Astor PIAZZOLLA. Celebrating Piazzolla (Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas and songs)—Neave Trio (violin, piano, cello) with Carla Jablonski (mezzo-soprano)—Azica ACD-71324—48:00, *****

I can still remember the first time hearing the music of Astor Piazzolla. It was never explored in music school. But like so many other loves of music, the ones you find and discover on your own are so cherished. Piazzolla’s music, at least to the classical connoisseur, can be tantalizingly fresh, and defined a refined musical style alongside other composers such as Caceres or Pugliese. In this release from the Neave Trio, Piazzolla’s nuevo tango music is a mixture of both instrumentals and songs. The arrangements prepared for this album, sung by Carla Jablonski, were prepared by Leonardo Suárez Paz. Suárez-Paz’s father performed with Piazzolla as part of the Quinteto Nuevo Tango from 1978-1988.

What might appear missing in this album is the idiomatic instrument for Argentine tango, the bandoneón. And the question might naturally arise—does this music translate well to a piano trio known for performing classical repertoire?

Violinist Anna Williams writes: “All three of us wear many musical hats, emulating other sounds and instruments. Sometimes we provide percussion… at times, we were inspired by the sounds of bandoneón, accordion, guitar, viola, and double bass.”

This has not been the first time I’ve heard Piazzolla’s music arranged, and despite missing all the instruments Williams mentions as inspiring the trio, I found the performances here very satisfying. Williams, especially, I believe, carries the burden of selling the music’s style and does so admirably. José Bragato, who was active in Piazzolla’s circle, arranged the first four tracks, Piazzolla’s version of the four seasons, Las cuatro estaciones porteñas.

Portrait Neave Trio by Arthur Moeller

Neave Trio,
by Arthur Moeller

Pianist Eri Nakamura has her time in the sun in the winter porteña, which is performed with satisfying depth. Despite the excellent sound quality of this album, I wished hearing Nakamura was easier in many of the arrangements. The piano was simply a little further away in the mix. But this track is especially nice with her solo work.

Mikhail Veselov provides adequate bass support in the opening to Verano Porteña and presumably “percussion” support in the CD’s opening track, rapping on the side of his instrument. Likewise, Veselov opens the familiar song, Los Pájeros Perdidos. The arresting sound produced by all three instrumentalists at the start of Oblivión is a creative effect. The arrangement is the first one I’ve heard sung. The support of mezzo Jablonski by the trio is very well balanced and the collaboration takes its strongest light in the ninth track: María de Buenos Aires: Yo Soy María.

I found Jablonski’s diction very easy to understand and her voice’s timbre fits this repertoire well. Her experience with jazz made her an excellent collaborator.

The album’s last track is a piece by Leonardo Suárez Paz. I found it less satisfying than the other numbers. Which says nothing about the excellent performance. I’d think of it as an encore.

This was a remarkably well-done album. The excellent sound quality (also available digitally in high resolution, 24/96kHz), the collaboration with musicians familiar with Astor Piazzolla, and the excellent technique by all musicians involved speaks well of this young ensemble. Bravo!

—Sebastian Herrera

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