• Strike Up The Bandoneon! Jazz For Squeezebox

    July 22, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    In the 1950s, Astor Piazzolla became a pariah back home for his unconventional, complex tangos. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    If Argentine composer and performer Astor Piazzolla didn't exist, the subgenre of "Nuevo Tango" — a mix of tango, classical and jazz — wouldn't, either, nor would this taster of accordion jazz. Piazzolla created a massive canon, influencing generations of bandoneon players after him, and he rejuvenated Argentina's greatest musical tradition and export.

    However, it was Piazzolla's formative years in New York's Greenwich Village — soaking in the swing of the 1930s — that often informs his style, a jazzier sound he leaned to during his later years. Piazzolla personally touched the lives and music of four of the five artists featured below.

    Strike Up The Bandoneon! Jazz For Squeezebox

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      Astor Piazzolla With Gary Burton
      Artist: Astor Piazzolla with Gary Burton
      Album: The New Tango
      Song: Vibraphonissimo

      In the 1950s, Astor Piazzolla became a pariah back home for his unconventional, complex tangos. People were so alarmed by his modernism, they actually wanted to beat him up. But in his later years, when Piazzolla recorded this suite for Gary Burton, he enjoyed the notoriety. In the liner notes, he thanks Burton profusely for playing so well on this live recording, after only three rehearsals. He writes, "THANK YOU GARY from this TANGO DESTROYER."

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      Pablo Ziegler Quartet
      Album: Tango & All That Jazz
      Song: Michelangelo '70

      Pianist Pablo Ziegler, also from Argentina, toured with Astor Piazzolla for more than a decade, almost until his death. Ziegler may be the leading ambassador of "Nueva Tango" today, carrying on the legacy of his teacher. With vibraphonist Stefon Harris, he interprets "Michelangelo '70," one of Piazzolla's most famous works. Michelangelo was a legendary hotspot in 1970s Buenos Aires, where musicians performed tango, folkloric, jazz and chamber music, and often streamlined those sounds together.

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      Dino Saluzzi
      Album: Andina
      Song: Dance (In the Morning)

      Argentine musician Dino Saluzzi once said that "the tango is far more complex than jazz," but he often combines those styles with the experimental avant-garde and folkloric music near his home, like Candombe (Uruguay) and Milonga (Argentina). Though he knew and respects Piazzolla, he distances himself from the "Nueva Tango" label, and plays more openly with less obvious structure. Here is one of his only solo recordings.

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      Richard Galliano And Michel Portal
      Artist: Richard Galliano and Michel Portal
      Album: Blow Up
      Song: Mozambique

      French accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano knew Piazzolla as a mentor, and dedicated an album and tour in his memory with his Piazzolla Forever project (2003). However, Galliano is less a composer and more a brilliant improviser, adapting material from all over the world. He continues to find exciting collaborations, recently with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. This fascinating duo features Galliano with French bass clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Michel Portal, who composed the jamming "Mozambique."

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      Hermeto Pascoal And Aline Morena

      Artist: Hermeto Pascoal and Aline Morena
      Album: Chimarrao Com Rapadura
      Song: Aline Frevando

      Brazil has its own rich accordion tradition, which includes Forró in the Northeast. Hermeto Pascoal, who hails from that region, is as worldly as anyone — a visionary composer on the same scale of Piazzolla, though the two are unrelated. The sightless albino is also a master of many other instruments, including random objects like glass bottles and water, as showcased in these absurd videos. Of Pascoal's thousands of compositions, this is a recent effort, a zany recording with his singer and wife, Aline Morena.

      Chimarrão com Rapadura is available on Amazon MP3.

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