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Hakon Skogstad: Two Hands To Tango

Dan McClenaghan By

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Frank Zappa, guitarist/composer/provocateur, once called the tango the dance of unbridled passion. This from the stage in his introduction to a tango music performance. It was one tune in a madcap Mothers of Invention concert. He had something there. In its beginnings—in the late nineteenth century—the dance and the music that accompanied the tango steamed up in the border region between Argentina and Uruguay, basking in the glow of the red lights in the river ports. BeginnIng in the late 1930s, bandoneonist/composer/arranger Astor Piazzolla began an eventually successful quest to bring the music out of the alleyways and into the concert halls. Tango orchestras flourished, and the tango became respectable, elegant even, in its way. The steamy passion remained.

So how does the music associated mostly with the bandoneon and refined orchestral treatments translate to solo piano? Two Hands To Tango, from Norwegian pianist Hakon Skogstad, says it does so very well.

Skogstad, a performer of tango and an arranger/composer of music for the bandoneon, decided to adapt those skills to create solo-piano tango sounds, moving in a free flow between bass, chords and melodic structure—as opposed to the "everything at once" mode an orchestra allows. Classically trained, with technique to spare, Skogstad succeeds mightily in the effort. The piano is, of course, an orchestra in and of itself. He renders this set of eight tango tunes, along with two of his own compositions, with elegance and passion, tenderness and yearning, mixing the cerebral and the earthy, with intensity and grace. By turns muscular and percussive, delicate and restrained, with a smoldering tension always lurking in the background.

Opening with the classic "Los Mareados," Skostad's piano work is stately and measured, flowing into ardent longing. "Sentimiento Tanguero" conjures images of tango dancers, men in dark suits, their hair slicked back, wearing expressions of intense determination; the women dolled up into the next dimension, with their slit skirts and stiletto heels, hair sculpted to perfection, bright makeup glowing just this side of garish, moving their bodies with lubricious slinkiness, while maintaining expressions of dead seriousness. Separating tango, the dance, from the tango, the music, is impossible.

Skogstad closes the disc with an his original composition, "Tristezas De Un Doble S," an homage to Astor Piazzolla. Skogstad paints a sad picture on this—the longest (at ten plus minutes) and most beautiful tune of the disc. It's a sound with a dark majesty and tango-esque earnestness that gathers momentum that peaks, then slips back into deep introspection. A gorgeous wrap up to the set.

Track Listing: Los Mareados; Sentimiento Tanguero; Tango Del Angel; Milonga Impromptu; Felicia; Sur; Norte; El Marne; Canero En Paris; Tristeza De Un Doble S.

Personnel: Hakon Skogstad: piano.

Title: Two Hands To Tango | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Avantango Records

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