Látigo Rafael HERNANDEZ Cachita [2:42] Armando PONTIER Milongueando en el cuarenta [2:54] Jeremy COHEN Crowdambo (c. 2004) [4:16] Armando PONTIER A los amigos (To the friends) [4:53] Enrique SABORIDO Felicia [2:40] Evan PRICE Felipe, for string quartet[4:59] Gerardo H. Matos RODRIGUEZ (1897-1948) La Cumparsita (1917) [4:18] Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) Melodía en La menor [4:41] Libertango [2:30] Chick COREA (b. 1941) Armando's Rhumba [3:23] Carlos GARDEL (1890-1935) El día que me quieras [4:41] Mariano MORES Taquito militar [4:00] Eduardo AROLAS Comme Il faut (Exactly as it should be) [2:39] Agustín BARDI (1884-1941) Gallo ciego (Blinded rooster) [4:06] Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918–1990) Cool, from musical West Side Story (1957)
arranged by David Balakrishnan [4:31] Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) Nuevo Tango [5:32]
San Francisco: (Jeremy Cohen (violin); Kayo Miki (violin);
Emily Onderdonk (viola); Joel Cohen (cello))
John Santos, percussion (tracks 1, 3, 10)
rec. 22-25 August 2005, Sound Studio, Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio,
California. DDD VIOLINJAZZ RECORDINGS
Látigo the tango and jazz infused release
from the Quartet San Francisco, joined by Latin percussionist
John Santos, was honoured with double 2007 Grammy nominations
for best ‘Classical Crossover Album’ and ‘Best
Engineered, Classical CD’. The title Látigo derives
its name from the Spanish for ‘whip’ which is a term according
to Webster’s dictionary (1913) that describes a, “performance
technique used in tango music; quick slide or glissando of
a left-hand finger on a stringed instrument for the purpose
of simulating the sound of a whip.”
The Quartet San Francisco was founded in 2001 by the noted jazz and
classical violinist Jeremy Cohen; violist Emily Onderdonk
and cellist Joel Cohen. Violinist Kayo Miki joined the ensemble
in 2004 and Latin percussionist John Santos performed on
three of the tracks. Incidentally all the arrangements are
by Jeremy Cohen except Felipe and Cool.
The players are united by the common objective of performing
and presenting multiple styles of music that range from tango
to jazz and
classical to contemporary world music. Examples of their
versatility include the ongoing collaboration from 2002 with
tango dancers Sandor and Parissa and in 2003 sharing the
stage with flutist Hubert Laws and composer/pianist Billy
Childs at the ‘Jazz on the Hill’ summer festival at San Mateo
in California. In 2004 the quartet were the recipients of
both the ‘Special Prize’ and the ‘Grand Prize’ at the New
York City International Tango Competition.
In their programmes the Quartet San Francisco perform an eclectic range of
music from Beethoven to Brubeck, Mozart to Mingus and Brubeck to Piazzolla.
As this release demonstrates the group have a special and long-standing devotion
to the mysterious and seductive world of the tango, a style that has been
enjoying a major international renaissance. Their security of ensemble feels
near perfect and these superb performances brim over with excitement; passion
and enthusiasm. The recorded sound is of demonstration quality, yet the booklet
notes are not to the same standard; rather letting down the presentation.
One has to access the website of the Quartet San Francisco to obtain liner-notes
to the sixteen scores; a blatant ploy to encourage the listener to visit
their site. The notes are on the Quartet's
The image of the tango that is so often depicted is that of the
music of the dance so unashamedly sensual in character which
the glamour and elegance of high society women wearing glittering
cocktail dresses and men wearing tailcoats and bow ties.
In reality the tango is most likely to have evolved among
society’s underclass in the seedy bordellos of the Argentinean
seaports Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
The opening score is Cachita a rhumba by
Rafael Hernandez, the Puerto Rican composer, singer and actor.
This turns out to be a Django-Grappelliesque stomp,
infused with colourful percussion. A bandoneónist, composer
and very successful bandleader, Armando Pontier’s Milongueando
en el cuarenta is a lively tango, evocative of the elegance
of the soft-cushioned drawing room, contrasted with a madcap humour. Jeremy Cohen wrote Crowdambo, “as
an homage to my teacher and mentor, Anne Crowden, who passed
away in 2004”. Crowdambo is an exciting cocktail
of many exotic, mainly mambo rhythms.
A los amigos (To the friends) by Armando
Pontier is a gently smouldering score with episodes of high
drama. Uruguayan-born Enrique
Saborido moved to Buenos Aires, developing a career as a
violinist, pianist, composer and a dance instructor. Saborido’s Felicia is
a witty and rumbustious tango and is certainly one of my favourite tracks. Jazz violinist and composer, Evan Price of the Turtle Island
String Quartet composed Felipe especially for
the Quartet San Francisco. Full of good
humour and Grappelliesque frolics Felipe proves
to be great success. Composed by
Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in 1917 La Cumparsita has
become one of the most famous and treasured tango scores
in the repertoire. In this excellent performance La Cumparsita infuses
persuasive moodiness with archetypal tango rhythms.
Piazzolla and the word ‘tango’ are synonymous
as he based virtually all his works on the genre, achieving
towering artistic heights and great critical acclaim. Piazzolla
was the greatest nuevo tango composer and was also
an eminent bandoneónist. The finely-crafted score Melodía
en La menor, a Piazzolla masterwork, conveys a rather
untypical, gently unhurried and reflective mood. The Libertango is
one of Astor Piazzolla’s most popular scores. It contains
a relentless driving rhythm, being raunchy and sultry, evoking
the exotic colour of the tango.
Chick Corea’s popular Armando’s Rhumba is
playful and compelling; eminently suited to this arrangement
for string quartet and percussion. Carlos Gardel’s El
día que me quieras was the score that the Quartet San
Francisco performed to lift the grand prize in the final
of the 2004 Tango Competition in New York. El día que
me quieras is a tango classic performed here as a tender
and yearning love letter in music.
Taquito militar a restless and jumpy tango score was written by Mariano
Mores, the Buenos Aires=born pianist,
bandleader and composer. Comme il faut (Exactly
as it should be) was composed by Eduardo Arolas who was
known as ‘El Tigre del bandoneón’ (The Tiger of the bandoneón).
It is a highly appealing tango, robust, gritty and highly
rhythmic. Agustín Bardi’s Gallo ciego (Blinded
rooster) represents the story of the blinded survivor
of a cock fight. The performance of Gallo ciego emanates
misplaced confidence with an underlying feeling of apprehension.
Jazz violinist and composer David Balakrishnan,
the founder of the Turtle Island String Quartet, arranged Cool for
string quartet from Leonard Bernstein’s 1957 musical West
Side Story. In this excellent interpretation Cool is
a rugged and confident, foot-tapping jazzy romp. The final
work on the release is Astor Piazzolla’s Nuevo Tango.
A dramatic masterwork that is in this passionate performance
abundant with fire and brimstone.
Although I not do not subscribe to the view that
tango music has to be exclusively performed by Argentinean
or Latin-American performers.I do, however, generally
favour an ensemble that employ a bandoneón; an instrument
that Piazzolla played so expertly. Over the last couple of
years I have come across two releases, of chiefly Piazzolla
scores, that I can highly recommend to those wishing to explore
twentieth-century tango music. Although using an accordion
rather than a bandoneón the prize-winning duo of Milla Viljamaa
and pianist Johanna Juhola have arranged and perform twelve
mainly Piazzolla tango scores. Recorded in 2003 at the Sibelius
Academy in Helsinki on Finlandia Records 2564-60268-2, this
most remarkable release titled Piazzolla Passage has
caused considerable excitement when I have played selections
at Recorded Music Societies. In addition the ensemble Tango
Dorado, under the direction of bandoneón player Christian
van Hemert, perform twenty-three tango scores; that includes
ten from Piazzolla. The double set on Brilliant Classics
6933 was recorded in 2004 both at The Hague and also in Amsterdam.
On this double Grammy nominated release the Quartet
San Francisco are on magnificent form with these exciting
and colourful scores.
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