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CD Review: Fernando Otero, composer; César Olguín, bandoneon
Tango de Mier y Pesado

("Mier y Pesado" is a street in Mexico City named after philanthropist Isabel Pesado de la Llave de Mier, who, in 1917, established the private assistance organization that bears her name.)

Jorge Cristians, saxophones
Marcelo Nisinman, bandoneon
César Olguín, bandoneon
Damián Bolotín, violin
Patricio Villarejo, cello
Francisco López, contrabass
Federico Luna, drums
Angel Bonura, contrabass (on "Sastre Rey del Once")
Oscar Romano, flutes
Fernando Otero, synthesizers & percussion


Tango de Mier y Pesado
Sastre Rey del Once
No pudo ser
Introito a Nuestras Nadas
Nuestras Nadas
Epílogo a Nuestras Nadas
Alto Blanco
Homenagem a Toninho Munhoz
Tango de Mier y Pesado

Total time: 42:20
Released: 1999
review date: May 1999

Label: Ediciones Pentagrama, S. A. de C. V.
Saltillo No 90, P. B.,
Col. Condensa C. P., 06140
México, D. F.

Order from César Olguín directly:

Review by Gregory A. Vozar:

For about a century Tango has been the birthright of the porteño or native of Buenos Aires. One hardly needs a poetic imagination to understand how perfectly this passionate music and dance belong to that city. Perhaps only New Orleans and Hot Jazz have the same type of relationship: they fit together like hand in glove. Yet, just as Jazz became an international musical language, growing beyond its birthplace and African-American roots, so Tango outgrew the barrios where it was born and nurtured. It crossed the oceans to seduce a scandalized yet easily vanquished world. Today, both forms of music have found admirers and interpreters in places as far afield as Tucson and Tokyo.

When this type of cultural diffusion takes place, transformation is inevitable. Often this is as the result of a natural restructuring or gradual evolution, and at other times it is the due to the work of an innovator or revolutionary. In the case of Tango, Astor Piazzolla effected such a change and has been called both a savior and an iconoclast as a result. Traditionalists argue that his tango nuevo compositions are corrupted by Jazz and that he distorted vital rhythmic elements. There is no doubt that Jazz was a creative influence, but because of Piazzolla and those who follow in his creative footsteps, the world has once again reawakened to the passion of Tango in both its classic form and newer incarnation.

César Olguín and Fernando Otero are inheritors of Piazzolla's legacy. Listening to their compact disc, Tango de Mier y Pesado, I was struck by just how removed their music is from the dances of the Rio de la Plata region. Only one track, the humorous "Sastre Rey del Once" (Tailor King of Once), fully embraces the syncopated beat of the milonga, a lively dance predating the tango. Their presentation is personal and eclectic, yet it possesses a quality of argentinidad that is unmistakably Tango. The meandering opening melody of the title track "Tango de Mier y Pesado" gives this quality a near perfect voice. The notes are shaped by the bandoneon and possess a color and timbre only possible on this unique instrument. It has a soulful sound, evoking distance and longing, yet somehow remaining as near and deep as one's own heart.

Indeed, distance and longing are integral components of the music recorded here. For the most part, the pieces are introspective and, like some of Piazzolla's work, have a somewhat melancholy cast. A glance at the titles "No pudo ser" (It Couldn't Be), "Lejana" (Afar) and "Ausencias" (Absence) give an indication as to the nature of the music. However, I hesitate to call this compilation somber, for while it may evoke pensive emotions, it does not suffer from dreariness. The varying instrumental textures and the artful, shifting tonal colors save it from loneliness and self-pity.

Olguín is truly a master of the difficult bandoneon; his playing is articulate and clear throughout the recording. His ability to shape melodic lines and delineate phrases is superb; he draws skillfully and cleanly without any fussiness. There is a very vocal bel canto quality to his playing. I especially like the triple dubbed "Epílogo a Nuestras Nadas" and the transparency of his solo bandoneon restatement of the title theme, Tango de Mier y Pesado, which provides a perfect close to the recording. Here more than anywhere else we can clearly hear one of the remarkable qualities of the bandoneon, its ability to play rich, extremely wide chords. Few other instruments permit eight human fingers to encompass five octaves so easily.

All compositions on this CD are the creative work of Argentinean composer and pianist, Fernando Otero, with the exception of César Olguín's prelude and postlude to the piece "Nuestras Nadas" (Our Nothingness). As an arranger, Otero's abilities are at their best in "Aguaribay" and the transparently smooth "Alto Blanco." The first piece features the limpid paired flutes of Oscar Romano and Olguín's bandoneon as a cool accompaniment to Damián Bolotín's warm solo violin. Jorge Cristians' saxophone pairs well with Olguín's bandoneon in "Ausencias," a piece with Jazz as well as Tango roots. Only in "No pudo ser" and "Lejana" are there occasional harsh elements in Cristians' playing. His tone is not out of place, just a bit too strident in relation to the other instruments.

I find this a satisfying and original recording. As artists, Otero and Olguín give their listeners music that is comprehensible, accessible and that grows deeper the more one listens. This is a rare combination of qualities in a world where art is often copied and all too disposable. César Olguín's first album (featuring Fernando Otero as pianist), Suite Piazzollana, was every bit as original as this more recent effort but not quite as smooth in presentation. [Click on the link to read our review.] In light of their audibly evolving abilities, I would urge them to continue their creative partnership, as they seem to have struck pay dirt. With each effort they add more polish, grace and experience to their existing talents and this can only lead them to greater and better things.

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