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Astor Piazolla: Tango: Zero Hour (Just a Memory JAM 9110-2)

Let’s face it: Piazolla was one of the greats, no question... And, of all of his recordings, this one was by far his favourite. So - just perhaps, for this once...we should all try paying attention?

Still, to those who’ve yet to accept that tango is truly one of the great modern syncretic musics - on a par with rock’n’roll, blues & jazz - he may well need some introduction. Allright...Astor Piazolla can (easily) be argued to be the Miles Davis - or The Velvet Underground - of tango. Without betraying its deeply popular roots, Piazolla opened up tango to crucial input from contemporary jazz and “hiart” composition during the fifties. Working with a series of different groups over the next thirty years, he then consolidated and expanded upon this breakthrough, eventually reaching a new plane of synthesis in his last recordings, of which this is the masterpiece. So...doncha think you oughtta give it a shot?

One key difference between tango and its sister New World forms, however, is the absence of drums. For, although Piazzolla experimented (extensively) with percussion, he eventually decided against...preferring the much more fluid feel that the traditional small group intrumentation provided...

So, the lineup here is Bandoneon (accordion)/Violin/Piano/Electric Guitar/Acoustic Bass - each operating in its own space, yet diving in and around that of the others...much like the tango itself, the first widely-accepted physical dance style of the modern West - and the one that set the scene for all others that followed...

Trying to describe this, to those who’ve never heard same is, however, difficult... Me, I hear the bandoneon - not to be confused w/any other accordion - as an elegant cross between blues harmonica, and a (much) more physical pipe organ...whilst the other instruments (despite their familiarity) are clearly voiced uniquely to the tango. But, perhaps the best way of describing the overall result is to say that this small band definitely evokes the subtlety and richness of emotional evocation of the very best orchestral film scores...yet, with the intimate & highly physical interplay we would expect from a truly outstanding five piece band. And...if you think that said result is difficult to imagine, then, all I can say is that you haven’t heard Piazolla.

Because he had already been a crucial influence on many of the very best film scores since the early sixties...and if any of those have moved you, then you truly owe it to yourself to hear the original in his very finest form. Because - like Beethoven - he definitely hit his true peak in old age...

John Henry Calvinist