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*** 1/2 GARY BURTON, "Astor Piazzolla Reunion," Concord

March 01, 1998|Don Heckman

Two musics, from two different parts of the world, come together with enticing compatibility in this eminently listenable new album.

Is there really a common bond linking jazz and tango--two seemingly disparate forms of music? Absolutely. Both are urban musics, simmered in a melting pot of different ethnic and racial elements; both were associated, early on, with the bordello world; and both are founded upon surging rhythms and improvisation. Perhaps above all, both share an emotional intensity: In the case of jazz, it is an intensity best described as the blues--in musical structure, as well as overall attitude; in the case of the tango, it is a blend of passion and sensuality best expressed in the sound of the bandoneon, the tango accordion.

No one in recent years typified tango music better than Piazzolla. Shaking up tradition, he brought startling new harmonies to the music, and never hesitated to interface it with other expressive forms.

Burton and Piazzolla first met in the mid-'60s. Two decades later, they got together for a tour, with Burton serving as the featured guest with Piazzolla's New Tango Quintet in the late '80s. But plans to record together never came to fruition before Piazzolla died in 1992, at the age of 71, of a stroke.

His spirit, however, courses through every track on the album, which features Burton's vibes with Piazzolla's revived group (with the addition of two new bandoneon players). And if anything comes clear, it is the striking affinity between Piazzolla's moody melodies and dark chords and Burton's crisp, jazz-driven phrasing.

Some pieces--"Romance Del Diablo" and "Soledad," for example--have the feeling of jazz ballads. Others--the dramatically shifting "Triunfal" is one--use the colorations of jazz to heighten the impact of the tango rhythms. This may not be Burton's most upfront, hard-swinging album, but it surely is one of his most musically sensitive, tenderly expressive outings.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).

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