His ensemble, joined by the extraordinary multi-reedist Paquito D'Rivera, prove that jazzmen can master the intricate rhythms of the tango, while Argentine musicians can get the blues. Experience the history of this remarkable music through one of its all time masters at Tango Salon, March 26 & 27 at 8 pm in Rose Theater.
Aslan explains that tango music encompasses "a wide repertoire: there's a lot of classic tangos from back in 1910 through original material we're writing for the show. Over the decades, tango changed just like jazz. Conceptually, we do some very basic jazz: taking solos, longer stretches for improvisation: very unusual for tango. That keeps everybody on the edge of their seats; the performance is more interactive."
Aslan adds that there's a certain magic to tango, a mixture of "rootsy, popluar music" and "sophisticated European salon music." Aslan attributes tango's survival to tango's dance element, adding that dancers will be part of the Rose Theater show.
For more than two decades, Aslan has melded the elegance and melancholy of classic Argentine tango with the American jazz vernacular. Born in Argentina, Aslan developed his love for the tango bass while living in Los Angeles. He notes that the bass was the real rhythm section in tango, "a very foundational instrument."
The musicians of Tango Salon come mostly from the source: Argentina. "I'm flying in two piano players, a violinist, a bandone‹n, and I'm bringing in my jazz tango guys on drums and trumpet, and I have another bandone‹n player here in town. And myself and Paquito," he laughs. "What's unusual is this is an assembly of musicians that you really could always get in Buenos Aires: I'm flying them all over here for the first time."
Tango originated in Argentina over a century ago. Aslan notes that the African influence came from the Afro-Argentines who were part of tango's beginnings, "perhaps the first people that started dancing in this embrace that scandalized so many people, doing all these contortions and things." Some of the first musicians were black, and tango, says Aslan, is really a mixture of many cultures: Argentine, Afro-Argentine, Italian, Jewish, and Gaucho. "Buenos Aires is a city not unlike New York, with people from all over the world. Everybody pulled together to come up with this unique music that they all identify with."
Adding Cuban-born D'Rivera to the mix is icing on the cake. "Tango appears in Cuba during the 19th century in a lot of musical forms that are very similar. I've been playing with Paquito for a number of years on different projects, but we've never really done a collaboration, so this is exciting for both of us: putting together our love of each other's music on stage."
Aslan encountered Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center's artistic director, when he and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra played with an Argentine tango band. "I wrote an arrangement for that occasion that was a mixture of jazz and tango: we had a meeting of the minds." Aslan and Marsalis share an urgent love for teaching youth about the traditions of the past, a fundamental element of the Jazz at Lincoln Center programming goals. "We have both really dug into our roots and studied a lot and we both feel there's a need for the continuity of our music," says Aslan. "Tango language for many years was not guaranteed to survive, and it did. I think that Wynton has felt the same way about the jazz tradition, that we needed to address it so that it was respected and continued. Reaching out to young people is obviously the best way to do it, to build new audiences and new musicians, too."
Get a serious schooling in tango, jazz, and dance with Pablo Aslan's Tango Salon. The show title, says Aslan, "alludes to tango in dance halls and more intimate locations. It's an idea that we're all part of a cozy place where tango takes place."
For more information, visit jalc.org.