57 Minutes Con La Realidad, Intuition CD INT 3079 2, 1996 (53:09)
The tango master's amazing last recording
Astor Piazzolla is to tango what Bill Monroe is to country string music:
the creator and master of an astonishing new genre. Monroe created
bluegrass; Piazzolla transformed the Argentine tango into "nuevo tango,"
making what was already a heady music -- more than that, a way of life -- into
a genuine art music. If "tango" makes you think of a sweaty lounge
vulture accompanied by relentlessly throbbing music, you have never
heard Piazzolla. This posthumously released recording (Piazzolla died in
1992 at the age of 71) is a wonderful way to discover his phenomenal
music. Go out and buy it now, and let me envy you hearing it the first
time -- with its incomparable emotional impact, the wildness of free jazz
combined with superbly logical structure, and rhythms that ebb and flow
like life itself.
This album is made up of studio recordings and live recordings for the
BBC television. Surprisingly, there is little difference in recorded
quality, although the studio tracks have a touch of sweetening echo (so
it sounds to me) missing from the live tracks. I actually prefer the
unprocessed live-to-digital tape sound.
The buoyantly joyous "Imagenes" kicks things off, with Andy Gonzales'
bass providing a double-time pulse under the festivities. As the tempo
picks up speed, Piazzolla's longtime collaborator Gerardo Gandini dances
like a dervish all over the keyboard. Then, directly into "Milonga Para
Tres," a heartbreaking slow lament, with Gandini's piano playing a
repeated figure that starts to rise optimistically only to fall again,
while Carlos Nozzi's cello provides the widow's wail. "Buenos Aires Hora
Cero" is full of acerbically sharp accents by piano and bandoneons.
"Tres Minutos Con La Realidad" has a wonderful jazzy feel, like an
Argentine "Peter Gunn," with superb melodic runs by Horacio Malvicino on
guitar. The album concludes with Piazzolla's brief solo, "Prelude to
the Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night," the same recording as on
the album with this title. This ends the album on an
appropriately questioning note, as we wonder what Piazzolla, had he
lived, might have gone on to produce.
What Piazzolla's music does not have (at least on most of his
recordings) is lyrics. In America, particularly, we seem to have trouble
responding to music without a verbal story. Especially after Dylan, our
highest acclaim has been reserved for musicians who write lyrics and
sing (or speak or yell) them. We want our musicians to talk to us, to
tell us about themselves through words, because we feel music alone is
frivolous. (Being still a puritanical society at heart.) So, we treat
wordless music as suitable only for providing a pleasant background.
Authentic jazz, for example, gets scant attention in the land of its
land of birth, while new age and "contemporary" jazz provide the perfect
musical wallpaper for cardboard houses.
Piazzolla's tango is not background music. It will draw you in, and tell
you stories that, if you open your heart, are as clear as any words. The
album's title means "fifty-seven minutes with reality." It's the
truth. -- Glenn Brooks
production notes & song titles
Astor Piazzolla, bandoneon; Gerardo Gandini, piano; Horacio Malvicino,
guitar; Daniel Binelli, bandoneon; Jose Bragato or Carlos Nozzi, cello;
Hector Console, Angel Ridolfi or Andy Gonzales, bass.
Produced by Kip Hanrahan, recorded by various engineers.
Imagenes | Milonga Para Tres | Buenos Aires Hora Cero | Pasajes Obscuras
Dos Estrellas | Tres Minutos Con La Realidad | Mumuki | Sexteto | Adios
Nonino | Prelude to the Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night
of related interest
The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night, Nonesuch/American Clavé CD 79515-2,
After listening to the prelude, you might as well pick up the entire
album, one of Piazzolla's best, now re-released by Nonesuch.
Also recommended is the equally amazing:
Tango: Zero Hour, Nonesuch/American Clavé CD 79469-2, 1986/1998 (46:13)
The Central Park Concert, Chesky CD JD107, 1994 (70:08)
Live recording of a wonderful 1987 concert by Piazzolla's great last
quintet; crystal clear sound.