Tango

The most talented and well-known of the tangueros, Astor Piazzolla, created a tango nuevo that was internationalist and anti-establishment in spirit. His legacy can be heard in the heart of many of the tracks on this compilation. There are only a few veterans working in tango today who deserve the appellation ‘maestro’. Rodolfo Mederos, who emerged in the 1960s when tango nuevo was really new, is without doubt one of the great artists of the form, not least because he has continually sought to find his own style in a neoclassical tango scene dominated by Piazzolla derivateurs. Angel Villoldo’s ‘El Choclo’ is one of the absolute classics of old-guard tango but in this version, from Mederos’s Comunidad album it sounds newborn, strong and stirring. One of jazz tango’s foremost pianists, Pablo Ziegler was Astor Piazzolla’s star pianist during the 1980s and has played with many greats, including Gary Burton, Walter Castro and Maria Graña. Here his quartet pays homage to Piazzolla with a clamorous, astringent arrangement of ‘Michelangelo ’70’, itself a tribute Piazzolla wrote to the legendary tango club in Buenos Aires.

Almost a decade after the release of Gotan Project’s debut, we’re all familiar with tango electrónico. An acclaimed advocate of this genre, Buenos Aires-based Carlos Libedinsky has always ensured his beats and blips and loops are wrapped around dance-friendly rhythms and sensual strings and the living breath of the bandoneón. His sublime album, Narcotango 2, is a deep embrace between tango and the electronic musical atmosphere of our times and an essential inclusion as a bonus disc to accompany the Rough Guide album. Pianist Daniel Almada and cellist Martin Iannaccone – the duo at the heart of the five-piece known as Tango Crash – have been subtle and surprising in their use of electronic samples and spoken word. Their instrumental track has a filmic quality, conjuring both the casual violence of life in present-day Buenos Aires and the spooky, dreamy romance of its back streets.  

The race is on to become the orchestra in modern tango. Bursting on to the tango scene at the beginning of the millennium, the twelve players of Orquesta Tipica Fernández Fierro are admired for their resistance to the more tourist-friendly clichés of the Buenos Aires tango scene. The featured track is a take on the so-called ‘orquesta típica’ aimed at new, young audiences, melding the anti-anything spirit of rock and roll with the intelligent energy of old-guard tango. Nominated for a Latin Grammy for their jazz-inflected tango, UK outfit Tango Siempre’s performances rank among the most soulful in a busy, talented, international scene. The trio at the core of the band, accordionist Pete Rosser, violinist Ros Stephen and pianist Jonathan Taylor, are masters of their instruments and of the form, creating lush, complex experiments without ever sacrificing the heartbeat of dance tango.