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Archivo Digital del Tango and Pablo Aslan Quintet featuring Paquito D' Rivera at Americas Society

Ernest Barteldes By

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Archivo Digital del Tango
Pablo Aslan Quintet Featuring Paquito D' Rivera
Americas Society
New York, NY
March 24, 2010

According to Americas Society music director Sebastian Zubieta, March 23rd is a national day of remembrance in Argentina, marking the anniversary of the 1975 military coup that took control of the country for over a decade, and this was the date chosen to introduce the audience of a landmark project that is seeking to preserve the history of the country's best-known musical genre, the tango.

The evening began with a lecture presented by Ignacio Varchausky, the artistic director of TangoVia, a Buenos Aires-based non-profit organization that promotes tango education and awareness. He talked about the Tango Digital Archive, a project he has led to catalogue the history of the genre, which has not been well documented in his country. According to his presentation, during the late 60s many record labels (including Odeon and RCA Victor) destroyed the masters of tango recordings made during the early years of the 20th century in order to "make way for pop records on their shelves," he declared. He also stated that over 3,000 tango recordings are forever lost due to the fact that many collections have disappeared in the hands of antique shop owners and less-than-cautious collectors. His team is also working in digitally preserving photos, posters, films and other media so that when the work is done the general public will have access to the material.

Varchausky also showed his team's work in digitally re-mastering those records by comparing songs currently available on CD and the enormous difference in clarity that they had after going through his clean-up process. He urged the audience to spread the word and also encouraged those who might have any item related to the history of tango to come forward and allow his team to evaluate the materials for possible inclusion in the archives.

After a brief intermission, bassist Pablo Aslan took to the stage backed by Raul Juarena (bandoneon), Pablo Agri (violin) and Nicolas Ledesma (piano) and without announcement began playing "El Amanecer," a dramatic piece composed circa 1917. The tune was mostly centered on the bandoneon, with short improvisational touches from the other instruments. They followed "La Payanca," another early 20th century composition that is included on the bassist's latest CD, Tango Grill (Zoho, 2010—Free Download), which was recorded in Buenos Aires with many of the musicians on the concert.

Aslan then announced the evening's special guest, legendary Cuban saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, who joined the group for two up-tempo numbers. D' Rivera was a great addition, as he filled in Aslan and Juarena's grooves with subtle riffs, and often surprised the audience with his dexterous and often unpredictable improvisations.

The quintet ended the proceedings with a personal rendition to Astor Piazzola's "Libertango," which was played mid-tempo, allowing all the musicians to contribute their individual moments. Aslan did his only full-blown solo then. The tune also featured a wonderful call-and-response play between Juarena and D'Rivera.

The short set (really a promotional stop for their two-day residence at Jazz at Lincoln Center that weekend) was highly enjoyable. The chemistry between the musicians was very palpable, and it was clear that everyone was having a wonderful time there.


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