Javier Girotto Trio ‘Tango Nuevo Revisited’ CD (ACT Music) 4/5

In the evolution of tango, one towering figure emerges who revolutionized the sound, thus creating a new hybrid called tango Nuevo, and that is bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla. One of his major innovations was to fuse traditional Argentine tango with modern jazz and a specific project from 1974, a duet album with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, serves as the inspiration for this new recording that revisits that album in an updated musical setting that includes electronica. Argentine saxophonist Javier Girotto discovered tango nuevo aged just ten, and was drawn to the album between Piazzolla and Mulligan that drew the two musical worlds together. Piazzolla received death threats for daring to modernize tango, traditionalists being in uproar at the every idea. In actual fact, the two genres blend effortlessly while retaining the very essence of tango. Fast forward to the present and ACT producer Siggi Loch has a direct connection between the two projects insofar as it was under his supervision that Atlantic records in Europe released the 1974 album a year later. Now resident in Italy, Javier Girotto formed his own trio to perform the music he so loves.

In fact, Girotto keeps to a pared down chamber jazz formation with Gianni Lorio on bandoneon and Alessandro Gwis on piano and electronics and it is the influence of minimalism that can be heard on the lengthy nine and a half minute, ‘Reminiscence’, where piano and bandoneon enter into a duet, before the piano goes up and down the scales to thrilling effect. All but two compositions are Piazzolla originals. This writer warmed to the interplay between the trio as exemplified on the opener, ‘Close your eyes and listen’, with Girotto caressing the baritone saxophone to create a sweetness of sound and it should be stated that in the right hands, the baritone saxophone can be made to reproduce the feel of an alto, far gentler than one might imagine. Back in the 1950s Serge Chaloff was a major practitioner capable of achieving wonderful results on that instrument, with, ‘Blue Serge’, a landmark recording. However, this is not a note for note recreation and the addition of electronica on, ‘Deus Xango’, does take a few listens, but the tango is still at the heart of the music. Of the two Mulligan compositions interpreted, the atmospheric and nocturnal, ‘Aire de Buenos Aires’, impresses most with piano and baritone in tandem. A fine fusion album, then, and, alongside the roots of more traditional tango, tango Nuevo deserves its own meritocratic place, and one moreover that merely enhances the image of the music worldwide.

Tim Stenhouse