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Gary Burton: Libertango

Jim Santella By

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Subtitled The Music Of Astor Piazzolla, Gary Burton’s latest tango project underscores the role of harmony in that classic Argentine style, fusing folk and improvised music passages shoulder to shoulder. His four-mallet approach pays homage by interpreting a set of Piazzolla’s compositions alongside members of the composer-bandoneonist’s touring band. Classical timbres from violin, piano and double bass merge with that of the bandoneon, a large accordion-like instrument with a sound that blends expressive "harmonica reeds" with dramatic "organ stops."

There’s no need for a drummer, since the tango rhythms include powerful inflections, both assertive and implied. Oftentimes the rhythmic pattern represents half a clave, and yet it’s always easily understood, romantic, and suave. Burton explains, "Tango, like jazz, brought together the considerably developed traditions of Western European music and local folk influences and evolved into a sophisticated art form requiring the highest levels of musicianship." Piazzolla, who wrote several of the session’s pieces especially for these artists, created a tango craze outside of Argentina in the 1960s and ‘70s. The classically trained musician merged traditional tango with classical music, making the result much more popular.

Born in the early 1900s, tango comes from two words. Both tambor (drum) and tambo (dairy farm) were in the hearts and minds of early Argentine slaves and immigrants. In the same way that North American spirituals influenced the development of jazz in the U.S.A., these melancholy dance songs gained momentum by blending known elements with improvisation and a stylistic focus. Burton’s homage reminds us of the roots tango shares with jazz while expressing the genre clearly and with a fresh new slant.


Track Listing: Libertango; Invierno Porte

Personnel: Gary Burton- vibraphone; Fernando Suarez-Paz- violin; Marcelo Nisinman- bandoneon; Pablo Ziegler, Nicolas Ledesma- piano; Horacio Malvicino- guitar; H

Title: Libertango | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Concord Music Group


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