Carlos Franzetti: In the Key of Tango

Tango music has been around for approximately two centuries, and although significant permutations have expanded its parameters-Nuevo Tango has broken it open to new elements over the past few decades-it’s still, at heart, a dance music played by a group. Other pianists have recorded solo piano tango albums before this one by the Argentinean Carlos Franzetti, stripping the music to its essence, but few could possibly have matched the depth, charm and power exhibited here.

Franzetti, 65, is a composer and arranger whose career has taken him into classical music, film and big-band jazz as well as tango. He brings that larger worldview to his improvisation-based renderings of these 14 standards of the genre (plus one original). Broadening the definition of tango isn’t something he dwells on, it just comes naturally to him.

Franzetti’s a dramatic player-a trait essential to tango-and a fan of flair and flourish. In “Boedo,” written by Julio De Caro, he spends the opening seconds flying high, reaching outward and beyond the melody, then drops back quickly to a shadowy and somber place: low, single notes sparingly tapped out. This is where he stays throughout most of the piece, alternating space with sound, creating a rhythm out of those juxtapositions until, once again, he steps it up, heading toward a gallant denouement.

Of the two Astor Piazzolla numbers included (and, honestly, it’s refreshing that Piazzolla doesn’t dominate), “Revirado” is the revelation. Franzetti’s independent left- and right-hand lines, fluctuating from frantic to simple, will have the listener convinced that one musician can’t possibly be making all of that sound. It’s stunning, really, as is the up-close recording itself, produced by Allison Brewster Franzetti in studios located in New Jersey and Buenos Aires.