All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Book Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

442

Tango: The Art History of Love

By

Sign in to view read count
Tango: The Art History of Love
Robert Farris Thompson
Hardcover/384 pages
Pantheon
ISBN: 0375409319
2005

If you've wondered why the famous Argentine dance of tango has attracted numerous jazz artists from Gerry Mulligan to Wynton Marsalis, this stunningly passionate and informative overview of tango will quickly offer insights. Robert Farris Thompson, a major writer on African art for the past three decades as well as a highly influential Yale professor, has perfected his writing about dance as art to the degree to which the blend of rigorous scholarship and dramatic imaginative reverie is unparallelled in writing about jazz or tango. This is simply the best written book about any music or dance I've read in the past decade, and here's why.

Thompson shares years of intensive research in Argentina and elsewhere in a manner in which you're following the thread of a galvinizing mystery. He makes a claim early on in the book I found questionable, insisting on the African roots of tango in the Latin American nation with the smallest black population. But rather than simply hammering away at his assertion, he leads you, step-by-step, through well-focused interviews with dancers, through art and photographs over the decades depicting tango, into an extraordinarily complex swirl of African-inspired cultural energies, taking into account other cultural streams, but noting the primacy of African movements. The author is not so much building a case for the tango's African roots as leading you gradually, seductively, into the spiritual and erotic forces that have been present throughout the tango's evolution.

In prose as sharply accented rhythmically as the dance he celebrates, Thompson tells tales of tough guys learning to be cool while executing new steps, of dancing couples falling in and out of love on the professional dance circuit, of tango musicians and lyricists who belie the stereotype that tango is the ultimate dance for depressives. Best of all, Thompson illuminates how the tango, throughout numerous musical and choreographic permutations, through a history of improvisatory invention that makes it a close cousin to jazz, has served as a dance form revealing the triumph of love and beauty during a century so marked by hatred and violence. Want to learn about the power of music as a prime generator of spiritual resilience? This is your book.

Only one tiny cavil. There is no discography, no comprehensive listing of tango films listed. You have to read through pages of footnotes in order to assemble these resources yourself, which this book may well propel you into doing. Better yet, it might get you dancing the artful dance of love.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s Lost Photograph by Zeke Schein with Poppy Z. Bright Book Reviews
Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 3, 2018
Read Blue Grass, Newgrass, Old-Time, and Americana Music by Craig Harris Book Reviews
Blue Grass, Newgrass, Old-Time, and Americana Music by...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 3, 2018
Read The Jazz Bubble: Neoclassical Jazz in Neoliberal Culture Book Reviews
The Jazz Bubble: Neoclassical Jazz in Neoliberal Culture
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 3, 2018
Read Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead's Long, Strange Trip Book Reviews
Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful...
by Doug Collette
Published: June 16, 2018
Read Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer Book Reviews
Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer
by David A. Orthmann
Published: June 3, 2018
Read As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free Jazz Revolution 1957-1977 Book Reviews
As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free Jazz...
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 14, 2018
Read "All That's Jazz" Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "Softly, With Feeling" Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz" Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend" Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017