Where else would you go to hear tango but New York City? Well, Buenos Aires maybe. But the tango has become internationalized, as has jazz. You may be as likely to hear tango in Chicago, Moulin Rouge
or other movie musicals of lethal passion based in sybaritic cities other than Buenos Aires as in Tango.
If you can’t afford the price of an airline ticket to go the birthplace of the tango, Argentine-born bassist Pablo Aslan offers his own version of the dance on "Avantango."
Aslan has assembled a group of top-flight musicians to assist in presenting his arrangements of tangos, as varied in their rhythms as they are in attitude. "Beto," dedicated to a soccer player admired by Aslan, provides opportunity for him to animate the piece with his own bass patterns consisting of off-the-beat accents before it dissolves into bendings of tones somewhat like the sounds that Mingus achieved through loosening of embouchures. But the structures of tangos are more varied than that, always changing moods, accelerating and decelerating. So, Aslan’s "El Enchanter" merges elements of the tango’s sense of foreboding with a Middle Eastern motif after a winding horn introduction. And Aslan bases his "Sabateando" entirely on his arco bass work, mutable in its patterns throughout the tune as are the feelings it generates. Moreover, "Sabateando" shows Aslan’s insight into the layering of parts, which normally involve just six musicians to build an overwhelming percussiveness without drums, after all.
Aslan pays tribute to the tango master, Astor Piazzolla, on five of the tracks as well, and the Piazzolla compositions he chooses vary in attitude, from the familiar "Verano Porteno," which features the signature violin screech and the bass lead-in to establish the piece’s meter as well, to the romanticism of "La Calle" expressed by saxophonist Oscar Feldman’s unctuousness after the parts successively enter and recede to outline the melody.
By including some of New York’s top interpreters of the tango, including Piazzolla’s bandoneon player, Hector Del Curto, Aslan has created a top-notch group to play this difficult and fascinating form with authenticity and devotion.