10 mayo 2008

As promised, my list of favorite musicians continues with these wizards of the 88 keys. Not to say I'm a foremost authority on the subject of tango history or music, and certainly my selections won't bring much to surprise. Nevertheless, here are my current favorite tango pianists:

Carlos Di Sarli - The one and only. His playing brought a richness to tango unmatched by any other pianist, with a tone so meaty and juicy--like a thick lomo with a bottle of malbec. I love the way he creates dramatic contrast on the extreme ends of the keyboard, and how his rolling, rumbling bass notes add such gravity to the music, as if he is rooting the dancers' feet deep into the earth with each step. If he was a classical pianist, he would be Rachmaninoff. Prime examples: La Cachila, Alma Mía, Germaine (either version).

Osmar Maderna - A very different pianist from Di Sarli, almost diametrically opposed in the approach, with the exception of their mutual perfectionism. Dubbed "The Chopin of tango," his exceptionally refined playing is most often heard in milongas in the recordings of the late 30's-early 40's with the Caló orchestra, whose signature style is one he was essential in honing (noticeably with the traditional Caló ending with the light piano chimes in the upper register). Later on, with his own orchestra he puts more emphasis on the piano, which highlights his incredible playing but makes music that is perhaps more appropriate to listen than to dance to, as the arrangements take on a broader romantic canvas and sometimes tends to submerge the underlying rhythm. If he was a classical pianist, he would be Michelangeli. Prime examples: El Vuelo del Moscardón, Lluvia de Estrellas, Sans Souci (with Caló).

Rodolfo Biagi - Spiky, startling, piquant. I recently spoke to a tango comrade who expressed a dislike because he felt that hearing Biagi was going to give him a heart attack. But this is, in a way, the quality of his that those who love him feel the way they (we) do. The peculiar way he emphasizes the "off" rhythm while maintaining the solid cadence makes his orchestra ideally suited for dancing, as beginners can easily move in time while more advanced dancers can challenge themselves by playing with the complexities of the music. (But probably not a good choice for the very beginning of a milonga--you need to be warmed up to tackle his energy). With D'Arienzo in the mid-30's his fingers found their footing, but it was with his own orchestra where he truly earns the title of "Manos brujas." If he was a classical pianist, he would be Gould. Prime examples: Lágrimas y Sonrisas, Picante, El Estribo.

Fulvio Salamanca - Another pianist of the D'Arienzo school, but I couldn't disqualify him for a little redundancy because he's just too damn good. Similarly bright in intonation but perhaps more virtuosic and powerful than Biagi, if less idiosyncratic. Nice octaves! I haven't specifically researched him much but some of the things he did with D'Arienzo have made my jaw drop. If he was a classical pianist, he would be Horowitz (or perhaps Cziffra). Prime examples: A Una Mujer, Barracas al Sud, Fuegos Artificiales.

Pablo Ziegler - Here I take a leap forward in time and style, to the jazzy riffs of this Piazzolla co-conspirator. Sure, he came relatively late to the maestro's circle and I'm sure his say must have been somewhat limited, but when he plays he sets those keys on fire, man. I can't compare him to a classical pianist because his playing seems so spontaneous (even if that's not really the case--I wouldn't know). Maybe Argerich? Prime examples: Fugata, Michelangelo '70 (with Piazzolla), Elegante canyenguito (with his quintet).

Okay, all for now. I might do a post later on bandoneonists but I really know very little about them, and from what I can tell they don't often tend to stand out as soloists, generally playing with other bandoneonists as an ensemble. Anyway, happy listening (and dancing).

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