I was just finishing my review of “Pulso” by Marcelo Yakko where I mentioned that there wasn’t a single Tango on the whole CD when “Contratangos” by Juan Pablo Navarro landed on my desk. Now I have a lot of Tango to enjoy!
The Argentine Tango originated from the suburbs of Buenos Aires around 1880. This music is written in a 4/4 measure but the counterpoint marking makes you think it is in some odd meter. I find tango intense, serious and very danceable (I can’t dance it but I think it looks great when somebody else does).
Juan Pablo has given us, in his very first CD, a masterful rendition of this genre. The basic format is duos of the double bass and an assortment of other instruments. We hear the intertwining of the Piano, a Guitar or a Bandoneon with the deep, flawless Bass work from Pablo. They trade off the tasks of soloing and maintaining a groove where they are percussive as well as melodic. The interaction between the instruments is mathematically precise with each note in its’ place and time. Juan Pablo has recruited some amazing musicians to collaborate on this project.
Each tune manages to paint a complete picture with only two instruments! I “see” dark, grungy, smoky forbidden places like Bars, Brothels and Gambling houses where the sentiment is an expression of passion, hate, lewdness and despair. Some of the melodies are haunting and outright disturbing, yet so beautiful and exquisitely performed. There are no vocals on any tracks; it is the music itself that tells each story and a lot of the tunes are original works from Juan Pablo.
I really enjoyed every track on this CD and found each one of them to be completely unique, but if I had to pick a few favorites I would start with, “A La Alta Escuela”. There is just something about the Bandoneon for me that gives a tango its’ classic identity.
I really liked the guitar – double bass interaction in, “Tanguito para Nestor“. The purposely disjointed and dissonant approach is fascinating. The are moments where both instruments follow the same notes then split off on their own harmonious existence only to come to an abrupt end.
“Liquido 5” has a samba feel as the piano and double bass elicit the image of flowing, bubbling liquid (water?). There is a busy but calculated exchange that is enhanced with some minor percussion instruments.
“Candombass” treats us to some very nice harmonics and percussive use of the entire instrument and bow. Juan Pablo carries this whole tune by himself.
“Cancion para Betty” is beautiful piano double bass homage to Betty. Hearing this tune, I would guess she is really special as is this music she inspired.