Raúl Jaurena & his Tango Orchestra – Fuerza Milonguera – Soundbrush

by | Nov 15, 2010 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Raúl Jaurena & his Tango Orchestra – Fuerza Milonguera – Soundbrush SR-1010, 55:08 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

(Raúl Jaurena, Miguel Trillo, Jose Lagreca, Nario Recoba – bandoneón; Alvaro Agopian – piano; Alejandra Moreira, Gaston Jeronimo – violin; Mariana Mastrogiovanni – viola; Gerardo Moreira – cello; Sergio Monro – bass; Marga Mitchell – vocals; Julio Cobelli – guitar)

It is one thing to master an instrument and the music it is associated with. It is another to become a premier performer and an acknowledged star of the music an instrument is linked to. That is the position held by Uruguay-born, New York City-based Raúl Jaurena, a maestro of the bandoneón – a type of concertina popular in Argentina and Uruguay, that is an essential ingredient in the orquesta tipica or tango orchestra.

Jaurena became well-known when he won a 2007 Latin Grammy Award for his Soundbrush recording, Te Amo Tango, which featured many of his innovative New Tango compositions. On Jaurena’s latest project, the superbly recorded Fuerza Milonguera, the bandleader uses his Tango Orchestra to explore tango’s roots and current conventions: the 14 tunes are interpretations of recent and older pieces recorded in the classic tango style but with a fresh outlook: a combination of roots (old) and contemporary (new) can heard throughout.

Jaurena employs several of Uruguay’s top musicians who provide virtuosic accompaniment and spotlight the subtle differences between Uruguay tango and that from Argentina, where the genre was developed. Jaurena’s ensemble includes four bandoneones, piano, two violins, viola, cello, bass and guitar, with guest Marga Mitchell’s intimate vocals on select cuts: the 12 artists form a musical recipe both celebratory and comfortable.

Hearing Fuerza Milonguera is like receiving a mini-history lesson through tango’s legacy since there are interpretations of eminent tangos by noted players such as Julio de Caro (a conventional take of his “Tierra Querida” opens this record). The longest track is an affecting translation of “Responso,” by Aníbal Troilo, who was part of Argentina’s golden age of tango (1940-1955). Tango aficionados will also respond to a brisk version of Mariano Mores’ “Taquito Militar,” which fuses modern ideas with traditionalism and is highlighted by a light military march and the blend of rhythmic piano, strings and layered bandoneones. Jaurena’s material stands up alongside the finely-honed tango works. “El Faraón,” Spanish for “the Pharaoh,” is an instrumental narrative that courses with a story-like flow: the drama-filled tune could be about anything or anyone, maybe even the popular Mexican professional wrestler who used the same name. Jaurena concludes the 55-minute set with another descriptive tango, “El Tordo,” with strong input from Agopian, who adds a refined solo.

The title track is a Roger Davidson original first offered on the Jaurena/Davidson duet outing, Pasion por La Vida. This version expands Davidson’s creative effort into a larger group rendition which nods to the traditional Afro-Uruguayan condombe style that still flourishes in Montevideo, where this compact disc was recorded.

Mitchell’s contributions are like a private conversation between her and the listener. She brings a confidential air to Homero Aldo Expósito’s famous, poetic tango “Naranjo En Flor.” She does equally fine on another classic song connected with early bandoneón music, Pedro Laurenz’s “Como Dos Extraños.” She exudes a lingering passion to Chico Novarro’s “El Ultimo Round,” about living life fully before the final round. She shines on “Ayer,” a song she co-wrote with Davidson, where she sings about the feelings deep in her heart: her voice is matched by poignant accents from the bandoneón as well as Alvaro Agopian’s piano.

1. Tierra Querida
2. Naranjo En Flor
3. El Faraón
4. Parrillera
5. Fuerza Milonguera
6. El Ultimo Round
7. Chique
8. Responso
9. Ayer
10. Inspiracion
11. Taquito Militar
12. Como Dos Extraños
13. A Fuego Lento
14. El Tordo

— Doug Simpson

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