Jazz Standard

4 January 2005

NY Jazz Report's Thad Kawecki and Will Wolf stopped by the Jazz Standard on Friday 17.December.2004 to catch the evening's second set of "Tango Meets Jazz," featuring the Pablo Ziegler Quartet with special guest Stefon Harris. Ziegler's CD, "Bajo Cero" with Quique Sines, will be released by Zoho Music in April.

Produced by
Pat Phillips & Ettore Stratta

Pablo Ziegler
Stefon Harris
Hector Del Curto
Pablo Aslan
Paul Meyers


To the devotee of Nuevo Tango a performance by Pablo Ziegler is a deep experience, a trip to the heart of this music. How could it be anything less? Ziegler, after a decade with the Astor Piazzolla Quintet, is a direct link to the genre's origins. He is also today's leading proponent of New Tango, and through his own writing offers a look into its future. And he is a sort of musical brujo, a conjurer who can make all within earshot a believer in his message. These powers, and more, were in evidence at Jazz Standard where he and his quartet played to a capacity crowd in a night of "Tango Meets Jazz."

And, as always, Ziegler and his group delivered that impassioned message with fire in their souls. And with the helping hands of the dynamic vibraphone wizard, Stefon Harris, showed once again that tango and jazz are indeed a good match.

It's hard to imagine a better leader for a collaboration like this. Ziegler's studies in tango and jazz started in childhood, and his skill in both led to his eventual recruitment by Piazzolla. The craftsmanship of his writing and formidable piano technique bear witness to his conservatory training. Add an excellent choice of sidemen and a repertoire of Ziegler's and Piazzola's works and the result is pure magic.

Widely recognized as one of the top jazz vibists playing today, Stefon Harris is a master of the instrument. Pablo Aslan and Hector Del Curto, key members of the vibrant New York tango scene, have been playing together in various configurations for quite some time. (Read:
Review of Pablo Aslan's Avantango ) Both are frequently part of Ziegler groups, including his "Quintet for the New Tango," as well as leaders of their own highly respected tango ensembles. Not originally scheduled for this performance, Paul Meyers has established an impressive resume providing valuable support to many jazz luminaries.

The quartet (sans Harris) launched the evening's program with a block of four consecutive numbers. Prominent among them was Piazzolla's famous "La Muerte del Angel." Here Ziegler's percussive use of the piano's interior and Aslan's tapping of his bass set the rhythm. The melody was handled by bandoneon and guitar, and in an effective use of a jazz convention, Ziegler and Meyers' heatedly traded eights.

Meyers and Del Curto slowed down the pace with an engaging introduction to Ziegler's eerie ballad "Milongueta." Aslan, skillfully working his bow, joined together with Del Curto and his poignant bandoneon, to weave the soulful melody. After a convincing change of tempo, Ziegler joined in, and Meyers added just enough spice with some savory octaves from his guitar.

The ensemble was joined by Harris after the soft spoken Ziegler made a few short remarks about the music, and introduced his bandmates. They then dove into Piazzolla's "Michaelangelo 70," a piece of controlled violence using sections of bass ostinato, relentless chromatic descent and stabbing accents. After some line doubling with Meyers, Harris made his presence felt with a fluid, blues-inflected solo. It cooked.

It sure did. The vibraphone, as we already know from Gary Burton's memorable union with Piazzolla, is well-suited to this tango/jazz blend. And Harris' high energy spirit, use of intelligent but spontaneous phrasing, and ability to swing led to a virtuoso performance.

This was followed by another jewel from Ziegler's treasure chest, and a nice contrast in mood from the dark to the festive, "Alrededor del Choclo."

As Ziegler explained, this translates to "Around The Ear Of Corn," and is a reference to the famous tango that inspired this work's invention. As you mentioned, its mood was decidedly up, and infused with jazz as Harris and Ziegler exchanged musical thoughts, this time swapping fours.

Yes, decidedly up, even lighthearted, as was the evening's encore, Ziegler's "La Rayuela" (Hopscotch), a lively milonga with a dash of whimsy. These two tunes framed the darker selections of the set's second half, which included the Piazzolla classic,"Libertango." Fast and furious, and gaining momentum, it provided Harris, Ziegler, and Meyers each an opportunity to unleash his energy into a raging solo; the band was on fire, and the flames roared.

"Libertango," is a prime example of just how exciting, given the right players, this music can be. Whether it was a tango or milonga, fast tempo or slow, his writing or Piazzolla's, Ziegler and his band were the evening's postmen, consistently delivering the goods. What more is there to say?




Bajo Cero CD

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