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Pop Music Review

Tango No. 9 Tangles With Distractions

April 23, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER

Is the Conga Room a good venue for a tango concert? Friday at the popular salsa club, San Francisco's Tango No. 9 ensemble did its best to woo its scarce audience with a repertoire composed mostly of tunes by Astor Piazzolla, the genre's undisputed master.

Problem is, every time a new patron came into the room, the opening of the door broke the mood by ushering in the seductive sound of Afro-Cuban music coming from the venue's other room.

And because there's a tendency with American audiences to think of tango as a cliche of Latin exotica--music meant to be heard in a restaurant setting while consuming expensive entrees--most of the patrons Friday talked noisily while the quartet attempted to conjure up the dead-serious spirit of the real thing.

Listening to Tango No. 9 tackling Piazzolla classics such as "Adios Nonino" and "Marron y Azul," it was easy to see that this ensemble has indeed fallen head over heels in love with tango.

Ironically, the group's playing is a bit too polished and elegant to capture the essence of Piazzolla, who happens to be the darkest and rawest of tango composers, embracing tragedy and death with unflinching determination.

Yet the ensemble shone on more conventional fare such as Anibal Troilo's "La Ultima Curda." And its decision to incorporate the unusual sound of a trombone to its lineup is brilliant.

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