Today I am delighted to announce the release of Café 852's debut album "Camino de Tango". This is my 8th full length album as a producer (and my 4th in this Year of the Rooster).
Camino means "road" or "voyage" in Spanish, and this album reflects our voyage together into the world of Tango, Gypsy, Balkan, and Gypsy Jazz music.
The core members Café 852 are virtuoso accordionist Nazar Tabachyshyn from Ukraine, British-Indian classical and flamenco guitarist Soujit Guitar, and bassist and trumpeter Farley Sangels. Appearing extensively on Camino de Tango is cello maestro Richard Bamping and violin virtuoso Felix Tham who both bring as orchestral scope to the compositions.
Camino de Tango takes us on a picturesque world tour of the colours, sights, sounds and feelings of diverse places such as Buenos Aires, the home of the Tango, to Paris, where Gypsy Jazz was created in the 1930's in smoke filled cafés. Following a quick visit to J.S. Bach's keyboard in 18th century Germany, we also visit Serbia and Moldova for traditional circle dances and gypsy band wildness before returning back (with a brief pit stop in neighbour Uruguay) to the home of tango in Argentina.
It's been such a joy playing and discovering tango, gypsy and Balkan music with this terrific ensemble and although we've only been playing for a year, the improvement has been amazing, and the group plays with a flexibility and charm that I've never experienced before in a chamber ensemble. I'm already looking to starting work on our second album, as we have a lot of repertoire to record and the next album will take much more of a gypsy direction.
This album is available at all online retailers, including iTunes, Spotify, etc, and will also be available on our website (coming very soon!).
Notes on the works:
Tango pour Claude
In 1993, French accordionist Richard Galliano composed Tango for Claude for his friend, French singer Claude Nougaro, who influenced Galliano’s musical path. Claude Nougaro (1929-2004) gave Galliano the chance to develop his musical talent in the Paris of the seventies. Later, Richard Galliano said that ‘Tango for Claude’ expressed his moments of friendship and collaboration with this influential singer with whom he had accompanied on many occasions in Paris. This is a fast and expressive use of modern tango music that forms the exciting centrepiece for many Tango dance gatherings (Milongas). In addition to Nazar taking the accordion lead, Café 852’s arrangement of this piece features Felix Tham on violins, and is a fast, passionate, and exciting way to begin our journey.
Por una Cabeza
The most prominent figure in the history of tango was Carlos Gardel, and "Por una Cabeza" is one of the most popular of all Carlos Gardel tangos. The title is a horse racing term "to lose by a head." The lyrics lament a man's life by comparing losing at the race track to losing with women. "Por una Cabeza" was written in 1935 by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera, shortly before both died in a plane crash in Columbia on June 24, 1935. It has appeared in numerous movies, most famously as the theme of the 1992 film Scene of a Woman which won Al Pacino a Best Actor Academy Award. Our version features Richard Bamping on the cello, along with solos from Nazar on Accordion and Soujit on Guitar, and is a piece which alternates between a sunshine verse with a light playful melody contrasted with a fiery, up-tempo passionate chorus.
“Minor Swing” is a classic Gypsy jazz standard written by guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli in 1937. It was first recorded on November 25, 1937, on the French label Swing by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, and is now regarded as one of Django’s signature tunes. The structure of the song permitted him to demonstrate his virtuosity for creating interesting melodic and rhythmic excursions over familiar chord patterns. Reinhardt would record “Minor Swing” five more times over the course of his career before his premature death on May 16, 1953, at the age of 43.
Café 852's version of the tune takes us from a traditional Gypsy Jazz feel, (complete with Django-esque solos from Nazar’s accordion and ‘La Pompe’ Gypsy Jazz style rhythm-percussive guitar from Soujit) to a Staccato-Tango interlude, and back again, ending with a burning trumpet solo from Farley.
Serbian folk music is both rural (izvorna muzika) and urban (starogradska muzika) and includes a two-beat dance called kolo, which is a circle dance with almost no movement above the waist, accompanied by instrumental music made most often with an accordion, but also with other instruments: frula (traditional kind of a recorder), tamburica, or accordion. Café 852's "Kolo" is a tricky little number in 11/8 time (4+3+4) and features Nazar on Accordion, accompanied with a trio of trumpets from Farley.
It is not known exactly when Argentinian tango master Ángel Villoldo composed his internationally renowned tango “El Choclo”. The piece was premiered in 1903 – the date appears on a program of the venue - at the elegant restaurant “El Americano” on 966 Cangallo Street (today Teniente General Perón) in Buenos Aires by the orchestra led by José Luis Roncallo, who had to disguise it by titling the number as “danza criolla”, because the owner of the local did not like tango music. Despite it, there is a belief that it was composed in 1898.
Why “El Choclo”? Irene Villoldo, sister of the composer, once explained it to the singer Juan Carlos Marambio Catán. These are her words: «“El Choclo” was in fact a tough guy who as well was a pimp that was based in the surroundings of Junín and Lavalle. He was called by that name because of the color of his hair.» The reference is interesting because it denies that phrase about the origin of the title that Francisco García Jiménez fancifully attributed to the composer: «Pa’ mi el choclo es lo más rico del puchero.» (The ear of corn is the tastier thing of a stew for me).
Our version is also a bit cheeky and starts with a supremely confident cello cadenza before settling down into a mock serious and mysterious vibe. But rest assured, we're just kidding on this one.
Hora, (Xopa) is a type of circle dance originating in the Moldova but also found in other Balkan countries. Moldavians appreciate music and dancing. Almost every celebration includes traditional music, played by entire orchestras or only a few musicians. There are literally hundreds of songs that follow the general tempos of traditional dances such as the hora and sirba. The dances are typically performed in a circle with the dancers holding hands or linking arms while dancing in a counter clockwise direction.
Our Hora is melancholy and grave, with the sounds of a gypsy accordion along with brass band accompanying this solemn procession, which builds up nicely to the contrasting Sirba.
Hora's companion piece, Sirba also comes from Moldova. Sirba is similar to the Hungarian Csárdás in that it begins slow at the onset and gradually increase their speed until reaching a climax towards the end, evocative of a classic spirited festive gathering filled with drink and merriment. Nazar’s Accordion is once again a supreme exponent of this Gypsy style, and he is expertly accompanied by a trio of trumpets from Farley and rhythm guitar from Soujit. Café 852’s Sirba is a wild ride, so we suggest you buckle your safety belt and hold on to your hat as we play this one.
Astor Piazzolla''s masterpiece milonga Oblivion was written in 1982 and used in the soundtrack of Mario Bellocchio’s film, Enricho IV. There are many versions of this piece for different combinations of instruments.
While a household name today for those who know a little tango, Piazzolla is still seen as an invader and a corruptor of the true tango tradition by the old school tango aficionados. Tango is serious business to the Porteños.
Cellist Yo Yo Ma offered his thoughts on Piazzolla’s music and the tango tradition in Argentina:
“Tango is not just about dancing. It is a music of deep undercurrents. Because of what Argentina went through as a country, tango has become the soul of Argentina. Music is always one way people can speak when they aren’t allowed to express themselves otherwise. And Piazzolla’s tangos have the great strength of true voice…. Piazzolla’s music is endlessly passionate—full of yearning—and at the same time tremendously contemporary.”
Our version of this very special tune begins slow and melancholy, with Nazar's accordion providing the hauntingly beautiful melody, counterpointed with delicate classical guitar from Soujit, and later joined by Farley on flügelhorn. Just when we think the song has ended in peace and resignation, the optimistic spirit of Café 852 reappears, and the song ends with a soaring flügelhorn solo over the most energetic and funky milonga groove you can encounter.
Ave Maria is a popular and much-recorded setting of the Latin prayer Ave Maria by French composer Charles Gounod, originally published in 1853 as "Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach". The piece consists of a melody by the Romantic composer Gounod that he superimposed over an only very slightly changed version of the Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from Book I of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, written 137 years earlier. Gounod’s beautiful melody is performed by Richard Bamping on cellos, accompanied by Soujit playing the Bach Arpeggios on classical guitar.
"La Cumparsita" (from "Comparsa" carnival) is a tango written in 1916 by the Uruguayan musician Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, with lyrics by Pascual Contursi and Enrique Pedro Maroni. It is among the most famous and recognizable tangos of all time. Roberto Firpo, director and pianist of the orchestra that premiered the song, added parts of his tangos "La Gaucha Manuela" and "Curda Completa" to Matos' carnival march ("La Cumparsita"), resulting in "La Cumparsita" as it is currently known. La Cumparsita was first played in public in the old Café La Giralda in Montevideo. The Tango Museum of Montevideo stands currently on that historic spot. The title translates as "the little parade", and the first version was a tune with no lyrics. Later, Matos Rodríguez produced a version with lyrics that begin: "The parade of endless miseries marches around that sick being who will soon die of grief".
Our version features Richard Bamping on the cello and is in the strict old-school style that makes tango so famous for its seriousness. Indeed, it’s common for there to be no smiling from any of the participants or local audience members at a typical Tango Milonga (gathering) in Buenos Aires.
Rounding out Camino de Tango is our epic version of Libertango by Astor Piazzolla. First recorded and published in 1974 in Milan, this sultry tango marks a change in style for composer Astor Piazzolla from classical tango to nuevo tango. While you might not be familiar with the term 'nuevo tango', you'll probably recognise this catchy number from Argentine composer Piazzolla. He revolutionised tango music, by incorporating elements of jazz and classical music into his traditional tango compositions. Piazzolla is undoubtedly the master of the genre, and his 'Libertango' (a portmanteau that incorporates 'Libertad' and 'Tango') is one of the most performed of his works. Spicy rhythms and a fiendish melody have kept this one at the forefront of modern Tango, with countless brilliant interpretations to explore.
Our version begins mysteriously, with enigmatic chords on the piano played by Nazar. Then, sounds of percussion begin the hypnotic rhythm of the song, and the melody is taken up by Felix on violin and Richard on cello. As the music begins to climax, accordion virtuosity and soaring orchestral strings take us to the high point of our journey. Then, the music relaxes again as we look back again on where we have come from, before finally coming to rest and ending our Camino de Tango together with one last flash of passion.
For more on Café 852, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cafe852 or email us at [email protected].