Culture Vulture: Salsa Dura

November 28th, 2011, 1:00 pm by Greg


Bassist Pablo Aslan’s new CD “Piazzola in Brooklyn” is a faithful re-creation of “Take Me Dancing,” Astor Piazzola’s 1959 attempt to fuse jazz and tango in the same way Stan Getz had linked jazz and samba. Unlike Getz’s legendary recordings, “Dancing” bombed and was never heard from again. And while “Piazzola in Brooklyn” is a well-made, well-played outing by musicians who are well-versed in the subject, it’s easy to see why why jazz tango never caught on: Tango dancing is a stylized, over-dramatic metaphor for romance (and, by extension, sex), while samba is basically foreplay set to music. Sure, there are steps to samba, but at the end of the day, it’s all about shaking it up and shaking it down, and in the pre-sexual revolution days of the ’50s, jazz samba let you heat up and stay cool at the same time.

Fast-forward (or, in this case, reverse) to the MASS MoCA dance party on Saturday, November 5. As usual, my favorite art oasis pulled out all the stops to bring their patrons totally into the experience – not only booking a monster headliner in the Brooklyn big-band juggernaut La Excelencia, but also bringing in Don Polite and Ebryonna Wiggins from Williams College’s Latin-dance group Ritmo Latino to show everyone how to salsa-dance properly.

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