Dino Saluzzi & Anja LechnerThe Americas Society
New York, NY
Saturday April 14, 2007 5:30-7:00 PM
"The Americas Society promotes the understanding of the political, economic, and cultural issues that define and challenge the Americas today, from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost tip of Argentina" (from the website). A fortuitous convergence of events led to a reception for Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner coordinated by ECM Records, the Society and Merkin Concert Hall
. Ojos Negros
, their stunning album, had recently been released, and a performance tour would bring the duo to the Merkin Concert Hall on April 24th. Despite creating music that transcends labels, Saluzzi brings his Argentinean background to every note he plays, and thus fits into the Society's purpose of bringing South American culture to North Americans.
The audience partook of wine and fruit, cheese and vegetable hors d'oeuvres until Saluzzi and Lechner were introduced and took the stage. Saluzzi exudes the warmth and humanity that is evident in his music, while Lechner, who is tall and carries herself elegantly, has a confidence that nevertheless deferred to Saluzzi.
In response to an invitation by the artists, some questions were asked about the music and their partnership, and then they played two tunes. About one hundred and fifty people sat on folding chairs, and the beautifully decorated room was quite acoustically live, allowing the instruments to be heard naturally.
Saluzzi's music is a mixture of Argentinean folk music, tango, classical and jazz in no particular order. In answering one question, he said that he just plays "music," leaving each listener to decide "what" it is for themselves. Most of the people there had not heard the record; nevertheless, one could sense their anticipation based on Saluzzi's reputation and stature.
The timbres of the cello and bandoneon mix very well, with the live performance sounding a bit different from the record in that the two instruments were separated more in the overall soundscape.
Lechner, who has a striking presence, played with her eyes closed most of the time. The signals between her and Saluzzi were very subtle, and when they needed to come together, the convergence happened seamlessly. In a way, she is the star, if only because she has more attention-grabbing movement as well as a sound that projects more, but she also subordinates herself to Saluzzi, the music's creator. The end product, however, is a true union. Saluzzi's instrumental voice briefly came to the front at times, but he mostly stayed back, at least for these two pieces; regardless, the result was magical.
I had the pleasure of talking afterwards to two older women who had emigrated from Argentina years ago. Their eyes were full of happy tears as they both told of being deeply moved, having been brought back to their childhoods. Argentina was most definitely in the air, but the music, as an undeniable expression of our common humanity, clearly touched everyone present, including this listener.
Personnel: Dino Saluzzi: bandoneon; Anja Lechner: cello