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Pablo Aslan Quintet: Piazzolla in Brooklyn and the Rebirth of Jazz Tango

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In 1959, according to the liner notes to Piazzolla in Brooklyn, the 38-year-old Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla, then based in New York, assembled a band and recorded an album called Take Me Dancing!, whose intent was to bridge jazz with his own favored genre. By all accounts, even his own, Piazzolla failed miserably, artistically and commercially, and he never revisited the idea.

Bassist Pablo Aslan, also originally from Buenos Aires and long a New York resident, has built a career of fusing the two worlds that his inspiration couldn’t. On this latest release, he is determined to finish the job his mentor started: Piazzolla in Brooklyn (which, title aside, was recorded in Buenos Aires) resurrects and updates the music of the long-out-of-print original, and this time it’s no flop.

For the project, Aslan, rather than call on established jazz players, uses his own Argentinean quintet: bandoneon player Nicolas Enrich, trumpeter Gustavo Bergalli, pianist Abel Rogantini and drummer Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla (grandson of the legend). All but two of its 10 tracks (animated back-to-back runs through George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” and Johnny Mercer’s “Laura”) were written by Piazzolla, among which is one simply called “Oscar Peterson.” Reducing the core group to trio-bandoneon and trumpet sit it out-Aslan pays tribute, via Piazzolla, to another master, not so much by co-opting the iconic pianist’s style as molding it to expound upon his concept.

Bergalli and Enrich more than make up for that brief hiatus throughout the rest. They lock in tightly on tracks like “Something Strange” and the appropriately titled “Counterpoint” and, with Aslan’s crisp and distinct basslines, the young Piazzolla’s razor-sharp timing and Rogantini’s vibrant melodies, allow Astor Piazzolla’s misfire to come to fruition more than a half-century later.

Originally Published