The Music and Myth has only recently returned from its long hiatus and already things are back in high gear. There’s a number of articles in queue for the next few weeks, with a concert review from Nick Cave’s spectacular, mammoth-show in Belgrade, Serbia, a study of a Grammy-nominated debut record from a familiar face and the upcoming 2017 Music and Myth Awards, spearheaded by a powerful front runner. I feel like I never left!
I’ll get to all those things during the winter holidays while I take a break from working on my books. But first: a substantial sampling of impeccable tango from an experienced, top-tier vocalist.
When Sofia Tosello sent me her latest record for review, I was immediately excited to hear it. Longtime readers might jokingly point to my affinity for Argentine-born vocalists named Sofia, but there’s more to it than that. Ever since writing about Bernardo Monk’s excellent A Toda Orquesta, I’ve developed a growing interest in tango culture, looking for further opportunities to study this dynamic and captivating art form. A complex, superbly orchestrated work, Lluvia Fue (Chamber Tango) provided me with just such an opportunity.
Arranged by Grammy-award-winning pianist Fernando Otero, Tosello’s fourth album had its official release only five days ago, on December 8th, with a concert at Minton’s Harlem, New York. Tosello’s experience with tango is evident from the record’s opening moments, as she tackles this emotionally demanding genre with ease and confidence.
Perhaps symbolically, the album begins with a tune by Astor Piazzolla, arguably the most recognizable name in tango. In “Sempre se vuelve a Buenos Aires”, Tosello instantly captivates with a delivery that feels honest and authentic, powering through this tempestuous ode to the “Paris of South America” with vivacity and emotion. In the title track, a soulful, delicate composition by Roberto Calvo, the orchestra’s timing and finesse enhances Tosello’s superb vocals. It quickly becomes clear that a great part of the vocalist’s impact is achieved through a careful, balanced arrangement by seasoned pianist Fernando Otero, whose understanding of the strengths and predilections of his vocalist is outstanding. Furthermore, the band, consisting of guitarists Yuri Juarez and Fede Diaz, with Pedro Giraudo on bass, Javier Sanchez on bandoneon and Nick Danielson and Brian Sanders on violin and cello respectively are at a constant apogee, providing an instrumental backdrop that serves as an evenly-matched partner/antagonist to Tosello’s voice.
Equal parts singer and actress, the vocalist runs an emotional gamut in Juan Carlos Cobia’s “Hambre” and “Nostalgias”, vociferous and confrontational in the former, vulnerable and expressive in the latter, whose final minute marks one of the record’s standout moments.
“Tortazos” focuses on the dynamic contribution of guest guitarist Adam Tully, whose fierce flamenco is complimented by Tosello’s high-strung delivery, while “Fuimos” a voice-and-piano duet stands as the highlight of the record. With just a touch of jazz, Otero’s piano gently accompanies Tosello’s voice, offering at once support and inspiration. With her cries of “Vete” (Go Away) the singer reaches a point of unrestrained emotion in an absolutely flawless track, spectacular for its evocative simplicity.
“Fuimos” transitions to an intense rendition of Sebastian Piana’s and Homero Manzi’s “De Baro” with a short but delectable guitar solo, followed by the anxious, droning “Al Mundo Le Falta un Tornillo”, which the vocalist once again infuses with her lively staginess. Though entertaining and energetic, Charlo and Homero Manzi’s “Tu Palida Voz” gets overshadowed by its much more forceful neighbors.
As a jazz enthusiast, I was delighted to hear “Vida Mia”, a song I’m familiar with from Dizzy Gillespie’s repertoire. In another voice-piano duet (and another of the album’s high points), Tosello’s voice calls out and Otero’s devoted instrument answers, engaging in an impassioned back-and-forth as rigorous and dynamic as tango itself. Perhaps it’s for the fact that I am still a novice in the world of tango, with its passion and discipline, that I found myself responding naturally to the simplest, most straightforward songs, a fact practically confirmed by my fondness for the equally tender pairing of voice and strings on “Conjura del Alba”.
The final sequence of “Contame una Historia” and “La Ultima Curda” ends the record on a powerful note, with the vocalist working up to a cathartic abandonment in the former, then falling back to a valedictory lament in the latter, augmented by the somber, haunting string section.
In Lluvia Fue (Chamber Tango), Sofia Tosello, backed by an exceptional band following a an irreproachable arrangement, seems to want to to more than merely record a series of classic tango songs. The album feels like a statement and, at the same time, a form of liberation. A beautiful record, highly recommended.