With its own unique timbre—more pungent and bittersweet than its cousin, the accordion—the bandoneon is indelibly tied to the musical tradition of Argentina and forever associated with the revolutionary composer Astor Piazzolla. And while the late Piazzolla’s work remained steeped in the tango nuevo tradition throughout his career, his Argentine contemporary Dino Saluzzi has continued to push the boundaries with music that is at once abstract, evocative and incredibly soulful.
Since debuting on ECM in 1982, Saluzzi has documented his haunting sound in a number of settings, including solo (1988’s Andina), duo (2005’s Senderos), trio (1997’s Cité de la Musique) and in collaboration with the Rosamunde String Quartet (2000’s Kultrum). Juan Condori, named for a childhood friend who grew up with Saluzzi in the village of Campo Santo in Northern Argentina, is a closely knit quintet outing featuring Dino’s brother Felix Saluzzi on tenor and soprano saxophones and clarinet, son Jose Maria Saluzzi on acoustic and electric guitars, grandson Matias Saluzzi on bass and honorary family member U.T. Gandhi on drums.
Guitarist Jose Maria Saluzzi brings the jazzy element with his fluid, warm-toned Metheny-esque electric guitar playing on pieces like “A Juana, Mi Madre,” “La Vuelta De Pedro Orillas” and “Chiriguano,” while also contributing the gorgeous acoustic guitar showcase “Soles.” “Improvisacion” is a spontaneous creation and the sprightly, chamberlike “Milonga De Mis Amores” is a tango classic composed by Pedro Laurenz. Felix brings a rough-hewn quality to bear on “La Vuelta De Pedro Orillas” and “La Parecida” with his full-throated tenor sax work, reminiscent of early Gato Barbieri. The atmospheric “Juan Condori” resonates with nostalgia while the melancholy “Memoria” (written for victims of a 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires) carries a somber tone in Felix’s keening clarinet work. They also strike an evocative note on the spacious, harmonically intricate ballad “Inside” and take it out on the daring rubato vehicle “Los Sauces.” This warm-hearted family affair stands as one of Saluzzi’s best.