23 March 2004
After listening to his new CD on Zoho Music, "PABLO ASLAN AVANTANGO", and seeing him perform at Town Hall a couple of weeks later, NY Jazz Report's Thad Kawecki and Will Wolf wanted to sit down with Pablo Aslan, to see what makes this innovative composer, bassist, band leader, and ardent New Tango proponent tick. The meeting took place in a small cafť in the East Village.
Kawecki & Wolf: Pablo, weíd like to start with your musical beginnings. You were born in Argentina. In Buenos Aires?
Pablo Aslan: Yes. I was born in Buenos Aries and lived there the first eighteen years of my life.
K & W: And when did music come into it, did you have a musical family?
PA: Well, a music loving family, but not a music playing family. My grandmother was a pianist and a piano teacher. But that was not something that really came into my home. It was more about my parentsí record collection. And what impacted me the most was Brazilian music, Astor Piazzolla, and some jazz. And, I guess there was some classical music, too, like Vivaldi, the light stuff.
K & W: And how old would you have been at that time?
PA: Thatís probably the early teens, or so. Earlier than that I know there are pictures of me at one, or one and half, dancing to twist records. So I had that musical bug, and I stlll feel sort of a physical thing with music. And they had these photos of me hanging onto to the turntable, onto the furniture. I was asking for the twist, and twisting. So that was my real first contact with music.
In terms of playing, I started in early high school.
K & W: Did you start on the bass?
PA: I started on the electric bass.
K & W: Did you play any other instruments?
PA: At one point I played guitar. I studied it a little bit. But, mainly just strumming some chords, and maybe picking out a song or two. I was concentrating on trying to get my fingers in the right place.
K & W: Were there any thoughts about composing at that point?
PA: No, it was still just about discovering music. I think my early feeling was that connection to the twist, especially on the bass where you play a rhythmic function. And I just discovered that that came rather naturally.
K & W: Who were some of your early jazz influences?
PA: Well, the records that we could get a hold of. Basically for me: Mingus, Coltrane, Miles. And, in fact, Miles Davis was ultimately a great influence on me in style, conception, beauty, attitude, evolution. All those things and more.
K & W: The Mingus connection is very clear.
PA: I saw him when he came down to Buenos Aires sometime in the seventies. We didn't have a constant flow of musicians coming down like kids have now in Buenos Aires. We were in a cultural wasteland in terms of what we could see, epecially see. Groups didnít used to go down there. Once in awhile, thereíd be Dizzy Gillespie. It wasnít like we had a constant stimulus with people coming down like kids have now.
K & W: How large of a family did you come from?
PA: I have three younger sisters. My mother is an artist, and quite well established. And my father is an architect, also well established. So there was always an openness to the arts.
K & W: What Ďs your motherís professional name?
PA: Nora Aslan. Sheís starting to show her work in New York, but she lives in Buenos Aires.
K & W: How about your first playing?
PA: My first playing was with what would now be called jam bands. Long extended jams. We liked funk. We always played in E minor. I was playing the electric bass.
K & W: When did you graduate to the standup bass?
PA: I picked it up when I was about sixteen at the suggestion of a friend. My first standup was unplayable, so I learned all about open strings. I had a teacher from the National Symphony. Eventually he sold me a very decent instrument that I still have. That was at age eighteen, when I moved up here to the states. I brought that bass with me. But I still played electric my first few years. I came to college, to California, to UCSC Santa Cruz. I played electric bass until I could really get around the acoustic, and then I went the orchestra way, and the acoustic became my instrument.
K & W: Did you have an epiphany moment with tango?
PA: Most definitely.
K & W: How did that happen? Most kids here start by listening to pop, and then they might get more sophisticated, and move into other areas, maybe jazz.
PA: Yes. Specifically, seeing Dino Saluzzi , the Argentine bandoneon player, although heís not a tango artist. Seeing him play with Charlie Haden, who is another bass player that I would like to strongly mention. There was one record that showed up in the bins of Buenos Aries. One of his duo records, where he did stuff with Ornette Coleman. Don Cherry. It was called " CLOSENESS." When I saw him in "CLOSENESS" with a bandoneon player, it just opened up a whole world. I was feverish at the time, and also around the same time, this was in LA, I ran across the Kronos Quartet. This was right before they collaborated with Piazzolla. Dave Harrington said, "Give me his number, I want to work with him, I need permission to work with this guy." To see that, that people like that were so crazy about this music, and to see Dino playing with Charlie, it was a definite period that I was just sort of a walking zombie about this whole thing. And, as luck has it, just a few months later I was in LA, and I was working playing in a play, a small pit band, summer job, and we were at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, and I went downstairs between our shows and in one of the rooms, one of the salons of the hotel, it was taken up by tango dancers, and there was a tango trio with a double bass. And, that was the second part of the epiphany. I said to myself, ďI see. Thatís my gig.Ē
K & W: And, how old were you then?
PA: About 25 or so. Out of college. I hadnít gone to UCLA, yet. I was sort of freelancing.
K & W: And what was that like?
PA: The thing about it, is that after that epiphany part B, there was epiphany part C, or at least coincidence part C. I was working in a jazz club just playing. I didnít really work as a jazz player in LA as much I did in Northern California. But, a neighbor of mine, Norman Brown, the guitarist who became quite famous in Motown, MoJazz. He was a neighbor in LA, and he saw that I was always carrying a bass around, and he invited me to play at one of his gigs, and when I finished playing I sat just a few tables down from some Argentines; I noticed they were talking. And it turned out that one guy was the owner of a tango club, and another guy was a bandoneon player. And so, a couple weeks later I was working three nights a week as a tango bass player [Laughter], and doing the orchestra thing, and I was playing, also, the Latin jazz circuit.
So I worked a lot. And I also was working in an orchestra directed by Lalo Schifrin, the film composer, so he threw some film work my way. So LA was wonderful. And, I was on scholarship at UCLA. Money was plentiful, I played every day.
K & W: Sounds like kismet, everything falling in place.
K & W: So from early on youíve been a busy guy, involved in a lot of different areas. Just like now.
PA: Tango, in a way, what I felt about the music, was that it was eventually going to allow me to tie a lot of things together. The classical thing, the bass, the bow, the improvising, the defining a language, the being an Argentine musician, ultimately. Workwise, I could see it. I was working three or four nights a week for the years I was in LA. Wanting to be a professional musician, wanting to be a band leader, study the history, the whole thing just sort of came together in Tango. The whole thing for me just gave me my focus.
K & W: If you werenít a bass player, is there any other instrument that you are particularly fond of that you might have been interested in playing?
PA: The piano. Mainly, because of my composing. I play what I call music student piano, or arranger piano. And, because itís my nature, drums, any sort of drums or percussion. I do that a lot on the bass itself. Someday I know Iím going to go onstage with a drum. Iíll just have to find the moment [Laughter].
K & W: Yes, thatís one thing that is very apparent about Avantango, its strong percussive quality, without drums. As you mentioned, you do a lot on the bass, the piano is very percussive, the violinist is up by the bridge a lot, scratching.
PA: He does all those effects.
Thatís a big part of my attraction to the music. As a bass player, also, youíre very much the driver of the band. And the band all works with you. Itís like a drum circle with no drums.
K & W: Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you have a certain routine? Do you set aside a certain amount of your time specifically for composing? How does it work for you?
PA: At this point, Iím doing as much as I can. The nutshell of my technique is: I bang my head against the wall in different ways, until something comes out. But Iím getting to the point where Iím able to call up ideas. For instance, weíre playing in Kansas on Saturday and I challenged myself. I said, ďWrite a piece for the concert, but also that itís for those people, for Kansas.Ē Itís like a mid-Western feel tango. So yesterday I was finally able to squeeze blood out of the stone, and I came up with a theme of sorts. A whole bunch of material that now I start developing.
K & W: Which ensemble is playing there?
PA: Weíre going as a quartet. We do a lot as a quartet. In other words, without the horns. We do a lot of more traditional shows. We play some dance concerts in dance clubs, and things like that. So Iím also trying to bring some of the sextet stuff into the quartet, that looseness and more improvisation.
K & W: Thatís kind of like the ďcellĒ of the tango?
PA: The way I look at my band, is itís a tango quartet, classic quartet, you basically add more bandoneonists, more violins to a tango orchestra. Itís tango with horns. Simple instrumentation.
K & W: How about practicing, do you allow a certain amount of time for that?
K & W: Yes.
PA: Lately, Iíve finally been able to carve out some time and do it consistently. Iíve gone through periods. It just comes and it goes in a way. But, I always have the sense that I want to take the instrument as far as I can. Because certainly other people have--- taken it further than me [Laughter]. In the last few weeks Iíve organized myself so that I make that a priority.
K & W: Your music seems to work with motifs that lock together a lot. Like in Afro-Cuban, with its montunos and tumbaos. Is that one of your methods?
K & W: Thatís the thing about not being a pianist, I can see the music in a different way, Iím obsessed about the piano because a lot of what I hear players do harmonically and color-wiseÖ
K & W: You think counterpoint, right?
PA: Right. All of my training and background is more like that, itís interlocking parts and counterpoint. Thatís the banging my head against the wall. Iím just studyng what these guys are doing, without having the technique to actually be able to do it. But in my writing what comes naturally is this thing of lines against lines, and rhythms against rhythms.
K & W: Yes, thatís very evident.
Are you striving for something as tight as a Latin band with its montunos, tumbaos , and everything---and how they all fit together?
PA: Well, it has to work that way. If broken down, you have a pulse, which is usually on the bass, and then you have this middle layer, that is sort of tossed around between the instruments, and then the melody. So what in a salsa band would be the cascaras, or the martillo, or all that stuff, for me itís a violin line, or bandoneon line.
K & W: You can hear that a lot.
PA: Eventually, I would like to be more flexible, than the so called salsa, which is very rigid. More towards so called Latin jazz, in terms of the looseness that you can have within that.
K & W: More elastic.
PA: Right. And the inventiveness that each player can bring to their pattern.
K & W: Like an implied clave pattern.
PA: Yes, the rhythm of tango is always up in the air.
K & W: It does seem to be, at least in the duple meter tangos, four-square on the beat.
PA: Yes, but there are a lot of syncopations.
K & W: Is one of your goals is to stretch it beyond that? In "DERVICHE," didnít you group it like 3+3+2?
PA: Right. Right.
K & W: That really works well, and you can still dance to that, too.
K & W: Is that one of your long ranging goals to stretch the idiom itself?
PA: Yes. Thatís all the elements that weíve been talking about, sort of bring the Mingus into it, and bring that looseness, and bring thatÖWhat Iím still striving to do, first of all, is to get my writing to where my mind is. So what actually goes on paper is sort of starting to reflect what I Imagine while I whistle down the street.
But also with the band itself, we are just a handful of players. This is one of the main things. The difference in jazz , in the world of jazz, especially here in NY, you can choose the players who are more compatible with everything: your schedule, your personality, your musical vision, with whatever. In tango itís a small community, and so we incorporate each otherís ideas and aesthetics, and we are in each otherís bands, and things like that.
One concept that Iím working on is to develop this looseness, so things can happen. Which is one of the things I love about jazz. Things can happen, and they wonít happen tomorrow, and theyíll happen differently.
K & W: If it gets very, very loose, what point would that be where it ceases to become tango? Or is tango basically a mindset?
PA: It is, but if youíre a tango musician you can rely on the more essential stuff. Otherwise, thatís why I develop my writing, is to bring material thatÖThatís one of the key points. I started this band as sort of a downtown band. Our first gig was at the Nuyorican Poets Cafť, and then after that we worked at the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street. It came about as that sort of band. As I was doing all my traditional stuff, I had the NY Tango Trio, I had the New York-Buenos Aries Connection. And this was sort of my experimental band. And in the last couple of years, this has become my main band. And thatís when I brought the tango guys in. It used to be all jazz guys, and exactly what you said happened, that the music, it was good music, but it was not necessarily tango. And I wanted to make tango music, but I didnít want to force it and say, ďno, you guys do this.Ē Which I tried, and it doesnít work, especially with improvisers. Unless they incorporate all that material, and they shed it just as deeply as theyíve done all the jazz stuff, and that they can improvise in the tango language. So now Iíve got a very hard-core tango rhythm section, and my horn players are all Argentine, so the sound is all there, and they want to look for that vocabulary.
K & W: How long did it take to do the Avantango CD, from inception to completion?
PA: It was very much the repertoire that we had been playing the last half year or so. I wanted the CD to reflect where we were at.
K & W: There are twelve tunes on the CD, five of them you wrote, Did you write some of them specifically for the CD?
PA: Yes. Two of them. "BETO" and "AMADEO." And two of them, "DERVICHE" and "EL ENCHANTER," those were from a few years back, from another incarnation of Avantango. And then "SABATEANDO" is an older tune, itís one of my first compositions.
K & W: How long were you in the studio?
PA: I think we ended up doing everything in about four days or so. We needed to go into the studio with a limited budget. And spend enough time there to do enough work for it to come out at a certain level. But we didnít go in and sayí ďWhat are we going to do now? Or letís try this."
K & W: It was all planned.
K & W: Do you enjoy studio work?
PA: Yes, very much.
K & W: Are you working on anything now in the studio?
PA: No, Iím working in my studio at home. Iím trying to get my home studio to be a little more up to the level without spending money. Iím trying to learn it better.
K & W: Eventually, youíll be able to record right in your home?
PA: Well, I think itís a question of what the purpose of that recording may be. I do record for reference. I do put together a few commercial things, or for theater, or things like that. But, ultimately, I think the real recording needs to be done with the expensive stuff [Laughter]. With the good room, and the good mikes, and the good situation.
K & W: Zoho is a nice progressive label.
PA: Iíve known Joachim for a number of years. He was interested in our more traditional tango stuff when he was producing classical and crossover things. And we stayed in touch. And thatís how we came to this.
K & W: Do you have a favorite amongst the different projects, or configurations that youíre involved with?
PA:If itís a good night, and everybodyís playing well, that one [Laughter].
K & W: Youíve worked with a lot of different people. Is there anyone, in particular, that you havenít worked with, that youíd really like to do something with?
PA: Dino Saluzzi, who I mentioned earlier, and who is now an ECM artist, and who recently has been playing with some of my bass player heroes like Marc Johnson, Anthony Cox, Palle Danielson, the European bass player . Heís one artist I would definitely like to work withÖSaluzzi. Other than that Iím not exactly sure, individually. It would be nice for someone to also get interested in what I do, and sort of collaborate, so it could be anybody.
K & W: Music seems to be the biggest part of your life. But you must have some other passions. What do you like to do that doesnít involve music?
PA: My hobby, in a way, is politics. I stay very informed. Especially, nowadays. I feel itís important to understand whatís going on. I read a lot.
K & W: So you could say youíre a news junkie?
PA: Yes, a little bit. I was watching C-Span this morning.
PA: And, soccer, of course.
K & W: Whoís going to win the next World Cup?
PA: Well, Argentina, of course.
K & W: Of course [Laughter].
Tell us a little bit about the Santa Barbara Tango Festival. Were you there for the entire ten days?
PA: No, because the concert that I produced was a few days before Town Hall. They wanted me to go out there for at least a week. But I had to prepare the band, leave, and come back to rehearse for Town Hall. So I couldnít enjoy the whole festival. My portion of it was a program they called the ďStory of Tango.Ē The director of the festival had seen me do something similar in Miami with the New World Symphony, and she wanted that. So I produced something with a quartet. I took my violinist from here, and a pianist came from Boston, a young Argentine pianist, and a bandoneon player from Paris, and I brought my arranger, we also hired a jazz saxophonist in LA who I had worked with way back when I was there.
And, so we did a program of traditional to jazz tango, and I narrated the whole thing, sort of as a history and I tell things about the different periods.
K & W: Who was the sax player?
PA: Kim Richmond, LA based, wonderful.
K & W: Speaking of saxopnonists, how long have you been working with Oscar Feldman?
PA: About 3 Ė 4 years Weíve been sort of in the same circle, Latin jazz, Brazilian, and that sort of stuff. Which is mostly what heís been doing. And, then I started using him in my group and we really started working together about a year ago, where heís been consistently part of my projects. And, Iíve done some of his stuff, also. His wife is a dancer. So theyíve done a show where they were also were mixing tango and jazz. And I brought some of my charts, and we did some Avantango stuff with him.
K & W: Do you ever get a chance to dance tango?
PA: Well, I donít like to dance. The formal dancing, no. Iíll shake and boogie, sure. But, the steps and all, itís very complicated. I know the most basic stuff. Iíve dated tango dancers, and Iíve learned from them, I was sufficiently motivated to dance a little bit. But, itís a whole world. Iíve known people for years and years and years, all over the US, who have become obsessed, amateurs, they take classes, and come to all the dances, and I see them in different cities.
K & W: Itís all consuming.
PA: Yes, thatís exactly the point. I already have too many consuming passions.
K & W: What about the music scene today in Buenos Aries? Is there a jazz scene there? Does it combine tango and jazz?
PA: There are a few things going on that are very interesting. Mostly jazz players that have gotten close to tango. As opposed to tango players getting close to jazz. But tango players are starting to be able to play chord changes, and there have been some very interesting things coming out. And, I stay in touch, I know a few of the artists, and Iíve played with a few of them. Iím always just keeping my ear out for whatís going on.
K & W: Do you go back to Buenos Aires often?
PA: A couple of times a year.
Iím not really established professionally there. Musicians know me. My face has been around, and I have a record out over there that did well, but I donít play, When I go, I go visit and hang out. I want to set up something to go regularly, and play. and maybe do some teaching.
K & W: Do you have any favorite cities around the world where you like tp perform, or like to visit?
PA: Iíve had great experiences on the west coast. Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area. Europe. I canít get enough of Europe. Especially Paris. One country that I really admired a lot, not as much for the history because I donít know much about it, is South Korea. I felt the people were really remarkable, very Latin, sort of the Latin brothers of the east. They are very passionate people.
K & W: Do you frequent any particular jazz clubs here in the city?
PA: I donít spend a lot of time in the clubs because Iím a family man. But I go check out colleagues. I like Tonic and the Knitting Factory. And over the years Iíve certainly spent time in the churchs of jazz: the Village Vanguard, the Gate, Sweet Basil. Visiones, and all the places where history was made here in NY.
And I should mention the Jazz Standard. Iíve played a couple times there with Pablo Ziegler, the pianist. Heís been having guest jazz soloists. Not just a great club, but also that experience of playing with those guys, And, the food is fantastic.
K & W: Is there anything that you donít like about your life as a musician?
PA: Yes, there is not enough money. For the amount of work that it requires, itís not a financially rewarding profession. Unless that becomes your overriding principle: money first, music second.
K & W: Compared to some of the other projects that you do working as a musician, teaching is a little bit of a different ballgame, do you have the same kind of passion for the teaching?
PA: Yes. Itís something Iíve really never done just for the money. I wouldnít say I havenít played for money because I play for money all the time, and sometimes I treat it that way because thatís what it is. But with teaching, itís always been about people approaching me and wanting to learn. Mostly in the last number of years, about tango specifically. Either as dancers, or arrangers, or composers, or bass players. Iíve had a few bass players come to me asking to show them techniques and things like that. And, Iím extremely passionate about it. And, I wouldnít mind, if it were a little easier to obtain, I wouldnít mind having a position, a teaching position somewhere. My ideal situation is to have a setup. I think the work of a teacher is dreadful, to have to recruit students, and make sure that they donít go away, that they pay every month. And that part Iíve never even tried, Iíve thought about it but never even tried. So I teach only when someone wants to learn. Itís ideal in a way.
K & W: Teaching on demand.
PA: Yes, teaching on demand. You want to learn, Iíll teach that. If I know it.
K & W: Does it seem like it might be a trend over the last five years or so, that more and more people are interested in learning tango music?
PA: Yes. In the music, and trying to play it on the bass. Most definitely.
K & W: So as time goes on, youíre going to be more in demand.
PA: Well, I hope so. I feel like this is not---the Macarena is fifteen minutes of fame---I think that this music is deep and old enough that there will be an interest, I donít know if anybody will ever have a sort of the Varsity Tango Ensemble where Iíll be the coach, and Iíll be on salary. But, I think that as Iím developing an approach to tango that opens it up to different things I think that I become a little more universal and not so specific.Ē When we do tango weíll call you, donít worry about itĒ, and Iíll sit there for thirty-five years waiting for the call [Laughter].
K & W: There is a specific bass technique, isnít there? Short arco. And thatís like the antithesis, almost, of a regular jazz bass.
PA: Or on the other hand, itís the analogy because youíre trying to get that snap or that dryness with the bow.
K & W: But it has also that scratchÖ
PA: Right. Right. Well, you really canít do it with picks because itís just one attack. You canít fatten the attack. And with the bow you can start the attack, and then give it a snap. Which you do a lot. But every instrument does it in a certain way. But a lot of times I try to get a snappyÖ, because otherwise you bog down the orchestra if youíre sawing away, as we say in the bass world, then it becomes very heavy, so to lighten up and make it a background over which you can improvise, you need to sort of keep it in the air. So the technique that Iím developing right now has to do with that, sort of imitating some of the things that players do with their fingers, but on the bow.
K & W: So itís much fatter.
PA: It can be much fatter, yes. The basic beat has all that fatness, especially at particular parts of the measure.
K & W: Your most recent performance with Avantango was at the Brooklyn Musuem. Is that correct?
PA: Yes. That was the quartet.
K & W: Did you have the dancers there as well?
PA: Yes. Itís what a lot of our work is. Itís what people want to see. They definitely want the dancers. I try to incorporate the dancers into what we do, and not just pander. I try to give a piece to a dancer that is a little more challenging, and not just do a standard repertoire.
K & W: You're doing something at Lincoln Center, what is that?
PA: What we do with Lincoln Center is their educational program, whatís called the Lincoln Center Institute. Last week we did nine shows with the quartet and a pair of dancers. Itís a show that I scripted, that is historical. It goes all the way from the early, even ancestors to the tango, to Piazzolla. And now we should have a part with more contemporary stuff, but at the time that we put it together, the idea was to give an overview of the tango, the traditional tango. So I narrate, and there are kids of all ages from all over the area.
And, itís accompanied by all the work that Lincoln Center does in the schools. Teachers with the kids, what they call the teaching artists, the work that Iíve done with all of them in terms of passing on the information. So when we go to the performances theyíve had, the teachers have had a lot of experience, and the kids have had a lot of experience with the music, with the history, with us, with our video, or elements of the dance, So we go there and then we have a question and answer period after the show. Itís very thorough. We donít just go play a show, and youíll never see us again.They prepare for coming there. Itís wonderful working there for us. And, also, just being able to string nine gigs together in a week. Thatís the sort of thing I was sort of complaining about, show me the job line, and Iíll line up, and Iíll apply for a job, if musician is a job. Thatís this sort of stuff. They picked us because they were interested in our artistic outlook, and the tango specifically, but for us itís also what we do. Itís nice to get up in the morning, and go to work [Laughter].
K & W: Do you have plans for another Avantango CD?
PA: Yes. And I think I may record it in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. And use some of the guys there. If some of the guys from here, if it coincides with some of their trips over there, I may use them. But, I really want to go down there, and take my material, and play around with different people that Iíve met over the years, and see what happens, and do a Buenos Aires based recording.
K & W: Do you have an idea of the timeline?
PA: I donít know if by the end of the year, but I would like to sort of keep up with the present. This one is probably, the one that we have now, is probably going to crawl for awhile. We donít have a whole lot of muscle behind it. So hopefully word of mouth will get it some notoriety and sales. So I donít want to rush it, and say okay hereís another one. But, on the other hand, I told Joachim at Zoho, I donít want to just make one record and say, ďthatís my recordĒ, and say, ďhave you heard my record, itís five years old but hereís my record.Ē Or. ďLet me see if I still have a copy of my record.Ē I just want to have a band thatís always making new music and releasing records.
K & W: Who do you like to listen to today, jazz-wise?
PA: Ellington, all the time.
K & W: You incorporated two Ellington pieces into the Town Hall performance. And you mentioned at that show, that in the future youíd be incorporating other classic jazz composerís work, Do you know who some of those will be?
PA: Well, Iíve started experimenting with just standards, seeing which ones work. We worked out a few versions just the other day with a pianist. Horace Silver tunes. And just classic real book standards.
K & W: Weíre looking forward to those, thatís one reason we were curious.
PA: I think itís an interesting way to sort of communicate more about this music. ďLook this is a song you know, this is what we do with it.Ē I had a wonderful experience with Wynton Marsalis with that. He did a concert, two or three years ago with a tango band from Argentina with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. As part of the program they wanted to do stuff together, and he commissioned me to do an arrangement of a Jelly Roll Morton piece, ďTHE CRAVE.Ē And what got him interested to give me that commission was that I showed him that I was doing some jazz tunes in tango. And, he realized that we approached the melodies and the rhythms in a different way. And, so I realized to get my music across, I would play some familiar stuff and see what it is that we do. I arranged for another record that I did, it came out last year, three Cole Porter tunes in a much more classic tango arrangment style, with very little improvisation, transforming those themes.
K & W: Yes, very interesting. We kind of interrupted you, our original question was: who are you listening to today? So thereís Ellington, and?
PA: As much as possible, which is very hard to do, I try to keep up with what people are doing. I find it very difficult. I certainly want to understand what the people you read about are doing, what they sound like. Anywhere from Dave Douglas to even Wynton himself. I know Iím due for a big record grabbing session just to hear his last number of things, and see what heís up to. Other than that Iím always sort of a catalog listener. It may be classical music, which I did a lot of listeneing to in the last year or so. Iím always listening to tango for the historical end of the stuff.
Iím also listening to a lot of electronic music.
K & W: Thatís being made today, or the older stuff like John Cage?
PA: No. Some of the stuff Iím getting interested in now is like the early, more like pop electronic music, to understand that whole dance style. Also, like Herbie Hancock, and that sort of stuff. Where theyíve experimented, and Wayne Shorter. The classic funk stuff. And the much later stuff like "DIS IS DA DRUM" record. Itís very heavily produced. And that got me interested in that tradition, anywhere from going back to Earth, Wind and Fire, and some of the European stuff, house music.
K & W: Do you think thatís compatible with tango?
PA: Well, thatís the search. One of the things Iím trying to do is to develop real dance music. Not music you can dance to, but dance music. And it seems like a lot of contemporary tango bands---their answer is: ďwell, you can dance to this, Iíll show you. If I danced I would show you.Ē No. I want music that is just like inevitably danceable.
K & W: More primal, less formal.
PA: Yes. So Iíve been seeing how that music is put together. In tango it varies and shifts so much, that itís hard to keep it to a ďfour on the floorĒ disco pattern. Especially, in the so called ďacid jazzĒ, and that more heady electronic stuff, I find a lot of things. I have a very wide collection of CDs, and a lot of times I just listen, more than just for background music or pleasure, Iím always trying to check it out. If I had a universal listening booth, Iíd be very happy, because I could at least llisten to two minutes of something and say, ďOh. I see, Thatís what theyíre doing.Ē
K & W: Tell us a little bit about your work with Yo-Yo Ma.
PA: Well, that was a dream gig, for one. Everything about it, really. First, we did a TV show with my band, and him, after he had done his tango record. He just brought one of the guys he had recorded with in Argentina, and I supplied the rest of the band.
And, then after that, when he put the band together for the touring, he kept me as the bass player and brought the rest of the guys from Argentina. I got to play with some of those giants back there, which obviously because I live here, I havenít done much of that. And, Yo-Yo is not just a phenomenal musician, but just the sweetest person, itís incredible the way he is. So generous and open. Curious. Very classy. Very classy. And, everything, the auditoriums, the music, the money, the food, the traveling. It was a dream gig.
K & W: And this was a very informative interview. Thank you.
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