Aznar: voz | Marcelo
Moguilevsky: clarinetes y flautas
Kirschenbaum: guitarra | Gabriel
Martin Iannaccone: cello
| Santiago Vazquez: percussion
presents our first "Tango" album, "Será Una Noche", which is by no stretch
of the imagination a normal Tango record. Conceived by Argentine percussionist,
Santiago Vazquez and MA producer, Todd Garfinkle, "Será"
was recorded in a small church about 150 kilometers from Buenos Aires, in June
of 1998. The thought process for the album began with Santiago hearing MA's
"Luz Destino" (M039A), the Fado (traditional Portuguese song) album arranged
in Baroque style by Ricardo Rocha, with Maria Ana Bobone (voice) and Joao Paulo
(harpsichord). Santiago first thought to do something similar with Tango, using
harpsichord, etc, but later developed his concept to be more contemporary improvisation
oriented, but with a strong emphasis on Argentine folkloric elements as well.
The results, with famous pop artist Pedro Aznar singing some of the most famous
Tangos ever, is quite astounding. For more insight into the project, here is
what Santiago wrote for the liner notes:
Nobody really knows the etymological
origin of the word "Tango". It is supposed to be an african word referring to
a place for dancing.
We do know however that the Tango was
born around 1900 as a result of the fusion of music brought to Buenos Aires
by immigrants from Italy, Spain, Germany, and many other places in Europe. And
there are even people who say that Tango has its portion of Afrikan roots, brought
by the black people coming from Uruguay and Brazil. However, "el tango" developed
a character and an accent very different from the musics that gave it birth.
It was born in the brothels of the port area, in marginal environments, and
also in some neighborhoods farther from downtown, with a more rural style. It
then began to spread throughout the whole city and outside the city. The first
Tango groups included instruments such as the flute (or recorder), clarinet,
bandoneon (the instrument brought from Germany which took Tango to its highest
artistic development), violin, guitar, and later with the first "orquestas",
the piano, double bass, cello, or even more rare instruments for tango, like
the tuba or drumset. Tango was born as instrumental music to accompany dancing,
but the voice was added in the very early stages, while Tango lyrics developed
into a poetical form with its own themes and character. Lead by many cultivated
musicians, Tango was refined, and took elements from other cult musics such
as classical or jazz (which was at that time quite popular). Counterpoint, harmony
and orchestration also developed. Later on came some musicians that took some
of the elements of Tango to create a music of great complexity and cultural
value, but breaking away from traditional forms and its dance character. Astor
Piazzola is the most representative of these musicians. During the sixties,
Tango began its decay, probably due to the invasion of rock music and other
foreign musics, that quickly gained popularity on radio shows, and among the
Since then in Argentina, Tango doesnt
seem to have recovered, in spite of the increasing number of tries to reanimate
it as a vibrant musical genre. Maybe there exists in Tango, something opposed
to change - although change is necessary for survival. The general subject of
Tango lyrics is nostalgia, and the pain for what is gone, for what has changed:
a great love, youth, one's childhood neighborhood, good and old costumes, and
so on. The past is a constantly referred to. This may be due to its birth and
development among immigrants and people who gave up and/or lost their mother
countries and original cultures. Nobody knows for sure.
Recently, in Argentina there are a great
amount of young musicians playing Tango. Most of them play old arrangements
and compositions from before the sixties. A few compose new music using the
traditional idioms of expression, but with lyrics talking about the present,
and using the kind of words that young people use now, some times with ironic
meanings. There are also many musicians experimenting with cult versions of
instrumental Tango and some fusing it with other styles, such as Jazz, Pop or
Cumbia. But still, there is not yet one clear and visible way for the regeneration
of Tango. There are those who use its form, or who take isolated elements to
recombine them. And there are - as is the case with this recording - those who
flow, driven by their personal instincts, trying simply not to loose contact
with that untouchable and inexplicable essence that every argentinian has learned
to carry in his or her subconcious.
As for the dance aspect of Tango, it
has continued developing, based mostly on the records of the great orchestras
of the fourties and fifties. Nowadays, it is an extended practice for a great
amount of people that learn it in schools and dance it at the "milongas".
Within Tango we find different rhythms:
el "Tango" itself (with almost martial cadence), la "Milonga" (much faster and
rhythmic, related with "Candombe" - a drum rhythm from the black people of the
Rio de la Plata area), la "Milonga campera" (similar to the Milonga but slower
and usually played with guitars), and el "Vals Criollo" (or simply el Vals").
It is worthy to say that Tango is only
one of many genres, styles or rhythms present in Argentina in its different
areas. Among others, we could mention the folkloric rhythms from the northwest:
la Chacarera, la Zamba, la Cueca, el Malambo, el Gato, el Huayno, el Carnavalito,
la Baguala, la Vidala, etc; rhythms from the río Parana area, like el
Chamamé, la Guaraña, o la Polka; or drums rhythms from the Río
de la Plata area, like el Candombe or la Murga.
On this record we have included, besides
"free" and "open" versions of traditional tangos, other rhythms from
the argentinian folklore, and a few of our own original compositions that in
some way constitute personal but sincere visions of tango and argentine folklore
from different points of view outside tradition.
Santiago Vazquez (percussionist and coproducer)
Santiago Vazquez Interviewed:
1) How did you get involved with percussion?
Did you study formally at a music college?
Santiago: Since I was 4 years old, I
used to "play" all the stuff in the kitchen at home, as well as other
interesting things such as books or cassette cases, and beat on them with chopsticks
while following some LP. When I was 10 I started studying drums with a teacher
at school in Spain, but I always continued playing "home percussion"
(usually on a carpet on the floor). After some years of playing the drums professionally,
I started to record percussion for my own music, and then I started playing
percussion for others as well. I always focused on floor sets of instruments
that I got while on different "voyages", and of course "kitchen
and home stuff", along with toy instruments, electronics, some string or
wind instruments, sometimes used in a percussive context.
2) When and where did you start your
playing as a professional?
Santiago: I started playing the drums
in Argentina on a short tour with a female pop singer, after which I started
with other pop groups and soon after with some Latin American jazz groups.
3) How many albums (of your own) have
you made? Is this the first one?
Santiago: The first album I did as a
leader is "Santiago Vazquez & Puente Celeste" which was released in Argentina
at the end of 1998. It was called a "jazz music revelation album" for 1998
by the Argentina newspaper Clarin (the most important one). On that album I
wrote all the compositions and arrangements, as well as produced, art directed,
engineered, etc. It was played by myself and a group I put together two years
before the release.
4. Did you select the members of Será
Have you known the musicians a long
time and how did you meet Pedro Aznar ?
Santiago: I was asked by Todd to put
together a group with certain characteristics that would fit the style of MA,
trying to blend modern and old instruments, as well as instruments out and inside
the tradition of tango. According to that I figured out a group that could sound
good. But in the beginning we didn't have much time, so it didn't work. At which
point we decided to postpone the recording, giving me more time to put the group
together. I called some musicians that I knew for a long time, and we started
trying out ideas and then choosing some new members. I first talked to guitarist
Gabriel Kirschenbaum and asked him to do the arrangements of the pieces, but
after a while we realized there was not enough time to do very fixed arrangements,
and decided to concentrate on concepts and improvisation. I then called cellist
Martin Iannaccone who I was playing with in the "Mono" Fontana Trio, and multireed
player Marcelo Moguilevsky to play recorders and clarinets. Then we tried many
bandoneonists, until we decided on Gabriel Rivano, whom I had already played
with a few times before, and then there was the singer. Todd wanted a female
singer and we tried many good singers, but no one was the exact kind of singer
Todd was looking for, so when there was almost no time left before the recording
date, I talked to Pedro Aznar, knowing he would catch on to the idea immediately,
besides the fact that I love his singing and he is such a talented musician.
And he said OK! (I had played with Pedro a few times, and participated in a
recording of some film music he did). Of course, Todd was into working with
Pedro who came just to the very last rehearsals at the end. He started singing
over what we were doing, and it was perfect! He got the concept immediately,
and also proposed other songs and ideas for improvisation during the actual
recording which worked for us all very nicely.
I met Pedro when I was playing with the
keyboard player "Mono" Fontana. "Mono" is an old friend of Pedros and
invited him to come to a concert, after which Pedro called me for some recordings,
and later to play on some gigs with his band.
5) What was the setting of your percussion
instruments for this recording?
Santiago: I used almost the same set
as for another recording I did for MA during the same week with Miroslav Tadic
on guitar and Alejandro Franov on accordeon. It was a floor set, on a carpet.
I used a Bombo Legero as a bass drum, some chinese gongs, cymbals, two Moroccan
bendirs on stands, tablas, a small guiro, a tree branch, plus some string sitarina,
some small shakers or different things on my feet, a flower pot, and some toy
instruments, etc. I used so many little instruments that I cant remember
all of them. Maybe I should listen and check what I actually used on each piece!
6) What is the concept of this album?
Why did you choose Tango compositions?
Santiago: Todd asked me to "find"
something "around" tango, but very innovative, in a way that could
fit into the aesthetics of the MA label. I thought long and hard, and I couldnt
remember any Argentinian group doing such a thing, while I could imagine the
music and the kind of group that could be good for what we wanted to do. Plus,
I have played with different tango musicians, so I know most of them, including
Nestor Marconi, Dino Saluzzi, etc, and I had an Idea of what kind of musicians
to call, and which ones not to, for the musical concepts I had.
The idea was not to take the formal elements
of tango, but the essence, "filtered" and played by musicians not
born inside the tango tradition. Not to take the rhythms, nor the usual cadences
(tryng to stay far away from the usual clichés). We wanted to deconstruct
the tango, instead of just construct and play it. And we wanted to use space
and silence to bring alive the true profundity of tango, while at the same time
also "playing" with the acoustics of the space we performed in. We
worked with very open structures that gave room for improvising freely, and
the blending of new ideas with old ones. The repertoire we chose also included
other Argentinian traditional music forms, more or less associated with Tango,
such as candombe or zamba rhythms. Also, I liked the idea of having some original
pieces by group members to complete our very personal, yet open point of view
about what Tango is.
7) What do you think about Todd as a
Santiago: We had a great experience working
with him. His approach to recording and sound has left a very solid impression
on all the members of the group. All that about recording with only two mics,
and trying to catch the real moment of the music, with out any corrections.
Catching reality. I also think the concept of the MA label is very interesting,
and allows the opportunity for trying new things (the only way to evolve musically).
8) Where do you play now? Buenos Aires,
New York or other places?
Santiago: I am mostly playing in Argentina,
although I am thinking of starting to show our music outside Argentina as well.
9) Será Una Noche is a very beautiful
Has the group played live in Buenos
Aires or anywhere else?
Santiago: Será Una Noche was specfically
put together for this recording, and we have never played live. We thought of
getting together to present the album, but it may not be possible, as everyone
is very busy with other projects. Although we may put together a new variation
of this group for a new recording for MA.
10) Don't you like electronic music?
On this album you play only acoustic instruments.
Santiago: On MA, electronics are not
welcome, and the idea of doing it using only acoustic instruments, was one of
the points that made the idea more challenging and interesting, since we had
to find instruments that could balance with each other acoustically. On the
other hand, I do electronic music, and also combine both electronics and acoustic
sounds, but for projects other than MA projects.
11) What is the status of Tango, New
Tango, Jazz-Tango, popular instrumental music in Argentina ?
Santiago: One of the things with this
kind of music in Argentina is that the big record companies completely ignore
it, and therefore the mass media also ignores it. Lately, there is an increased
interest in the specialized press, and there is an audience, but I think the
market for this type of music is just beginning to grow in Argentina, and there
is not a specific label for it, although many do call it Musica Popular Instrumental,
or Musica Ciudadana.
Pedro Aznar interviewed:
1. What were your thoughts when Santiago
asked you to participate in this recording session?
Pedro: I was immediately interested,
for I like Santiago's music very much and the project itself sounded like a
great idea (recording in an old monastery with just two microphones, with the
musicians playing together in a circle, like a tribe around a fire).
2. How did you meet Santiago? What do
you think about him as a musician?
Pedro: I was looking for a percussionist
for the recording I did of "Como la cigarra" by Maria Elena Walsh, and Santiago
was recommended to me by Mono Fontana (with whom I started playing at the age
of fourteen, and who is nowadays one of the most respected jazz keyboardists
in the country.) Santiago proved to be every little bit the amazing musician
Mono had described him to be! He is forging for himself a very solid career
not only as a player, but also as a bandleader playing and arranging his own
3. Nowadays, it is rare to see traditional
music survive without economic help from governments or something similar. In
your country,do younger people listen to Tango ? Do you think there Is the possibility
for Tango Argentino to survive in the future?
Pedro: Young people do listen to Tango
and Folklore as they always did (it's "in the air" in our country) but, like
all adolescents, they need to find a way to differentiate from their parents
and the older generations. For that reason, they assume it is not "cool" to
like that music or play it or learn how to dance it (especially in big cities),
but once they overcome their generational phobias and their compulsion to liken
themselves to foreign models, they start to discover their roots and to honor
and value them. That's why I believe that Tango isn't going to die. It does
need to move on and renew and reinvent itself, though, but right now it's in
the process of doing just that This record is a good example of that.
On a personal level, my father being
a violinist who had his own Tango orchestra in the 40's,
I was never too far removed from its
magic, although, like I said before, I had to cross the generational barrier
and go through a number of things in my own life in order for me to appreciate
and understand thoroughly the mood and the lyrics, the joy and drama of Tango
4. It seems that one of the concepts
of this album is Tango Moderno.
Pedro: I do think it contributes very
beautifully to the exploration of new directions in Tango.
5. When I visited Buenos Aires, I felt
that there were many many things from the good old days, from the 20's for example,
still existing around you, Porteno, Charly Garcia broke them,and after that
he recreated his own. But you can take over good old stuff and make it new.
And older people always say that "We have a beautiful past,but now.......".
Pedro: Musically, we had several moments
of exalted creativity, peaks of inspiration. In the 30's, Gardel-Lepera; in
the 40's and 50's the era of the great composers who took in the influences
of Jazz (Mores, Troilo, Leguizamón, Expósito); in the 60's , Piazzolla;
in the 70's and 80's, the explosion of Rock Nacional (García, Spinetta).
Right now, there is a sense of challenge that may be a bit overwhelming to young
composers: to produce work that is on the same level of excellence as that of
their predecessors. We are (hopefully) leaving behind a decade of cultural desertification,
during which consumerism and frivolity where the norm. I hope to witness, soon,
a resurgence of our best aspirations as a people, and I definitely see Santiago's
work as part of the movement towards that goal.
Santiago and Pedro were interviewed by
Kepel Kimura by email from Tokio, Japan.
a link to lyrics for more than 8000 tangos
MA RECORDINGS INTRODUCES THE "EMERALD AUDIOPHILE SERIES"
In our efforts to make for a more colorful sonic and musical experience, MA Recordings introduces the "Emerald Audiophile Series". It is well known among concerned audiophiles that light refractions of the optical laser thru the polycarbonate universally used in compact discs can make for a less than accurate reading of the digital musical content.
MA's "Emerald Audiophile Series" discs are actually made with a dark green polycarbonate, to help alleviate the potential problems associated with internal light refraction and enable a more accurate reading of the digital data from the optical disc, delivering the music with more finesse, and ultimately the original intention of the performer(s) and producer.
For an enhanced musical experience, MA invites you to audition our "Emerald Audiophile Series"