Rodrigo G Pahlen & Emilio Solla: Urgentango

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When jazz meets another musical genre there may be a collision, a fusion, a celebration, or an assimilation. In the case of jazz and tango there is a venerable precedent: what Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish tinge”. To his satisfaction at least, the rhythms of South America and to a lesser extent the West Indies were essential to jazz.

Chromatic harmonica player Rodrigo G Pahlen and pianist Emilio Solla give us an idea of what might emerge if a band of jazz musicians were invited to take over a tango club for the evening. Neither jazz fans nor strictly come-dancers would be disappointed.

Pahlen’s arrangements of all but three of the tracks – the others are by Solla, one based on someone else’s – involve eight guests variously coalescing around the two principals. The charts are divided between Latin-American and jazz composers, the latter being John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Parker, and Pat Metheny.

On Solla’s lovely ballad La Novena and Phalen’s catchy La Certeza, tango and jazz as we know them whirl together like entwined dancers themselves. The first smoulders, the latter jumps along to a piano-bass underbeat that provides Pahlen and Chris Cheek’s soprano sax with gleefully taken opportunities for exchanges that simulate such inter-weaving. On Pedro Laurenz’s Milonga De Mis Amores Solla goes mischievously Bachian.

Some pieces work better than others as tango-jazz amalgams. Hubbard’s Up Jumped Spring, for example, is reluctant to submit to tango. But that’s part of the album’s charm. The musicians head for what beckons at any given time. Pahlen’s often labyrinthine solos are not to be denied, nor are other soloists refused their place. This is tango for listeners; dancers might find some of its purely musical approach inimical, the tempo of Parker’s Segment being a chase that fans tango’s smoulder to a flame. But one never knows.

Discography
Primaveras; Like Sonny; Nothing Personal; La Novena; La Certeza; Milonga De Mis Amores; Up Jumped Spring; Las Últimas Pipas; Segment; Antonia; Primaveras (radio version) (63.42)
Pahlen (hca); Solla (p); and guests: Guillermo Calliero (flh); Guillermo Carrizo (g); Javier Colina (b); Minino Garay (pc); Anat Cohen (cl); Chris Cheek (bar, ss); Jorge Roeder (b); Pablo Gómez Molina (pc). New York, 10, 16 November 2017; Barcelona, 5 December 2017.
Fresh Sound World Jazz FSWJ 050