Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

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

More Articles

Read Good Morning Blues Book Reviews Good Morning Blues
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: January 11, 2018
Read The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Book Reviews The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Roger Crane
Published: December 19, 2017
Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read "The Art of Conduction" Book Reviews The Art of Conduction
by Riccardo Brazzale
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Softly, With Feeling" Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "David Bowie: Behind the Curtain" Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden" Book Reviews Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 25, 2017