L’Orchestre National de Jazz’ ‘Piazzolla’ (Jazz Village) 3/5

Over some twenty-five years and more the ever fluctuating line up of the Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ) has been the starting point for many a talented young French jazz musician to launch a career and flourish as a soloist and leader. Laurent Cugny and Claude Barthélemy were just two such musicians who have gone on to bigger things. The latest cohort of young turcs are among us and on this occasion boasting the expert arrangements of one Gil Goldstein who has, among others, worked with the likes of Miles Davis and Don Grolnick and under artsitic director Daniel Yvinec. For this latest album, the project has been devoted entirely to the work of Argentine innovator and nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla. Some of the obvious pieces are included, sometimes in medley format to enable the largest number of compositions to be aired, but there are a few surprise choices into the bargain. Piazzolla recorded collaborative albums with vocalists and that with Amelita Baltar was one of his most memorable containing two bona fide tango canciones, namely ”Chiquilin de Bachin’/’Balada para un loco’. Particularly thrilling here is the use of bass clarinet. Surf guitar greets the opening of ‘Libertango’ which makes for a lovely change and the subtle use of bass and flute completes a fine interpretation. Revisiting the composer in a big band jazz setting is a hasardous enterprise and the ‘ONJ’ hierarchy are to be commended for such a courageous effort. If not everything comes off quite as well, it is only to be expected. Thus the famous ballad tango ‘Adios Noniño’ is a little tame and even more disappointing is that the uptempo ‘El dia que me quieras’ is treated here at a leisurely pace which does not suit the piece at all and is in cmoplete contrast to the magnificent salsa-tango that Eddie Palmieri cooked up on his legendary ‘White album’. Sadly, no details of the specific musicians and their instruments on the promo copy, though a listing of names does exist.

Tim Stenhouse