Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010)
To the unsuspecting ear, Pablo Aslan may sometimes appear to be just a fabulous bassist, with sublime technique and a virtuoso of limitless possibility. But dig a little deeper, especially into Tango Grill, and the impossible will seem to appear. Aslan takes the relatively rigid structure of the written music and dance formthe Tangointo a stratospheric space where no one else has ever dared to venturenot, at least, since Astor Piazzolla reinvented the form as Nuevo Tango over 60 years ago. Aslan is taking the Tango, a form of music that is played as written, into the realm of the idiom of jazz, a music that is as elastic as an improviser can be. This is where Tango Grill purports to fit in: like playing tocar a la parrilla, without written arrangements, on the grill.
And what a spectacular program Aslan presents here, together with Nestor Marconi's masterful bandoneon playing, but especially Gustavo Bergalli's trumpet and the percussion inventions of Daniel Piazzolla, Astor Piazzolla's son. The musical challenge was immense: take eleven classic tangos and reinvent them with the feeling of jazz. Aslan presents these swirling pieces as wonderful dancing, pirouetting spectacles that appear before the mind's eye as they sweep across gleaming floors with just the swish of dark gowns and leather brushing against the invisible wax. The bassist recreates this classic setting with sublime playing arco con brio. His ability to create the fire of the music, and then dampen it with murky suggestions of elemental dark sadness and loneliness is unparalleled. Although Aslan appears never to stray from the melodies, he turns these pieces, in fact, into miniature vignettes in the stellar regions of jazz.
The 1920s classic, "El Amanecer" conjures aural recollections of early Third Stream, as the bassist and bandoneonist dance around each other with graceful counterpoint. "Veijo Smocking," although reverently read, is actually quite avant, with a singing bass and harmonic lines from Bergalli, who is spectacular throughout the program. By the time "La Trampera" comes around the ensemble has completely broken the mould, with a wonderful, staccato solo from Piazolla that breaks down the rhythm for the rest of the ensemble. Aslan then brings proceedings to a spectacular close.
Although there are many memorable moments on the album, it is "La Trampera" that presents the sojourn in all its glory as the group, led by a bassist and musician of singular vision and ability, takes the Tango to the outer reaches of possibility. Tango Grill is a rare and memorable album played flawlessly by a bassist destined for great things in 21st Century music.
Track Listing: El Amanecer; Veijo Smocking; El Marne; La Payanca; Sin Palabras; Rencor; El Flete; Dandy; La Ultima Cita; Divina; La Trampera.
Personnel: Pablo Aslan: bass; Nestor Marconi: bandoneon: (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11); Nicolas Ledesma: piano (1, 3-5, 7-10); Abel Rogatini: piano (2, 6, 11); Ramiro Gallo: violin (1, 3-5, 7-11); Gustavo Bergalli: trumpet (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11); Daniel Piazolla: drums (2, 3, 5, 6, 11).