The bandoneon, long associated with the tango music of Argentina, is a relative of the German koncertina. Both are bellows and button instruments which produce their sounds via metal reeds. The great Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla had the largest impact in lifting the bandoneon from the dance hall to the concert stage. Dino Saluzzi began his association with Piazzolla in Buenos Aires at an early age, but he describes his style as neither art music nor intellectual music, preferring to call it music of simple emotions designed to touch on the widest range of feelings.
Senderos presents Saluzzi's compositions in four solo vignettes and ten duets with percussionist Jon Christensen. This may seem a rather odd pairing, certainly one without comparison on a major label. Christensen has helped shape the ECM sound through his deft use of cymbals and tom accents, which have graced a number of recordings in a variety of contexts. Saluzzi had originally planned to record this entire album alone, before producer Manfred Eicher suggested that Christensen come down and explore. The dialogue that ensued is a testament to the spontaneous capability of both men, particularly their big-time listening skills.
Four of the songs are credited to both players, and in all of the collaborative pieces, the unfolding dialogue is as important as the song itself. On all songs the recording quality is so precise you can hear the bandoneon breathe and click away. "Imagines..." is a solo ballad with a pleasant feel, as if walking in the countryside on a spring day. Saluzzi gives it a lazy feel in four. "Todos los recuerdos" opens with a dirge like pattern before the melody enters, played in an interesting mix of 6/8 and 2/8. Christensen peppers the opening with cymbals, adding snare and toms as the tune builds. The dynamic changes produced from such sparse instrumentation are marvelous.
"Tus ojos...!" follows in the same vein, volume intensity changing like a rolling tide. It is a slow march most of the way through, with a free section of drum whacks and odd notes before the march is repeated. There is a dark, almost religious quality to the melodic line. "Fantasia," another solo piece from Saluzzi, is the most serious song of the set. Dissonance is its key feature, Saluzzi demonstrating the orchestral qualities of the bandoneon beautifully. Thoughts of Oliver Messiaen's organ compositions come to mind. Very nice!
On "Tiempos," seemingly familiar jazz voicing appears alongside hints of folk melodies and stark classical phrasings. Saluzzi even uses a walking bass line in spots. Christensen adds planned "random" brush hits on the kit, bass drum, and low tom, demanding attention. A set tempo shifts gears on occasion, encouraging the free tenor of the tune.
Saluzzi's mastery of the bandoneon and its singular attributes are enough to bolster this effort. With the addition of Christensen, we get to hear two masters think aloud through the wonder of music, all captured with typical brilliance by engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug.
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