As I begin writing this review I will admit that I was not previously an enthusiast for the music of Astor Piazzola or the Argentine Tango Nuevo in general, and preferred the tango music of the ‘La Cumparsita’, ‘Jealousy’ and ‘El Choclo’ era. Having said that, listening to this new CD ‘London Tango’ by the Romano Viazzani Ensemble has been my ‘road to Damascus’ moment, and I have at last been converted to this genre thanks to the exceptional quality of the musicianship, arrangements and sound quality in this recording.
‘London Tango’ – described in its publicity as “Argentine tango with a London twist” – is the debut album by the Romano Viazzani Ensemble, and its meticulous preparation suggests to me that it has been a real labour of love for all involved. This superb recording features the considerable combined talents of Romano Viazzani – accordion, John Bailey – piano, Barbara Dziewiecka–Data – violin, Nick Pini – double bass, Jonathan Preiss – electric guitar, and vocalists Joanna Strand and Jacqui Tate.
This recording is very much an ensemble effort, and the instruments all have plenty of moments to shine, and there is a good balance between them. There is, in particular, plenty of interplay between the accordion, violin and piano, with much to appreciate for even the most discerning of listeners. The two vocalists – Joanna Strand and Jacqui Tate – also have opportunities to shine, and their sensitive and emotional contributions enhance the album. An especially pleasing feature is the excellent phrasing exhibited by all the musicians and singers, creating a wonderful and atmospheric ambience.
The opening track ‘London Tango’, composed by Romano Viazzani, is a virtual overture for the album, beginning with Big Ben-like chimes to suggest a London location! There is a surreal quality and some great Leonard Bernstein-like jazzy phrases that give way to some vocals part way through this track, which at eight minutes is the longest on the album. ‘The Tango Underground’, composed by Romano, suggests a tango ride on a tube train, if such a thing can be imagined! There are four Piazzolla compositions – ‘Libertango’, ‘Chiquilin de Bachin’, ‘Yo Soy Maria’, ‘Escualo’ – all performed in fine style. Romano’s imaginatively titled composition, ‘Swing A Left Off Waltz Street To Tango Gardens Please Cabby’, is a melodic waltz with tango and jazzy overtones, and one my favourite tracks. Another of my favourites is ‘Scherzo’, which is an accordion and piano duet in an allegro tempo, and there’s some tricky stuff going on in there! I’ve long associated ‘Nature Boy’ with Nat King Cole, but here this song gets an Argentine tango treatment, with a middle passage that sounds to me like a JS Bach fugue. The other tracks are ‘Jorge’, ‘Barimar A Londra’, ‘Tango Italiano’, ‘Getaway Car’, and ‘Terminal Tango’ – further examples of the superb and imaginative arrangements and playing on this brilliant album.
Tracks: ‘London Tango’ (Ballet, Romano Viazzani), ‘The Tango Underground’ (Viazzani), ‘Libertango’ (Piazzolla -Transcr/arr. John Bailey), ‘Chiquilin de Bachin’ (Piazzolla -arr. Jonathan Preiss), ‘Swing A Left Off Waltz Street To Tango Gardens Please Cabby’ (Tango-Waltz, Viazzani), ‘Jorge’ (Mario Fulgoni), ‘Yo Soy Maria’ (Piazzolla), ‘Canaro en Paris’ (Juan Scarpino/Alejandro Caldarella), ‘Barimar A Londra’ (Barimar/Viazzani), ‘Nature Boy’ (Ballet, Eden Abhez – arr. Viazzani), ‘Tango Italiano’ (Bruno Pallesi / Luciano Beretta / Walter Malgoni), ‘Scherzo’ (Mario Fulgoni), ‘Escualo’ (Piazzolla), ‘Getaway Car’ (Viazzani), ‘Terminal Tango’ (Viazzani).