Solidaridad: Distancia

It's tango, but the shared rhythmic basis, the improvisations and the extempore interpretations mean it's likely to resonate with jazz fans


This album by the Canadian all-female tango ensemble, Solidaridad, is a collection of tunes and songs covering a range of contemporary issues and demonstrating a fluent and impressive command of the music.

The songs range from the introductory poem, Winter’s Coming, a reflection on isolation and the pandemic, through mediations on death and loss (And I Have Been Looking and If Not Today) to The Corner, about homelessness, which as in the UK, is prevalent in Canada. The Dance acknowledges the indigenous people of Canada, and by implication the misappropriation of their land and culture. The musical accompaniment for these remains in the realm of tango; Valeria Matzner’s vocals conjure up a cabaret feel.

Violinist Aparna Halpé provides the lyrics for the songs, with the exception of El Adiós (The Farewell), the 1937 tango classic by Huergo and Clemente and a haunting and heartfelt lament.

But it’s the instrumentals that attracted my attention most and the distinct elements of tango, evoking sadness, nostalgia, elegance and suspense. They have a different feeling to the accordion-led work of someone like Richard Galliano, and there’s a striking interaction between the strings. This is evident in Sybil Shanahan’s cello, effectively portraying melancholic sorrow to the point of despair on Deriva, closely supported by Shannon Wojewoda’s bass line as the strings lay down an angular, staccato rhythm which adds to the anguish.

The slowly altered repetition of Variación is wonderfully dramatic, measured and menacing, with an ominous heartbeat bass; Pompeya is an infectious enticement to practise a fast milonga routine, as is the clapping, beating and what sounds like flamenco footwork of the zapateado Charrua. Fuimos provides an interlude, Eva Wolff soloing, before the drama continues, her bandoneon mingling with the strings on If Not Today and leading into El Adiós.

Whilst not strictly a jazz album, it retains common ground in the rhythmic basis of both tango and jazz, in improvisational elements despite its formality and in the freedom to cut loose through impassioned or emotive phrasing. Thrilling, thought-provoking and enjoyable.

Winter’s Coming; Deriva; Pompeya; Variacion; And I Have Been Looking; The Corner; Fuimos; If Not Today; YYZ; El Adiós; Charrua; The Dance (39.51)
Valeria Matzner (v); Aparna Halpé, Suhashini Arulanandam (vn); Esme Allen-Creighton (vla); Sybil Shanahan (clo); Shannon Wojewoda (b); Elizabeth Acker (p); Eva Wolff (bandoneon). Toronto and (track 7) Buenos Aires.
3AM Fish Records 3AMFR001