Perhaps it’s my imagination, ignorance, or both, but it seems to me that of all the Latin American dance genres—the bossa nova, the rhumba, and the samba—the tango has never really captured the attention of jazz artists with quite the same zeal. Of course even if true, there are exceptions, and certainly one important exception is the pianist/composer Roger Davidson. With three albums of tango music under his belt, now comes Te Extraño Buenos Aires, a collection of 15 of his original tangos, and the first of his recordings on which he is not playing.
Pointing out that composers want their music to be played by as many hands as possible, for this new album recorded in Buenos Aires, his music was entrusted to the cream of local musicians who clearly knew what to do with it. The 15 songs were divided between three Argentinian pianist/arrangers: Andrés Linetzky, Abel Rogantini, and José “Pepe” Motta. Violinist Ramiro Gallo, bandoneonist Nicolás Enrich, and bassist Pablo Aslan, the album’s producer, complete the ensemble. Each of the pianists was given the opportunity to take the music in his own direction while remaining close to Davidson’s tune. In effect, Davidson’s lyrical music is given three different voices on this one album.
The result is a gorgeous blend of melody and rhythm, a blend in tunes like “No Importa,” which opens the set, “Si Lion de Toi,” and “Tango Triste,” which are likely to get even those with two left feet up on the dance floor. A song like “Perdida” has a definite jazz vibe; a song like “Alicia” is arranged in the classic tango style. Indeed most of the album seems to take that more classic approach to the genre, and it is not to be sneered at. While this musical approach is not particularly adventurous and retro in feel, it is lush and full-blooded; it is music that excites.
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