Urbane and exotic, surreal and streetwise, and alive with invention and emotion.
Tim Nelson 2008
The title of composer and pianist Fernando Otero's Pagina de Buenos Aires suggests 'a page of Buenos Aires' and this album also feels like page one of a very exciting book for Otero. He's a well-kept secret among musical insiders from Quincy Jones and Eddie Gomez to Chico O' Farrel and Paquito D'Rivera. The composer and pianist may have been working on his X Tango formula for an undisclosed number of years since being a teenager in the Argentinean capital, but this is his debut for Nonesuch and the album itself, with its sudden stops and starts, reckless experimentation and assured flourishes is a seemingly endless exciting series of first pages.
Combining a variety of formats, from strings and bass to a 25-piece orchestral ensemble, but generally focusing on the bandoneon, the accordion-like instrument at the heart of tango, this is an album that combines the rigors of classical structure with the freedom and daring of jazz. The album covers a lot of ground, from jaunty and fast-paced ensemble pieces like Musica Del Circo or El Circulo Rojo to altogether more wistful and yearning pieces such as Ausencias, the solo piano piece Calendario, or Union, or the frantic and crepuscular horror of the string-led Piringundin and Lejana. Other tracks, such as Siempre Amor or the title track manage to be happy and sad all at once.
There's a mix of Nuevo Tango and cartoon soundtracks in all of this, but also something less defined. The X-factor is probably Buenos Aires itself, and like the city, Otero's album is urbane and exotic, surreal and streetwise, and alive with invention and emotion. Even my cat was meowing along, or maybe she just wanted my attention back.