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'Ojos Negros': A Mix of Highbrow and Funky


Genre-splicing ECM Records is releasing another highbrow meets funky fusion today in a new CD "Ojos Negros" by Argentinian bandoneon virtuoso Dino Saluzzi and classical cellist Anja Lechner…


That's musician and DAY TO DAY contributor David Was.

WAS: The bandoneon is the button accordion that tango master Astor Piazzolla brought to the forefront. It's mostly an earthbound folk instrument but it can be played in a jazz and classical context if the player has those instincts and training.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Both cello and the bandoneon have elegiac voices, so the music on this collection has an intimate, even somber cast. The fine shading of both tone and dynamics is no stretch for Saluzzi. The first track, "Tango A Mi Padre," makes that clear from the downbeat.

(Soundbite of "Tango A Mi Padre")

WAS: Saluzzi's artistic instincts developed early from a musical family in the hinterlands of Argentina. So did Lechner's. She grew up in what she calls the land of forgotten folk songs and the melodies of her German childhood were written by Schubert, Schumann, and Bach.

Well, many European musicians have been attracted to what's been dubbed, tango nuevo. Her seven years collaborating with Saluzzi make her one of the genre's most authentic voices.

Even so, Lechner bristles when their programs are billed as tango concerts. Does the music touch you or not? she asks. This is what matters. This project is less one instrument supporting the other as it is in ever shifting hand off between foreground and background. An improvised format that results in different music every night it's performed.

The compositions merely suggest possibilities than the phrases and harmonies, the dynamics and the shadings are all a spur of the moment affair.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: The last track on this collection, "Serenata," has particular emotional resonance for Saluzzi whose Catholic upbringing almost led to a career in the pulpit instead of the concert hall.

As a youth, when he said anything even slightly blasphemous, his mother made him stand in a corner with instructions to pray to Madre Mia. To this day, he remembers the small altar in that corner, festooned with blue flowers from the countryside. And that he prayed and cried, feeling both remorse and elation at being suffused with religious feeling.

That yearning for spiritual release can be heard in every note, decades after the original offense.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Music from the new album, "Ojos Negros" by Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner. Our reviewer, David Was is half of the musical duo, Was not was.

(Soundbite of music)


More to come after this. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Was