Argentine pianist and Swiss bandoneonista perform at Alma del Tango
by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member.
It’s a given that Argentine tango has a significant influence on contemporary music around the world. Most of the musicians who are responsible for that influence are themselves Argentine. But there have been few notable tangueros who were not born in that country.
Among those is bandoneonista Adrian Jost who, though born in Switzerland, received his master’s degree in music from Northwestern University, and is one of the co-founders, along with Argentine guitarist Guillermo García, of Trio Garufa.
On Friday, May 25, Adrian joins Pablo Estigarribia, one of the most noted younger Argentine players and arrangers of tango, for a performance at La Milonga de San Anselmo. The duo has been on tour and will make a much-anticipated appearance at Alma del Tango.
Pablo has made several recordings. One of them, Tangos para piano, was the recipient a few years ago of the Premio Gardel, the most prestigious award offered by the Argentine recording industry. His latest collection, with legendary singer María Graña, has been nominated for a Gardel this year.
Adrian is a virtuoso on his instrument. He has a complete understanding of tango’s unique underlying rhythms and plays his bandoneon with exceptional drive and humor. He brings authentic emotional authority to the music that is rare among players who do not come originally from Argentina.
Devotees of the dance
Pablo and Adrian are unusual as tango musicians in that both are devotees of the dance as well as the music. Each was initiated into the subtleties of tango through their dancing of it.
“Most of the professional tango musicians I know don’t dance,” Pablo says. “But, of course, one of the most direct ways of learning the intricacies of rhythm in tango is to get out on the floor.”
This was so important a revelation to Adrian that, when he and Guillermo García first met Sascha Jacobson, the American bassist and third member of Trio Garufa, they realized that, although a first-rate musician, Sascha didn’t yet have the dynamics of tango, the surge of it, in his blood. So they told him to go out and learn the dance. When you hear Sascha play tango now, you realize how good that advice was.
On a recent trip to Buenos Aires Adrian and Pablo spent an evening with the virtuoso bandoneonista Victor Lavallen. Victor was a principal arranger for many years for Osvaldo Pugliese, and is something of a tango immortal himself in Buenos Aires. Riding in a taxi afterwards, Adrian and Pablo decided to play together, and sealed the deal with a handshake.
Adrian is quite precise in his reason for wanting to play with Pablo. “It’s the attention to detail in his music,” he says. “Pablo introduces new elements to his tango, but it remains connected to that of previous musicians. Nonetheless, his tango is very much his own.”
Pablo is indeed a stickler for precision in the music, and is devoted to practice and rehearsal. “And that’s one thing I like especially about Adrian. He’s Swiss. So he practices. He’s always on time to a rehearsal, which you can’t say is the case with most Argentine musicians. Above all, he knows tango and what makes it work. He loves the music that I love, and I love the music that he does.”
Rehearsal by email
At first, their coming together as a duo featured an unusual practice schedule. “It was a real debut experience for me,” Adrian says. “At first, I thought it was crazy. We had trouble rehearsing because I was in San Francisco and Pablo was in Buenos Aires. So he would email me a score for some tango. I would play it, figure it out, and send him ideas for changes…also by email. Then we would negotiate, listening to each other’s ideas online. Pablo laughs with this description:
Yes, I believe it was the first series of rehearsals in the history of music to be conducted on ‘WhatsApp.’
To hear the results, don’t miss Pablo Estigarribia and Adrian Jost (with the addition of singer Christianna Valentina) at Alma del Tango’s milonga on Friday evening, May 25, generously sponsored by Alma del Tango friend and supporter Deborah Loft.