Buenos Aires Tango Standards
It’s been three years since his last album and 25 since he was in Argentina, but bassist Pablo Aslan clearly put the time to good use. Buenos Aires Tango Standards is a leap forward from his well-received Avantango and a work, unlike many “fusion” projects, that so completely and artfully integrates two musical worlds, here tango and jazz, that it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.
The “standards” Aslan chose for this project span the first half of last century and, as in jazz, range from well-known pieces by famous composers to lesser-known, but nonetheless distinctive and representative, works. He retains their complex two-and-three-section framework—it’s not the standard head and blow—but within them, the players (a group of like-minded Buenos Aires jazz musicians, including Astor Piazzolla’s grandson Daniel) create and improvise freely. And if the instrumentation is more typical of a jazz quintet, with trumpet, sax and drums replacing the bandoneon, violin and guitar of Astor Piazzolla’s famed new tango lineup, one can hear echoes of those instruments in the very structure of the compositions.
Buenos Aires begins and ends on a lively note (“La Cachila,” the witty lead track, even poses as a “standard” tango number for all of about a minute before veering off in new directions), and in between offers a string of delicate numbers with all the characteristic elegance and melancholy of classic tango. From the level of play to the artistic conception, there is nothing “standard” about this work and that is both its strength and beauty.