Ástor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Camorra I-II-III (1987-88) [28:13]
Gustavo BEYTELMANN (b.1945)
Encuentro [9:18]
Otras voces [8:51]
El desaparecido [7:46]
Contrabajissimo (1984) [10:13]
Quatuor Caliente (Gilberto Pereyra (bandoneon), Michel Berrier (violin), Cédric Lorel (piano), Nicolas Marty (bass)), Laurent Colombani (guitar), Vincent Maillard (vibraphone, Otras voces)
rec. May/Sep 2010, Studio Sequenza, Montreuil, France. DDD
ÆON AECD1107 [64:21] 

This disc is for those who do not need any introduction to Astor Piazzolla. It contains four pieces by the maestro and three more by the Argentinean composer Gustavo Beytelmann. All can be put under the title "Advanced Nuevo Tango".
The three Camorras are dark and dense. They mix two main types of Piazzolla's tango music: the "wild and crazy", and the "pure and heartfelt". Many elements sound familiar. The Quatuor Caliente is rather good in both the aggressive Sturm und Drang outer parts, as well in the heart-throbbing, supple and expressive internal episodes - especially when the violin takes the lead. The first Camorra does not really work out here, I'm afraid. It comes out quite mechanical. This is due to the hard sound of the piano and especially of the bandoneon, and to the unimaginative repetition. Also, if the lyrical episodes were not so rushed, there would be more breath and more soul in them. Camorra II is one of Piazzolla's grand tangos, and the Calientes are very good in conveying its demonic urgency. Camorra III is the most diverse of the three, and the most beautiful. Between small thunderstorms of the entire ensemble, jazzy and agitated, we have expressive cadence-like slow episodes led by the violin and the piano. This is evening music, improvisatory and melancholic, and resemblesAdios Nonino.
Contrabajissimo is impressive. Piazzolla's own version with The New Tango Quintet on Nonesuch is sharper, angrier and, in my eyes, not yet surpassed. Where Piazzolla is agile and full of action, the Caliente has more power, but is more predictable. Still, each has the power to impress.
The Piazzolla star is so bright that nuevo tango is still more a style than a real genre. Many composers that have followed Piazzolla hook up to the tail of his comet. It is very difficult to get rid of his influence - some do it with great effort, some are happy to remain with the comet's tail. The three works of Gustavo Beytelmann show differing degrees of detachment from the Piazzolla influence. Encuentro could have been written by Piazzolla himself. It has episodes with beautiful cadences for the violin and the guitar. The mood is nocturnal, chilly, tranquil, concentrated.
Otras voces is much more cerebral. The Piazzolla influence is less immediate although it can still be seen as a distant branch of the Tango tree. It is interesting to watch how the composer takes elements of tango and builds music which is quite advanced. To really enjoy this work, you must immerse yourself in it, absorb it, ride with it. Be prepared: this ride will be bumpy. Some places left me cold - for example, the final stretch does not seem convincing - some were enthralling. Give it a few tries, and it will probably get you on the hook.
El desaparecido brings us back, closer to the trunk of the tree. The mood is cold and foggy. There are tranquil evening episodes, where the violin and the bandoneon share the singing, and more urgent ostinato moments with sharp, pointed rhythms. Nothing radically new is added to the Piazzolla building blocks. The work has its architecture; you can feel it. It's like entering different rooms of a house: they are different, but you feel that they were furnished by the same designer. The aftertaste is comparable with that of one of Piazzolla's Seasons of Buenos Aires. An attractive work, though derivative.
As a whole this album is more for those who already know and love Nuevo Tango, for those who want to dig deeper. Definitely not for Piazzolla beginners or as an introduction to the genre. The sound is well recorded - maybe a bit too close. I had the impression that the sound engineer wanted to reproduce the “sandpaper” feeling of Piazzolla’s own recordings. The violin playing of Michel Berrier is absolutely superb. It is completely inside the idiom, sensitive and beautiful. Unfortunately, the sound of the bandoneon is hard and mechanical, which is especially noticeable when compared to Piazzolla's own recording legacy. Quatuor Caliente had recorded two discs with more standard Piazzolla repertoire. These have the same violinist, less focus on the bandoneon and can be really good. I'd especially try the disc with the singer Debora Russ. Judging by the sound samples on Amazon, I’d say that one would be the disc to have.
Oleg Ledeniov
Advanced Nuevo Tango, for those who want to dig deeper.