Under the proper circumstances (and these certainly are), there is no more chromatic and charming music than the tango, popularized in Argentina and around the world by the great Astor Piazzolla. One would hardly expect a big band comprised almost exclusively of Swedes and Danes to be among its leading exponents, but there you have it. Drummer Lars Beijbom (the Swede) and trombonist Erling Kroner (the Dane) have shown their appreciation for the tango on previous occasions, and here they devote the better part of a concert recording to that spirited South American dance, welcoming as their special guests Argentine bandoneon master Marcelo Nisinman and American vocalist Diana Nuñez.
Almost no tango is complete without the bandoneon (which sounds rather like an accordion), and Nisinman is prominent throughout, not only as a formidable player but as composer of the album’s title selection, “Tango for Bad People.” Nuñez, who performs on half a dozen numbers, sings (and scats) superbly in English, Castellano (the Spanish dialect of Argentina) and Portuguese, and even plays African drum on Kroner’s chacarera -inspired finale, “Omoy-Coyé,” the Guarani Indian name for the Southern Cross.
Besides the songs already mentioned, the program consists of Piazzolla’s “Adiós Nonino/Michelangelo“ (splendidly arranged by Kroner), three compositions by Beijbom (“SOS Brazil,” “Don’t Lose Sight,” “Sweet Sadness”), two by Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Modinha,” “Bôto”), two more by Kroner (“Tangando,” “Shining Like a Tear”) and one by Juan Carlos Cobian/Enrique Cadicamo (the evocative “Los mareados”). Finn Nielsen provided the English lyrics for “SOS Brazil,“ “Bôto” and “Shining Like a Tear.“ The charts are strong and shapely, and solos arise naturally from within their incessantly rhythmic framework. Nisinman, Kroner and Beijbom are highlighted most often, with other forceful statements by saxophonists Jan zum Vohrde, Istvan Gabor, Jan Harbeck, Pernille Bévort and Ed Epstein; trumpeters Mârten Lundgren and Fredrik Davidsson, flutist Flemming Lund, pianist Kasper Villaume and bassist Kalle Magnusson.
While the Beijbom/Kroner Big Band and its talented guests make listening an explicit pleasure, the more adventurous listeners may wish to put on their dancing shoes and sway to the seductive rhythms of the tango, an Argentinean phenomenon that seems to have found a new and entirely comfortable home in Scandinavia.