n 1957, Piazzolla
formed the Octeto Buenos Aires, lined-up by figures of the highest
level, such as Enrique Mario
Francini and Hugo Baralis on violins, Atilio
Stampone on piano, Leopoldo
Federico as second bandoneon, Horacio Malvicino on electric guitar,
José Bragato on
violoncello and Juan Vasallo on acoustic string bass.
In the early days of this aggregation, Roberto Pansera occupied the
seat that later Piazzolla assigned to Federico
and Aldo Nicolini was the double bass player, but they did not record
with the Octet. This outstanding outfit reached a level of creativity
that Astor himself would
very seldom equal later.
Piazzolla says on the back cover of one of the records of the Octeto
that «in 1954, while being in Paris, I had the chance to see
and listen to many jazz modern groups, among them, the Gerry Mulligan
Octet. It was really wonderful to witness the enthusiasm existing
among them while they played, that individual joy in the improvisations,
the collective pleasure when they played a chord, in sum, something
that I had never noticed up to now in tango musicians. As a result
of this experience the idea of putting together the Octeto Buenos
Aires grew within me. It was necessary to get tango out of that monotony
that surrounded it, either harmonically or melodically, rhythmically
and aesthetically. It was an irresistible impulse to bestow it with
musical hierarchy and provide other ways of showcasing the instrumentalists.
In two words, to succeed in making tango something exciting without
tiring the player and the listener, and still be tango, and more than
Gerry Mulligan was an arranger and baritone sax player, who stood
out in modern jazz because he was one of the greats in the recording
sessions of The Birth of the Cool. That was an experience whose objective
was presenting new compositions and arrangements for nine instrumentalists
with the contribution of talented arrangers like Gil Evans, Mulligan
himself, John Lewis, John Carisi and soloists like Lee Konitz and
Miles Davis, under whose name that record was released. Another combination
that made the name of Mulligan popular was his pianoless quartet,
which allowed the improvising soloists a greater freedom, because
they were not bound to the harmony ruled by the piano chords.
Just like it had happened with his previous aggregations, the appearances
of the Octeto Buenos Aires were very scarce and, consequently, it
turned out very difficult to keep it in activity. Its members were
forced to join other outfits in order to get the financial compensation
that the creative level of that octet would never give them. Unfortunately
it only recorded two LPs, the second with a poor technical quality
of recording. On the first one, recorded for the Disc Jockey label,
he included the compositions "Haydée", "Neotango",
"Anoné", "El entrerriano", "Tangology",
"Marrón y azul", "Los mareados", "El
Marne" ( again Arolas!),
"Arrabal" and "A fuego lento". All them with a
high quality, but the last five stand out because in them Astor's
creativity is displayed in all its splendor. Piazzolla said: «...
I had on my mind that some day I would play "Arrabal", a
tango by José Pascual that in Vardaro's
rendition was for me heavenly. But nothing in life is fortuitous.
On my comeback from Paris, in 1955, the first number that I arranged
for the Octeto Buenos Aires was precisely that, "Arrabal"».
On the later record, an 10-inch LP, the same size as the 78 rpm discs,
recorded for the Allegro label, the level of excellence is even, and
the six tango pieces included place it as one of the main milestones
in tango discography. They were: "Boedo",
"Mi refugio", "Taconeando",
"Lo que vendrá", "La revancha" and "Tema
otoñal". They are pieces written, respectively, by Julio
De Caro, Juan Carlos Cobián,
Pedro Maffia, Piazzolla,
Pedro Laurenz and Francini;
that is to say, a handful of sublime creators in the history of the
There is another rendition of "Taconeando"
by the Octeto, included in a CD released by Music Hall titled "Piazzolla/Berlingieri".
Besides the tangos played by the orchestra of the pianist Osvaldo
Berlingieri, on the record you can find a different interpretation
of the Maffia's abovementioned
tango tune, as well as "Quinto año nacional" (the
pieces that comprised the soundtrack of the film) played by the quintet
(1960); "Lo que vendrá", "Prepárense"
and "Negracha" by the
orchestra with bandoneon and strings (1957). As usual: the release
neither tells us about recording dates nor personnel, as if they were
Luis Adolfo Sierra, a great connoisseur, of refined taste and in the
Decarean tradition, who was the author of the liner notes in the back
cover of the record the Octeto recorded for Allegro, wrote: «The
enforcement of rigid traditional patterns, inexorably out-dated by
the passing of time, has been delaying the natural and necessary process
of adaptation of tango to the influence of renewing evolutionist streams,
already definitively assimilated and accepted by the most important
musical manifestations of other latitudes through the restiveness
of talented creative spirits (Bartók, Villa-Lobos, Chaves)
who have adapted revolutionary avant garde criteria to the original
expressions of the different genres».
«The Octeto Buenos Aires -continues Sierra-, with its modern
aesthetic conceptions and technically advanced performances, completely
and without concessions breaks away from regressive conventionalisms
that rust tango in its potential richness of contents and form».
Due to the importance of the Octeto Buenos Aires as a deed of rupture
and fundamental element in the evolution of the music of Buenos Aires,
it is worthwhile to quote Carlos Kuri in his book "Piazzolla.
La música límite": «The unprecedented outburst
caused by the multitude of musical discoveries of the Octeto Buenos
Aires could neither be compared with the trials of Piazzolla himself
in his arrangements for Troilo,
nor with the appearance of Salgán
in the orchestral universe, and nor even with the group of works with
which Piazzolla in the early '50s preceded an inaugural blow; pieces
already different and suggestive, but all them reconcilable with the
tango orchestras of that time».
«This is the exact place - says Kuri - where the birth of contemporary
tango is filed in the registry, a point of no return, the beginning
of the last mutation in the inner self of tango... It is not only
because of the quantity of technical elements that he displays in
the design of his arrangements: politonality, rhythmic diversity,
variations for bandoneon in quintuplet and sextuplet of thirty-second
notes; no one keeps the secret that gives birth to an epoch, but here
the before and the after Piazzolla starts in an inexorable way».
And Sierra added: «Upon the keystone of the classic tango sextet...
the numerical and expressive dimensions were increased by the contribution
of the cello and the striking inclusion of the electric guitar. But
this was not a case of coldly putting together an instrumental unit
of eight players to later choose the names of its members. I don't
think, for example, that Piazzolla
had thought of an electric guitar without having in mind the name
of Malvicino; in like manner with Francini,
Bragato, Baralis, Stampone.
There is an organic and functional sense in this constructive initiative.
It is not a question of presenting the capricious originality of not
including singers and to become deeply involved in the boastful attitude
that this is for listening and not for dancing. It has to do with
a thorough journey towards an aesthetic revaluation».
Horacio Malvicino, reminiscing that period, says: «I got acquainted
with Astor at a jazz club, where around 1955 all the fans of the new
jazz trends used to meet: the Bop Club. This venue was frequented
by a group of people that followed the bop style. Bop had started
in the United States in 1947 with Charlie Parker and other musicians
that were in the vanguard of jazz. Astor used to go on Thursdays and
there we met. One day he heard me improvising: "That's what I
want in my octet, a guy who knows how to ad lib.", he told me
and he made me join his group. Knowing beforehand what I could do
with my instrument, he wrote sections where I had to improvise, especially
in the endings. Besides the complex writing for the whole ensemble
I had the freedom to improvise fill-ins. All this infuriated the tango
fans... it was a total madness».
Piazzolla, instead, seeing a much bitter side, would recall time later:
«The Octeto Buenos Aires, in 1955, was an artistic impact, but
our work did not last long. In order to make recordings we had to
make concessions, we had to decline our rights. The same happened
with another LP, "Tango en hi-fi". People neither know nor
care about who the impresario releasing a record is, but they know
and admire the artist who made it. I was the one who paid with his
own money to nearly all the musicians in the recording sessions while
since then the profits are gathered by others. We still are suing
for that. But who cares, who defends the creators?».
From: "Astor Piazzolla El tango culminante",
by Julio Nudler, Aldo Delhor y Laureano Fernández, Editorial
La Página S.A., Buenos Aires, 2001.