain connections to their favorite performers, internalizing their role model’s musical approach. All of this information serves as the building blocks of a musician’s musical output, informing their connection to both tradition and innovation. They can call upon this information to perform music around the rigid confines of a certain style or they can interpret a piece in the style of a certain performer. At the same time, musicians creatively manipulate this information, producing unique pieces of art. They can cross-reference information about two different styles and blend aesthetics into something new and exciting. With their information at hand, they embellish common repertoire, improvise around traditional ideas, and insert their personality into the music. When several musicians share the same type of information, they can relate in an almost telepathic way, creating amazing music. Bassist Pablo Aslan gathers together with a group of musicians from Buenos Aires on Tango Grill, and their common knowledge of tango and jazz results in an exciting perspective upon the music.
Traditional Tango Instrumentation With A Jazz Edge
Several tracks utilize a more traditional tango instrumentation, calling upon the musicians’ stylistic knowledge to create jazz edged versions of classic tango songs. Percussive sound effects from violinist Ramiro Gallo encompass Aslan’s driving bass line on “El Amanecer,” leading into a quick improvisatory flourish from bandoneon player Nestor Marconi. Gallo and Marconi trade phrases as the group works their way through the melody with an impassioned grace, moving over the long form fluidly. As the group opens up the song, Gallo and Aslan present liberal variations on the melody while pianist Nicolas Ledesma creates an intriguing improvisation full of jazz ideas. A stately pickup phrase from Marconi leads the group into a slow staggering groove on “La Payanca,” using open flowing sections for textural contrast. As the group reaches the end of the melody, Marconi takes a quick improvisation full of running lines that transitions into a delicate statement from Gallo. The violinist begins with long drawn out pieces of the melody, leading into a dramatic series of phrases that build upon fluent ideas. Marconi moves carefully around improvised melodic ideas, playing with a gentle tremolo over a thin texture on “El Flete” until Gallo and Ledesma freely embellish upon the melody. After the group brings the main theme to a rousing climax, Ledesma elegantly glides through a brief solo before the pianist, Marconi, and Gallo each trade quick phrases in a playful exchange. Aslan slides around the melody with his bowed bass traveling in and out of the main theme with an inspired motion, inserting a combination of rhythmic ideas and long deep notes. Ledesma provides an understated series of arpeggios that float with a gentle propulsion on “La Ultima Cita” moving behind sensitive intertwining melodic phrases from Gallo and Marconi. The group skillfully works the melody into a tense sensation, paving the way for a beautifully bowed melodic passage from Aslan. Marconi, Gallo, and Ledesma move freely between improvised ideas and written melodies, injecting the stately tango with a lively sense of interplay. These tracks find Aslan and his musicians working in a traditional context with common songs, utilizing their knowledge of improvisation to provide free interpretations.
Liberally Mixing Tango And Jazz
Aslan and his group start to mix their knowledge and tango more liberally on several pieces. Trumpet player Gustavo Bergalli thoughtfully ruminates on the melody to “Sin Palabras” with only the sparse backdrop of Ledesma’s chordal work supporting his muted tone. As drummer Daniel Piazzolla provides some gentle brush work, Gallo winds through the melody with a loose freedom until Ledesma jumps into a solo full of rich dynamic contrasts. Aslan inserts a dramatic pause with a bowed bass solo, leading back into a stirringly reflective rendition of the melody from Gallo and Bergalli. Ledesma leaps into “Dandy” with an upbeat series of chords and a lively rhythmic improvisation. Bergalli grabs the momentum and flies into a jazz influenced solo while Aslan develops a clever pizzacato improvisation upon the main theme. Ledesma, Gallo, and Bergalli all trade phrases around the melody, inserting a good deal of personality and character into each idea. A series of rhythmic chords from Marconi provide a rich background for Gallo’s theme on “Rencor” until the bandoneon player takes over the main theme. Ledesma and Bergalli both take snippets of the melody before Marconi jumps into a moving improvisation, full of dynamic shadings and carefully phrased ideas. Ledesma follows Marconi with an understated grace, running jazz lines until Bergalli sensitively builds his ideas into a dynamic statement. These tracks find Aslan’s group blending tango and jazz organically, with flights of improvisation based firmly in the tango world.
An Injection Of Rhythmic Life
As the group continues their flowing mix of jazz and tango, some pieces receive an injection of rhythmic life from the presence of drummer Daniel Piazzolla. Ledesma and Aslan maintain a steady and unobtrusive vamp behind Bergalli’s gentle interpretation of the melody on “El Marne,” pushing things into a forward motion as Gallo grabs the main theme. Ledesma carefully stretches the melody into something distinctly individual, filling his idea with long flowing lines. The pianist jumps into short rhythmic figures, setting up an inspired exchange between Gallo and Piazzolla, who playfully throw percussive figures to each other. Piazzolla establishes a brisk momentum on “Viejo Smocking” as Marconi, pianist Abel Rogatini, Bergalli, and Aslan all share their unique interpretations of the melody. The bassist’s melodic presentation stretches into an intriguing statement, setting the stage for a fiery improvisation from Bergalli, who pushes the band into a frenzy. The group quiets for a strong solo from Marconi, who sends quick flurries of notes blazing back to the main melody. Aslan uses percussive slaps against his bass to forcefully push the groove behind the melody on “La Trampera” before a bluesy lick from Rogantini sends Piazzolla into a funky drive. Bergalli spins chromatic lines over the chord structure, building momentum into a solo from Gallo, who develops his idea with a contrast between long beautiful melodies and dissonant note clusters. Rogantini, Aslan, and Marconi all take inspired solos, leading back into the melody and an enthusiastic and tastefully executed improvisation from Piazzolla. The inclusion of the strong drum presence on these pieces infuses them with a more prominent jazz sound, but also opens more improvisational ideas for the musicians.
Capturing The Organic Connection Between Tango And Jazz
Aslan and his musicians deliver a brilliant statement on Tango Grill, performing a variety of pieces that connect seamlessly to both tango and jazz. Aslan starts with a collection of classic tango pieces, calling upon his deep knowledge of tango history to find songs performed by Carlos Gardel, Quinteto Real, and more. This places the music firmly in the range of Argentinean music, where each musician clearly holds a strong knowledge base. Aslan’s group understands the aesthetics of tango thoroughly, allowing them to perform the music with an inspired freedom and confidence. The repertoire only constitutes a piece of the picture though; the beauty lies in the way that these musicians perform the songs. The musicians also hold a rich knowledge of jazz performance and improvisation techniques, giving them the tools to interpret the pieces from a different perspective. Their performance ranges from very traditional takes upon these pieces to imaginative flights of improvisation that emphasize personal expression. In this context, the musicians rise from the mix as individuals with definitive musical strengths. Aslan’s combination of bowed and pizzacato bass solos demonstrate his lyrical ingenuity and tasteful musicality. Bergalli leaps from the recording as an experienced and insightful improvisor while Marconi stands as a bastion of tradition with a deep connection to the style. Piazzolla performs with an aggressive drive and a unique ability to fuse jazz drums with tango aesthetics. Aslan and his musicians show the depth and breadth of their stylistic knowledge on Tango Grill, capturing the organic connection between tango and jazz.
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