Pablo's Aslan's new CD, Avatango, reinforces the idea that improvised music from throughout the world can dip into the well of jazz to create something refreshingly new that doesn't really need a hyphenated identity.
Aslan is a bassist and composer from Buenos Aries, the traditional home of the tango. Avatango is also the name of his sextet, a collective of musicians who are not afraid to bend the rules of both jazz and tango. While some may want to call it tango-jazz, the music is much more than that.
The group features the accordionlike bandoneon in its front line (played by Hector Del Curto) alongside trumpeter Diego Urcola and tenor saxophonist Oscar Feldman. We can thank violinist Leonardo Suarez Paz for the beautiful shadowing of the horns on violin. The piano is what the tangueros in this group have in common with jazz. Both Dario Eskenazi and Gustavo Casenave play with distinct straightahead jazz feeling at times and at other times they meld into the elaborate voicing of the tango.
Just as Carlos Jobim looms over Brazilian music, so looms Astor Piazolla over contemporary tango: Five of this CD's 12 cuts are Piazolla compositions. Aslan also includes a tango classic (sung by vocalist Roxana Fontan) and offers five of his own tunes. It is clear that Aslan's music is meant to push the envelope. His tunes are angular, full of nice tricks and turns, and are always propelled by the elegant tango rhythm. Trumpeter Urcola brings it back to jazz with fiery solos that offer more than a nod to the bilonga feel of the best tango. And speaking of looming presences, saxophonist Feldman at times sounds like an early Gato Barbieri (Argentina's own jazz legend).
So do we really need to call Pablo Aslan a tango-jazz musician? I don't think so. It is enough to call him a leading voice in improvised music, and Avatango could be his calling card.