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Neither fish nor fowl, Pablo Aslan's Contrabajo is an absolutely wonderful CD / The Art Music Lounge

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Bassist Pablo Aslan describes the genesis of this remarkable album thus: "At the suggestion of bandoneonist, arranger and composer Raúl Jaurena, I set out to create a body of work for bass and string quartet, in order to feature the bass not only as foundation and a melodic instrument, but as a driver of rhythm. "

The result is, as you will hear, a series of string quintets in which the bass is not only the primary timekeeper in terms of rhythm but essentially the lead voice, thus turning the normal concept of such a group within the classical music community on its collective head. It begins with a new arrangement (by Senanes) of Heitor Villa-Lobos' Preludio No. 1 and ends with a popular tango song from the 1920s, La Cumparsita (recorded in a famous version by tenor Tito Schipa). Both pieces, as well as the others in between, are now much more complex than before, with changing tempi and the addition of jazz rhythms, sometimes quite subtle.

But of course, the problem with such a disc, as I noted in my review of Justin Morell's jazz guitar concerto, is that the snobs on both sides of the musical aisle will probably reject it because a fusion of such elements is beyond their ability to grasp. Classical listeners, tied as if by Gorilla tape to The Score, won't know why Senanes arranged Villa-Lobos like this, let alone try to appreciate what is being done, while jazz listeners, who reject any and all formality in their music, won't like the classical elements.

Overall, then, an absolutely wonderful CD, neither fish nor fowl (though, believe it or not, I'm going to file it under classical) but as happy as a platypus swimming in Atlantis…provided that Atlantis is close to South America.

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