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CD Review: Parlando
Tangled Lies

Dale Meyers, Bandoneon
Katrina Wreede, Viola
Mark Wyman, Piano
Paul Binkley, Guitar
Mike Silverman, Bass
Su Jacobsen, Violin

All Compositions By Parlando (Dale Meyers)


1) Esta Noche 6:57
2) Accordion To Parlando 3:46
3) Malik's Garden (1st & 3rd Movements) 6:08
4) Snows of Yesteryear 5:38
5) Avenida Quintara 3:44
6) Dance of the Astronauts 9:35
7) Malik's Garden (4th Movement) 3:58
8) Heaven 5:18
9) Milonga Caprichosa 2:27

label: Parlando

Total Time: 46: 57
Released: 1999
Review Date: March 2000

CD Review by Dr. Paul A. Magistretti

Parlando is a sextette led by Dale Meyers and dedicated to Nuevo Tango.

About five years ago Dale heard Astor Piazzolla and something clicked. He began to explore the genre's possibilities by forming a group and playing Astor's music. He surrounded himself with excellent musicians and tried to use an old musette piano accordion for the bandoneon part. Their work was good, but the accordion wasn't right. Dale then found an orphaned bandoneon (they weren't easy to find five years ago); it was a bit runty and not sonically blessed, but at least it was in the zone. Starting from zero he began to tame the little beast, or at least find where the notes were on the world's most cryptic of instruments. Over time he improved and strengthened his playing and has since graduated to a new Premier.

All along Dale's ambition wasn't to just play Piazzolla - a rewarding experience to be sure and he was getting better at it -- but to compose. There is a certain futility in just playing Piazzolla's works, because Astor himself is everywhere present on CDs and in the world's consciousness and he represents his own work only too well. Dale was interested in doing more, for what had inspired him was not just specific Piazzolla tangos, but the sound, the beat, the gestalt of Nuevo Tango - he wanted to develop compositions within a tango context, but with his own perspective. You see, he didn't want to become a Piazzolla wannabe, because who couldabe (as my Uncle Luigi might say). Over the years I heard him play - usually at Borders Books & Music - and it was interesting to hear the gradual introduction of his own compositions into the mix. Of course, performances at Borders were limited to a trio and never gave me a sense of the full range of voices he was developing. But bits and pieces of his work emerged and were interesting.

Now, with this CD Tangled Lies, Dale presents Parlando (the Sextette) in nine original compositions ranging from thumping tangos to melodic milongas. The six musicians are talented and all get solid solos - parenthetically, they all play gigs with other and diverse groups (viz. the web site, but they come together often as Parlando and when they do they don't just speak, they really cook and they do exactly that on this recording.

The CD is a live in studio recording, acoustic instruments, and it has a great feeling to it. Everyone was bouncing off each other and doubling the impact. In spirit it reminded me of Tango Zero Hour, because everyone was hot: Mark Wyman's pounding piano, Katrina Wreede's soaring viola, Su Jacobsen's heartfelt violin, Mike Silverman's throbbing bass (plus an excellent solo), Paul Binkley's solid guitar and solos and Dale setting the tone and weaving his way through the ensemble. It's a solid group performance and the numbers are excellent, worthy lights in a Nuevo Mundo. My only caveat, which I discussed with Dale, would be that in mixing I wished the bandoneon's part had been cranked up. Also, its particular sound seems thin and I wished it could be fattened - not to imitate Piazzolla, but to take its place with the sonority of the other instruments. Maybe such tones have to come out of an ancient Doble A. Also, I'd like a little stronger articulation and less introspective legato, not so much to turn him into an Argentine rip-roarer, because I like the direction he's going, but to inject 20dbs into what he's got.

If you put aside preconceptions of Astor's defining work and listen to these compositions on their own terms, there's much to like. I found - unlike a lot of CDs, even some of Piazzolla's - that I increasingly enjoyed this one the more I listened to it. In other words, there was a continuous rising arc of emotional satisfaction. The tunes stuck with me long after they were over and I found mental excerpts and medleys following me throughout the day - and in the best sense of when that happens.

Esta noche blends a poignant theme with a pulsating B section and an extended piano solo eventually folding back to the theme and it's lovely. It's sort of exemplary of the multi-movement structure Dale uses; he takes you on a trip that makes you feel like you've been somewhere emotionally. Afterwards, you reminisce: the journey was interesting and unexpected, because you didn't merely visit the steamy clubs, brothels and pulsating tranche de vie of neurotic Argentina. You took a different tour and it was self-defining and evocative.

Cut #2, Accordion to Parlando starts like a marching tango, then the B part eases into a wistful milonga with Katrina's viola lamenting - thence, back into the march and a pulsating piano solo ending with a pounding tutti section and an abrupt glissando. You see? It's a journey.

Malik's Garden (movements 1 & 2) opens with a meditative bandoneon solo that wanders a bit and could use stronger articulation. Then, it develops a series of chords with the bass viol emerging briefly before we start into a slow, heavy downbeat tango and a haunting bandoneon theme that repeats and eventually ends on two poignant notes -- the last moment could be more emphatic for the potential of pathos with these last two notes is tremendous.

The Snows of Yesteryear is a lovely milonga (my favorite) that floats with nostalgia and loss; it almost has a fifties pop tune feeling (in the good sense). Here Mike Silverman has a nice bowed solo on the bass that fits the mood perfectly. Again, Dale is mapping out his own itinerary in Tango Nuevo and as the Zen Master said, "Wherever you go, there you are." I found it a good place to be.

Avenida Quintara is a pounding, syncopating new tango and more Piazzolla-like than the others with dissonance attacking the march and then flowing into a milongo middle section. It finally moves into a third movement and here Paul Binkley has a nice solo, then the tango pace heats up and builds to a final dissonant chord.

Dance of the Astronauts is a sci-fi tango and after a few intro bars, we get a space-like effect with the instruments wandering without a beat until they free float back together and fuse like Ravel's Bolero - but they unravel again with the bowed bass squeaking distracted cadences until it finds a thread of the most basic tango beat while the other instruments zero gravity around it. Then, a tango emerges out of the chaos and the guitar starts to speak giving us a sense of jazz as Mission Control and settling down until a burst of final arpeggios.

Malik's Garden, the 4th movement (I don't know what happened to 3 and why this one isn't with 1 & 2) is the seventh cut and its central section is a thumping downbeat tango supporting the guitar; then it rushes into something that's almost like a hora. The guitar reemerges with the bandoneon and plays against glissandi from the viola, picking up speed and leading to an abrupt end.

Heaven starts by reminding me of Cry Me A River for some reason with a 4/4 intro before the tango starts, which leads us into its heart, which is carried by the piano's trills and double octaves teasing the melody. Finally, the viola comes in to restate things and center us in a sense of longing and pathos until the final movement eases us away with a bass glissando.

Milonga Caprichosa starts off a bit like El Choclo and then everyone seems to take a crack at improvising around the theme.

I've done a bit of descriptive work here, because the music has its own voice. If you're a died-in-the-brain Piazzolla-ite you might be put off - the loss will be yours if you can't escape Astor's template and hear something else. But if you give Dale's compositions a chance and relax your expectations the rewards are great. I think Dale is well on his way to finding his own voice in Nuevo Tango and it could be an important one. I certainly look forward to any of his future compositions, for I found these tanguistas sensuous companions -- every place they took me was a heartfelt trip.

I know that this CD was primarily produced for concert venues, but even so I would have liked more information in the liner notes - a little artwork would help, too. The music and performances are of a high caliber, so why should the first impression be a wrong one?

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