[7 August 2007]
Something like forty US cents per copy of Think Global Tango sold goes to OXFAM, the international anti-hunger/ anti-horror charity whose British shops seem to have gone a little upmarket these days in their sales of donated second-hand goods. Some questions arise: Will this CD be on sale in such shops, or specialist OXFAM music shops in bigger cities? How good a donation is that amount in relation to the economics of CD production? Of course you can always give more, independently, and this reviewer’s collection of CDs and books has benefited a great deal from visits to OXFAM and other charity shops in the United Kingdom.
This set might well be a decent sampling of what Tango music amounts to today, and Chris Moss (its editor) seems to know his stuff, this stuff. A survey of any such field can, of course, include things as representative that don’t exactly match up. Nobody has to like it all, and with CDs there’s no compulsion to always listen to everything. I leapt to Gustavo Beytelmann’s solo piano, with a range of colour and dynamics that would be amazing in a jazz pianist. Beytelmann’s “Corraler” keeps returning to passages like classic Joplin ragtime, suggesting not necessarily influence from North America but a common African ancestry which Mr. Moss reports (for listeners not fluent in Spanish) is a leading theme of the singer-pianist Juan Carlos Caceres’ “Cumtango,” with bongos and bandoneón. It seems ungrateful when anyone actually takes sides on the issue of whether a genre or pair of genres (in Louisiana, cajun and zydeco) derives from African rather than European, or European rather than African, sources; often, the other side is accused of getting the music wrong or corrupting it, and being entirely wrong about its origins. An Argentinian music resistant to recent African influences can well be argued for on strictly musical grounds and without dogmatic and potentially dubious notions of its earlier origins.
Much more dubious is what Chris Moss calls “the confident sound of the new tango” as represented here by Otros Aires on a track where the utter beginner might for the first time hear the voice of the long-dead Carlos Gardel, recorded in 1922, dubbed with other sounds including what I’d call an anti-Tango thwack-slap metronomic mechanical drum-noise. The wondrous variety of rhythm is deadened by something like the intra-unterine background of soontobeMummy’s heartbeat. Carlos Libedinsky has more of that, as do Tanghetto. I far prefer Hugo Diaz’s virtuoso harmonica (who needs bandoneòn!) accompanied by piano and guitar, or the earthy Daniel Melingo’s vocal and guitar, with bandoneón in accompaniment. Or Osvaldo Montes’ front-line bandoneon, or the vocally lyrical violin of Suni Paz and his wife’s lyrical vocal. Horacio Molina sings Jorge Luis Borges’ words to Piazzolla’s tune, and there’s a good range of singing styles. Chris Moss, furthermore, is as attentive in his selection as in his notes, down to the rural and folksong modes in which Tango existed. Indeed, this is an instructive and rewarding set which should enable some other donations to the musicians brought to a wider attention.