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My Blog has moved to www.albertcombrink.comTango Club – CT Tango Ensemble launch their new CD: Baxter Concert Hall 23 March 2010, 8pm

“Close your eyes and Listen”. The opening track on Tango Club – the CT Tango Ensemble’s new CD – invites you to do just that. But you will be forgiven for keeping your eyes open during the CD Launch performance to be held at the Baxter Concert Hall, 23 March 2010, at 8 pm. Featuring dancers as well as the music played by the group, the evening promises to be a display of tango virtuosity – a feast for the eyes and ears. The group has been polishing its tango shoes for over a decade and has attracted media attention and radio and television airtime throughout South Africa, and as far afield as Buenos Aires and Bulgaria. They have been seen on stage and in concert halls throughout the country, at all the major festivals such as Aardklop, Grahamstown and Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees. The four musicians, Stanislav Anguelov (Accordion and Bandoneon), Albert Combrink (Piano), Jacek Domagala (Violin) and Charles Lazar (Double Bass) are all classically trained but all have played in cross-over and jazz fields, making them ideal for interpreting the special Latin feel of the Tango. Guest artists from the CD will join the ensemble in the Launch Spectacular at the Baxter Concert Hall. Acclaimed musicians James Grace (Guitar), Willie van Zyl (Saxophone) and Kevin Gibson (drums) were guest artists on the album and will bring their special magic to the Launch.

The latest CD is a new departure for the CT Tango Ensemble. The music is funkier and more modern than their very popular previous CD El Tango en Africa – which caused such a stir in the local music industry and tango community when it was first released. The new CD includes music by Astor Piazzolla, the “father” of Argentinean “Tango Nuevo “. This ensemble has made a name for itself as a leading interpreter of Piazzolla in various shows: Heinrich Riesenhofer’s El Beso – The Kiss (Little Theatre – with choreography by Mareli Schröter), Marthinus Basson’s Tango Del Fuego (Oude Libertas etc.) and even on eTv’s Backstage where they performed with TangoCapeTown’s Mark Hoeben and Ina Wichterich. Shows such as The Tango Experience and All you ever wanted to know about Tango but were too afraid to ask, written and directed by Mark Hoeben, took the Tango Ensemble as far afield as Namibia, giving them many opportunites to learn the particular styles of music found in the wide genre of Tango.

Stanislav Anguelov has even performed Piazzolla’s classical Bandoneon Concerto with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Very exciting news is that the CD includes original music composed by members of the Ensemble. Anguelov’s Tango Made in Africa was the pivotal composition for the group’s first CD, which explored the links between African and Latin American Music and included Dizu Plaatjies on the Djembe Drum. The latest CD introduces more Jazz and pop elements with the inclusion of instruments such as the Saxophone and a Drumkit. Anguelov’s pieces combine the styles of traditional tango with more contemporary language. His Addios has been a firm favourite whenever they perform it live. The track, Cape Town Tango, celebrates Anguelov’s “transplant” from Bulgaria to the Cape of Good Hope – which has seen him share the stage with superstars Queen and Sir Bob Geldof at the 2003 Nelson Mandela 46664 Concert. The song is infused with a Cape Town Jazz feel, and is set to be one of the hits from the new disc.

The CD also features the vocals of Argentine-born South African Adriana Edwards, currently living in Japan. Anguelov’s song Tango Club was commissioned by the Movie Director Christopher Rodrigues for his film The First and Last Loves of Leonardo Lopes. Hence the lyrics by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated into Spanish by vocalist Adriana) were chosen by the director to suit the characters & scene in the film. Originally the song was intended for one scene only but after hearing the composition Christopher fell in love with this song and used section from it a few times in the film. Music of the CT Tango Ensemble was used throughout the film.

Berklee College of Music Graduate Charles Lazar composed two songs for the disc. Temperance features the beautiful guitar solos of James Grace. Lazar’s pieces are the most Jazz-influenced on the disc. His jazz experience makes a critical contribution to the ensemble. Drummer Kevin Gibson and jazz saxophonist Willie van Zyl are the other guest artists who bring a funky jazz style to the new CD

Jacek Domagala, who also plays First Violin with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, brings classical virtuosity to the earthiness of the Tango. Domagala and Anguelov perform often as a duo with a Mediterranean flavor, and his style his perfectly suited to both the poplar and the classical elements of this music.

Albert Combrink is a pianist who works in a variety of genres, both as classical pianist and popular musician and has been seen on stages around the country. He is also the arranger of some material on the disc.

The Launch of Tango Club will be held on the stage of the Baxter Concert Hall, with LIVE DANCING. CD’s will be on sale after the show.

Booking through computicket.

Tickets: R95 adults, R85 Student and pensioner’s discount

CD’s for sale at LAUNCH SPECIAL PRICE: R100 each

Stanislav Anguelov

Jacek Domagala

Jacek Domagala

Charles Lazar

Albert Combrink

Kevin Gibson on drums

James Grace appears courtesy of Stringwise Records

Willie vanZyl

Adriana Edwards

Ensemble Photos by Jenny Altschuler

"Tango Nuevo I" - Pedro Alvarez

My Blog has moved to www.albertcombrink.com

In the darkness there is rustling sound. Feathers perhaps? Wings? Then I hear a heart beat,  a heel scraping on the floor. I have my hands inside the black Steinway, my fingers and nails scraping the metal strings. Behind me, Stanislav is tapping a steady rhythm against the buttons of his bandoneon. The Double bass unobtrusively takes over the heart-beat rhythm. I pull my hands out of the piano and sit down. I reach for the first exposed notes. Bare. Glassy. Transparent. With each note the scene starts coming into focus. With the minimum movement, and hardly any notes, we have painted a dance floor, set the lighting, perfected the colour scheme. Then out of the darkness the bandoneon starts to sing. And with that sound –  the collective memory of the soul of Argentina –  Piazzolla’s Angel begins to dance her Milonga.

Milonga del Angel (Dance of the Angel) was one of the first Piazzolla tangos the Cape Town Tango Ensemble performed and we have been playing this work for almost a decade. We have played it in many shows and concerts and have decided that the time is right to record it on our latest CD – Tango Club.

"Tango Nuevo II" - Pedro Alvarez

Milonga del Angel (Dance of the Angel) forms part of a cycle of Angel works Piazzolla initially created for a stage production. The Four pieces  are:

i) Introduccion al Angel (The introduction of the Angel)

ii) Milonga del Angel (Dance of the Angel)

iii) La Muerte del Angel (Death of the Angel) and

iv) La Resurreccion Del Angel (The Resurrection of the Angel).

The works were not all composed together. For Alberto Rodriguez Muñoz’s 1962 stage play Tango del Angel, in which an angel heals the spirits of the residents of a shabby Buenos Aires neighbourhood, Piazzolla added new pieces to an earlier tango that gave the play its name. Munoz required a narrative suite that encompassed a story of innocence, deceit, violence and death, and reconciliation.

Angels form a strong motif in the works of Astor Piazzolla, Argentinean maestro of the Tango Nuevo. In Astor Piazzolla: A Memoir Natalia Gorin quotes Piazzolla: “I have to tell the most absolute truth. I could make it a story about angels, but that would not be the whole story. Mine is of devils mixed with angels.” Milonga del Angel sums up much of the change that Piazzolla brought about in Tango music. In our concerts, the Cape Town Tango Ensemble often play a “traditional” milonga form the early part of the century and juxtapose it with our beloved angel. Based on the candombe rhythm – itself reflecting the Habanera – Piazzolla turns away from the structures of the popular dance tangos. There are no simple AB or ABA structures, no choruses that return and no varied repeats. The work flows in a continuous sweep. An intense tone-poem, the work shows many of Piazzolla’s strongest trademark gestures. Repeated pedal notes that stay the same while the harmonies change overhead, create delicious tensions and exquisitely tender resolutions. A casual and fluent approach to chromatic shifts conjure seductive textures.

The Piazzolla influenced by modern 20th century composers such as Stravinsky and Bartok is also to be felt, especially in the final build up of the work. Exquisite dissonances and powerful harmonic movements make the resolution of this tango one of Piazzolla’s most poignant.

The Cape Town Tango Ensemble recording of Milonga del Angel uses Piazzolla’s own arrangement for Quintet as a starting point. Piano, Bandoneon, Guitar, Violin and Double Bass work together to create an orchestra of tremendous variety. We have performed this work in various permutations, from Duet for Piano and Bandoneon or Accordion only, to a sextet adding a second violin and guitar. With each different configuration, my experience of playing this work is different.

“The Zen Of Tango”

When performing without a Double Bass, the responsibility for the rhythmic drive lies strongly with myself, the pianist. The deep bass notes provide the basic rhythm of the milonga throughout – the heartbeat of the angel. When I have to play the bass, of physical necessity I can focus less on the melodic material. Often, while the violin and bandoneon are soaring in the heavens with the angels, – while I keep the “engine” going in the bass – I feel more than a twinge of jealousy. Which musician with a heart would not be touched by that exquisite melody? At the same time, the responsibility for the bass part gives me a very different experience of the work: I understand the structure better, experience the harmonies very directly. I feel the harmonic rhythm and how it is so closely linked to the pulse. The rhythm is so primal, that occasionally it is enough to propel the structure of the music forward, by itself, uncluttered by ornamental melodies.

At other times, when the Bass is taken care of by an actual Double Bass player, I am taken aback by how transparent the sound of the bass notes can be, as compared to playing it on the piano. Ironically, by adding another instrument the texture becomes thinner, and if anything the overall volume even becomes less, as one spends more time listening than playing. My approach as the pianist is to add what is needed only when it is needed. When instruments are “absent”, the piano has to take on a structural function, filling in the rhythm, making sure no melodic bits go missing. But in a larger ensemble, I sit back and listen. Only then can I create something that adds to what is there already.

Guitarist James Grace

For the recording of this track on Tango Club, we invited guitarist James Grace to fill out the Quintet for which Piazzolla had originally composed this work. Mostly we perform concerts – and this work – without a guitarist. This “absent voice” frees me to make creative arrangements that combine the melodic material of both the guitar-part and the piano-part. Both instruments can create melody as well as chords. The piano wins out on power and being able to sustain sounds through that wonderfully convenient device called the “pedal”. However, the guitar adds a unique quality that the piano can not. A plucked sound that clearly delineates  the beginning of each note, is unique to instruments such as the guitar or the harp. The sound is translucent – simply because the instrument can not sustain the vibrations that long. This brings a new delicacy to Milonga del Angel, and to me, who has now been performing this work in various guises for almost a decade, it suddenly is brand new, fresh and created anew.

I even feel a sense of “ownership” over some of the passages. At one point guitarist James had to play a modulation that I would usually have been taken by the piano. And he had the temerity to do it differently to the way I did it! Being my tactful self, I obviously informed him of the “correct” way to play it, and –  dear man – he did it my way. well, as close as he could, given the rather obtuse or even inaccurate descriptions we musicians are forced to use in the world of conventional language. Almost “right” But not quite. He is a wonderful musician with many years’ experience of different styles of music, and in the end, those influences reflected in how he played that three note change of harmony. It is not surprising at all that two mature performers would have a different response to the same chord, and two different interpretations. What is surprising though, is my sense of ownership of that bar! I however managed to relinquish control of those three notes, and for better or for worse, that is how they stand on the CD!

Stanislav Anguelov

Stanislav Anguelov used to perform this work on the accordeon – not the traditional instrement used in Argentina for the Tango. He is stylistically so acute that many Argentinians believe he plays on the bandoneon when in fact he plays the accordion. Yet, in his dedication to the Tango genre, he bought himself a bandoneon – “a devilish and crazy instrument”. He has taught himself this instrument that is notoriously hard to learn and perform on. He even flew to Buenos Aires for lessons. When the bandoneon starts the “Song of the Angel” after the brief moody introduction, the sound is unlike any other you can imagine. The bandoneon is like a voice. It can breathe, tremble, cry, and whisper. Certainly, the transition form performing it with the instrument of Stanislav’s primary virtuosity – the Accordion – to his secondary instrument – the Bandoneon – was difficult for the ensemble. We had to be more careful never to push the tempo. We had to be a little bit more deliberate about making certain transitions. But in the end, the struggle taught us more respect for each individual element that makes up this masterpiece.

Violinist Jacek Domagala

When a group knows a work this well, and have played together so often that we have even performed on stage BLINDFOLDED to demonstrate our levels of awareness, there is a danger of simply clocking in another play-through. We never want to simply replay well-rehearsed work we could play in our sleep. As a study exercise – and to sharpen our levels of “listening” with our souls – we swopped material around. The violin played the piano part, the bandoneon played the bass, and so on. It was as if for months we had been playing in a dimly lit room and someone had suddenly switched the spotlights on. Suddenly we were made intensely aware of what the other instruments CAN DO and what we CAN NOT do. The piano can not vibrate or slide notes the way Jacek Domagala can on his violin. Charles Lazar on Bass can not growl with the same sharp bite that the accordion can. And the Bandoneon can not sustain long clouds of harmonies on which the other instruments can do their dance. We left that rehearsal session with a fresh love for the music and the contribution made by each member of the ensemble: each vibrato, each colour added to this ensemble, either by the particular qualities of the instrument, or the particular qualities of the soul of the person playing it.

CT Tango Ensemble (Photo: Jenny Altschuler)

Useful links

The CT Tango Ensemble also performs La Muerte del Angel on their new CD Tango Club. To read more about them, please follow the links below.

Cape Town Tango Ensemble homepage

Cape Town Tango Ensemble Facebook Page

Rhythm Records downloadable MP3’s of the CT Tango Ensemble

Astor Piazzolla: Cobblestone to Dance Floor

Cape Town Tango Ensemble MP3 and Video Clips

Morgann Rose, Jared Nelson and Laura Urgellés in Piazzolla Caldera -© Carol Pratt

My Blog has moved to www.albertcombrink.com

The word Tango conjures up many images. The word Tango tells many stories. The word Tango merely hints at the mystery of a music that has run in the bloodstream of generations. A dance of sex and violence born in the bordellos of Buenos Aires. Seduction. Murder. Handsome men in patent leather shoes and white fedoras. Hot blooded women with beautiful thighs and high heels. Two hands clasping together. Tango speaks of the body, and it speaks to the body.

The story that Tango tells is far richer than the one restricting it to the simplistic legend of brothel entertainment – although that certainly is one of it’s tales in a country where, at the start of the 20th century, male immigrants outnumbered females 8 to 1. European immigrants, mainly from Italy and Spain, flooded into Argentina hoping to cash in on the boom in the farming industry. Argentina was enormous by comparison and held promise of land, gold and prosperity – unlike Europe which was sliding into war. The sad reality was, of course, that many were unable to afford to buy the lands that would make them rich, in the first place. Homesick, poor and often unemployed, immigrants settled in working-class neighbourhoods. The colourfulness of the neighbourhoods reflected a poverty of material goods, but not of spirits. Houses were often painted in a variety of colours – left-overs from other projects. Inspired by the colour of local arts and crafts, a vibrant society developed. Along with the port-city’s natives, these people gave expression to their daily struggles. European Polkas intermingled with traditional dances to create a new hybrid. Originally danced on rough and uneven cobblestone, Tango took a long journey before it reached the smooth polished dancefloor.

Astor Piazzolla

Unlike the chequered history of the Tango, the story of one of it’s greatest exponents – Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) – gives up its secrets more willingly. Beginning and ending his life in Argentina, frames periods of study in Paris and New York, and a lifetime of travel as a concert musician. As a child his Italian father insisted that he learn the Bandoneon, the quintessential “Voice of Tango “. His virtuosity was such that already as a teenager he was given a job in Anibal Troilo’s famous Tango orchestra. Troilo is today regarded as one of the fathers of the traditional dance tango and his music is still performed regularly.

Piazzolla was obviously a highly creative teen, and was soon bored by what he considered a genre that had stagnated into formulaic gestures and was in danger of becoming extinct. He went to Paris to study “serious” classical music composition with Nadia Boulanger, probably the world’s most famous composition pedagogue. This encounter was to change the history of the Tango for ever. Boulanger was complimentary about Piazzolla’s well-crafted music, noting as his influences Bartok , Stravinsky and Ravel. At this point in his life he was still ashamed of his passion  for his “native tongue” – the Tango, and had kept his arrangements and compositions a secret. Boulanger convinced him to finally play some to her class. Reportedly she took his hands and said: “Astor, this is beautiful. Here is the true Piazzolla – do not ever leave him.” Calling this epiphany the “great revelation of my life” he returned to Argentina brimming with confidence, enthusiasm and energy.

I love Nadia Boulanger and all her stories, but for me this is one of the most touching, as the music that Piazzolla created after their encounter is, to my mind, one of the great bodies of work of the 20th Century. He took the formulas of Tango – the dance rhythms of the various styles from Milonga to the Habanera – and infused them with the pungent harmonies and cross-rhythms of the twentieth century classical masters. His new style of tango – Tango Nuevo – took the tango from the Dance Hall to the Concert Hall.

The 2003 CD Release "El Tango en Africa"

The Cape Town Tango Ensemble has been performing Piazzolla’s music for a decade, in the Dance Hall as well as the Concert Hall. Performances at Aardklop, Klein Karoo and the Grahamstown Festivals achieved much critical acclaim and excellent CD sales. Along with Mark Hoeben and Ina Wichterich through a strong collaboration with TangoCapeTown they helped create many original stage productions in South Africa. These include Tango del Fuego by Marthinus Basson for Oude Libertas Teater, and All you ever wanted to know about Tango but were too afraid to ask and Tango Experience (scripted and directed by Mark Hoeben) for the Windhoek BankFees as well as the Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees. They regularly perform at dance and concert venues from Cape Town to Potchefstroom. Their first CD El Tango En Africa was released in 2003. Guest artists were Mezzo-soprano Violina Angeulov and African Percussion by Dizu Plaatjies.

The Piazzolla tracks recorded on that disc are:

Addios Nonino

Oblivion

Milonga del Anunciacion from the “Tango Operita” Maria de Buenos Aires

Chiquilin de Bachin

Libertango

The tracks can be bought in MP3 format at Rhythm Records, who also have samples for you to listen to.

The CD itself can be bought from One World Cyber Music Store or from any of the musicians in the group.

The American site CDBaby also has Mp3’s to hear.

You can also view video extracts from the show El Beso (The Kiss) produced in collaboration with El Cacha Tango Company, directed by Heinrich Riesenhofer. An electrifying “Libertango” is danced here by Nur ‘Latino’ Dreyer and Cherona Reisenhofer-Dreyer.

The Cape Town Tango Ensemble is currently working on their second album Tango Club due for release in March 2010. This CD will again feature a substantial chunk of Piazzolla’s music, as his music is central to this ensemble’s work.

Piazzolla tracks on Tango Club include:

Soledad – Solitude

Cafe 1930

Anos de Soledad – Years of Solitude

Verano Porteno – Summer in Buenos Aires

Milonga del AngelDance of the Angel

La Muerte del Angel – The Death of the Angel

Cierra tus ojos y escucha – Close your eyes and listen

Musicians on the CD include:

Stanislav Angelov – Accordion and Bandoneon

Jacek Domagala – Violin

Albert Combrink – Piano

Charles Lazar – Double Bass

James Grace – Guitar

Willie van Zyl – Saxophone

Kevin Gibson – Drums

Mark Hoeben and Ina Wichterich performing at "The Valve"