Taking tango further, deeper

Two virtuoso musicians, Argentinean bandoneonist and composer Dino Saluzzi and German cellist Anja Lechner, will pool their talents for one show at the ECM Festival, being staged in Athens for a second time, at the Vrachon Theater tomorrow. «This musical dialogue is as close to perfection as any music I can recall,» music critic Richard Cook had noted in the Jazz Review, after hearing the pair perform. «Very few musicians are able to maintain their identity so strongly within the whirlpool of multicultural influences,» he continued. A pivotal figure in Argentinean music, Saluzzi has contributed like few others to the development of the tango tradition. His compositions, uncontrived and innovative, often draw upon the musician’s past as a child growing up in Argentina’s north, the musicians he has encountered over the years and the early 20th-century vinyl records he has listened to. He speaks enthusiastically about older-generation bandoneonists, who each had «an individual perception on musical phrases and the intensity of melody.» Born in 1935 in the provincial city of Salta, northwest Argentina, Saluzzi began playing bandoneon as a child with his father, a bandoneonist and a composer of Italian heritage. The young musician’s fame did not take long to spread beyond his homeland. Invitations for performances at festivals abroad were extended early in Saluzzi’s career. His inclusion on the roster of artists at the high-caliber German label ECM in the early 80s provided Salucci with the opportunity to reach a wider international audience. «Saluzzi is a composer of contemporary music with the heart of a tanguero,» the Los Angeles Times wrote of Saluzzi. «His compositions highlight the melancholy element that is unique to tango. Nobody else has stretched the boundaries of this musical style to such an extent while also managing to maintain its character’s purity.» Saluzzi’s stage and recording collaborations have included work with American and European jazz musicians such as Charlie Haden, Pierre Favre and Al Di Meola. The bandoneonist’s association with Lechner, a classically trained musician with a love of Argentina’s common-folk tango style, has proven exceptional. Offering his views on the growing number of classical music artists who have occasionally chosen to include tango songs in their repertoires in more recent years, Saluzzi notes that «they’re interpreted as if they’re doing Mozart.» Lechner’s association with the song form began in 1980 when, along with pianist Peter Ludwig, they began to play «German tango in an Argentinean style,» as she notes. «At the time, all I knew was that I really loved this music.» Not long afterward, Lechner attended a performance by Saluzzi in Munich. «I immediately realized that what he was doing was considerably deeper than simple tango,» says Lechner. «When we began playing together, I felt that I had entered a new world.» A co-founder of the strings quartet Rosamunde, Lechner began exploring improvisation within traditional music. Lechner’s collaborations include work with Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos, which produced their recent «Melos» album. The German cellist’s interest in improvisation was a key factor that led to her collaboration with Saluzzi. They began performing together in 2002 and, five years later, released «Ojos Negros» on the ECM label. The album was hailed by critics. «Anja united with the music, without losing her identity,» says Saluzzi. «She has her own sound and character and this culturally enriches our collaboration.»