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“Astor Piazzolla: Live At The Montreal Jazz Festival” is a 2008
DVD release of a concert taped on July 4, 1984. This 58-minute
concert was by noted Argentinian composer and bandoneon
virtuoso, Astor Piazzolla, and featured pianist Pablo Ziegler,
violinist Fernando Suarez Paz, guitarist Oscar Lopez Ruiz, and
double bassist Hector Console.

Piazzolla (1921-1984) is probably most famous for his
Tango-inflected music, and his seven pieces performed here are
often infused with the spirit of the Tango. He was a bandoneon
virtuoso, favoring that instrument in his compositions and thereby
providing them with a unique timbre and flavor. While often
compared with the accordion, in lieu of keys, the bandoneon
has different sets of buttons on each side.

As a young man, Piazzolla started playing the bandoneon in
the then-common Tango style. He later studied with noted
Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), and
began attending rehearsals of the Teatro Colón Orchestra in
Buenos Aires, in an effort to learn traditional Western
compositional methods. With many original works “under his
belt,” he later traveled to Paris during the mid 1950’s, for
continued study with composer and pedagogue, Nadia
Boulanger (1887-1979). She noted the highly derivative
nature of his pieces, and convinced Piazzolla that his “true
voice” lay in his native Argentinian “Tango music.” Inspired
by her wise counsel, Piazzolla would later create his own
musical style, “Nuevo Tango,” which made him world famous.

The recital shown here is basically in a Jazz idiom, with
the added tonal flavor of Piazzolla’s bandoneon. The
aforementioned Tango spirit was often present in this
program. It was a new experience for me, and the first time I’d
heard this type of musical configuration. The music was often
sad and wistful, as well as rapid and virtuosic, and there
were opportunities for each musician to shine. Although
each piece was billed as a composition by Piazzolla, there was
clearly a lot of improvisation going on, lending an air of
spontaneity to this concert.

A disclaimer printed at the beginning of the film apologized for
the poor video quality, stating that the historical importance of
the event made the filming of it worthwhile.  I’d agree with that
statement and fortunately, the audio quality was quite
acceptable. It should also be noted that the listed running time
of 52:38 is inaccurate, and is correctly noted above.

Looking back, I wish that the guitarist had more of
the spotlight, because the lion’s share of this film was devoted
to the other four musicians.  Unlike most of the Jazz combos
that I’ve seen, the double bassist used his bow throughout,
and any percussion effects needed were achieved by the
musicians tapping on their instruments, minus the presence
of a drummer.  Obviously, this is the nature of this type of  “Jazz.”

“Astor Piazzolla: Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival” was directed
by Pierre Lacombe. Watching this film was a nice, educational
experience for me, and I’m glad that I took the time to view it.
Check it out.

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