by James M. Manheim
For many, the word tango conjures full-contact dance and music on the accordion actually a bandoneón, or German concertina that's equal parts sultriness and late-night despair. Then, a bit more than twenty years ago, something new was added to the picture when stor Piazzolla's music began to spread around the world from Argentina. Piazzolla was a bandoneón player who wanted to become a classical composer and went to study in France. His music, instrumental and vocal, mixed tango rhythms with harmonies that could have come out of Stravinsky or Poulenc, full of devices like tango fugues.
Piazzolla's mixture didn't go over so well in Argentina initially he was beaten up on the street by traditionalists on one occasion but it turned out that his Quinteto Tango Nuevo gave new life to a dance music genre from an era whose other styles are frozen in time. Not a week goes by now without the release of a new tango album, played by ensembles ranging from severe German wind quintets to Argentine rockers.
Until recently, however, this new diversity of tango fusions did not involve jazz; the sinuous, melancholy lines of Piazzolla's tangos sounded as if they were improvised but in fact were almost entirely written out. The situation has changed with Pablo Ziegler and his Quintet for New Tango.
In Piazzolla's later years, Ziegler himself Argentine and classically trained was the pianist in Quinteto Tango Nuevo. But though his group's name justifiably claims direct descent from Piazzolla, Ziegler does not approach Piazzolla as a slavish revivalist. Instead, he applies the resources of jazz, specifically bebop, to Piazzolla's New Tango music. He plays a few of Piazzolla's compositions, opening them up in various ways, but most of his pieces are originals.
Ziegler's imagination in working jazz into the tango framework is impressive in scope. He builds on the harmonic complexity of Piazzolla's lines, adding the extended harmonies of bebop. He carves out
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