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Two bodies entwine and then move with intense rhythm—this is tango. Bassist Pablo Aslan, an integral component of NYC’s Latin and downtown jazz landscapes, has provided rich tonality and compositional skill to projects with the late saxophonist/flutist Thomas Chapin, trumpeter Frank London, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and clarinetist David Krakauer. In addition, Aslan is a major exponent of tango nuevo, the sensual Argentinian music made famous by legendary bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla. As trio Avantango, Aslan, Chapin and pianist Ethan Iverson released Y en el 2000 Tambien (EPSA), an adventurous tango improvisation recorded live at the Knitting Factory. Aslan’s newest release, Avantango, is a maturing of this concept and may prove to be the most enchanting CD of the year.
Aslan’s Avantango is an event whose NYC staging is a recurrent Valentine’s Day musical/dance happening; this CD is the musical companion to that experience. The sound is captivating as Hector Del Curto’s bandoneon sets up seductive rhythms with Aslan’s bass, who either imparts a sinewy tension or drives the piece to a frenzied pace. On “La Calle 92” Aslan plucks, bows and percusses the side of his instrument in unison, creating a rhythmic tension that Del Curto releases with a familiar melody. Oscar Feldman’s tenor and Diego Urcola’s trumpet add the right amount of jazz to “Deux Xango,” “Amadeo” and “Sabatenado,” where joined with Dario Ezkenazi’s piano they take tango to the jazz precipice and back.
Violinist Leonardo Suarez Paz is able to navigate the dangerously changing tempos of Piazzolla’s “Escualo,” originally meant for the violinist’s father, Fernando. Roxana Fontan’s rich passionate voice is used to perfection on three all too short cuts. Playing off trumpet and blending with bandoneon, she entices us down South on “Vuelvo al Sur,” adds poignancy to the Argentinian hit song “Muchacha (ojos de papel),” and sings a sombre “Malena” in a hauntingly beautiful duet with Aslan. Close your eyes and see the only thing missing from Avantango —the dancers, or better yet, grab a partner and complete the experience.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.