The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 08, 2013

MDC Live Arts presents the rebirth of jazz tango

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Sue Arrowsmith, Miami Dade College

Miami Dade College’s (MDC) popular MDC Live Arts series closes its 2012-13 season with Argentina native, Brooklyn-based bassist, bandleader and producer Pablo Aslan and his quintet performing Piazzolla in Brooklyn, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at The Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road.

With Piazzolla in Brooklyn, Aslan pays homage to the great Argentinean composer and bandoneón master Astor Piazzolla. After the master’s death in 1992, Aslan brought an extraordinary focus on tango’s relationship to jazz, and on Piazzolla’s ideas about jazz tango. In fact, his latest recording, Piazzolla in Brooklyn, was inspired by Take Me Dancing, a 1959 jazz tango recording by Piazzolla.

Aslan has been working at the intersection of jazz and tango for the past 20 years. He grew up in Buenos Aires in the 1960’s and 70’s, and later moved to the U.S. to study music at the University of California Santa Cruz, attending Cal Arts and UCLA. He moved to New York City in 1990 and for years he was a regular in milongas (tango dance halls) around the U.S. and performed with Raul Jaurena, Pablo Ziegler and Yo Yo Ma’s Soul of the Tango. Then he began to probe the possibilities of jazz tango. The hard work paid off in recordings such as Avantango (2004), Buenos Aires Tango Standards (2007) and, most notably, Tango Grill (2009) an album that earned GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations. On these recordings, Aslan revisited old and new tangos, including some Piazzolla pieces, with the tools, the approach and sensibility of jazz.

“Pablo Aslan is a master at fusing the languages of jazz and tango, and we are thrilled to present him with this latest project that offers audiences new ways to experience the world and legacy of Astor Piazzolla,” said MDC Live Arts Executive Director Kathryn Garcia.

Piazzolla drew from many sources for what came to be known as his New Tango -- from traditional tango and Bartok, to klezmer music, Stravinsky and Bach. But he had a special fascination with jazz. After all, Piazzolla spent most of his childhood in New York City --- which included experiences such as listening to Cab Calloway through a window outside a club in Harlem, too young to be let in -- and jazz was an essential sound of the city.

“There is a before and after Piazzolla in tango,” says music critic Fernando González. “And to understand how rooted in tango his music is, and what a challenge to the tradition it represented, there is nothing better than to hear it in context.”

As part of MDC Live Arts’ core commitment to create meaningful educational experiences, González, who was nominated for a GRAMMY for his notes on Piazzolla in Brooklyn, will lead a multimedia, curated listening session to explore the music of Piazzolla within the history and evolution of tango. In addition, a live music clinic will be led by Aslan for NWSA music students that traces the innovations and techniques that popularized tango and jazz in the Americas

MDC Live Arts, an initiative of MDC’s Cultural Affairs department created in 1990 as Cultural del Lobo Arts, has a celebrated history of bringing exceptional national and international performing artists to the region. Annually, it produces a diverse series of stellar performances, presenting today’s most exciting artists while creating meaningful encounters between these artists, the students of MDC, and the community through workshops and residency activities. It seeks artists from around the globe representing a diverse range of voices and forms, which push boundaries and   honor traditions relevant to this multi-cultural, multi-lingual community.

Tickets for Piazzolla in Brooklyn are $25 for the general public and $10 for MDC students with valid identification.

To purchase, please call 305-237-3010, or visit

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