Monday, August 18, 2008

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Café de los Maestros (Universal)

The CD of the film of the meeting of many of the great Latin-American music stars of the past. Sound a bit familiar? If there is a touch of the tango Buena Vista about the idea of getting together some of the greatest purveyors of the '40s and '50s era of this dark and dramatic Argentinian dance form for a re-recording of their past material, there's nothing contrived or trend-following about the approach. Here are twenty-seven gorgeous new interpretations of classic material by some of the great surviving artists of the '40s and '50s tango scene, turning the clock back to a time when this was a living breathing popular dance form in the tea-rooms and bars of Buenos Aires.
The nearest the project has to a Ry Cooder is Grammy award-winner film-score composer Gustavo Santaolalla, co-producer of this recording and the inspiration behind the Bajafondo Tango Club. You can certainly hear the influence of this intense, dramatic music in the work of Gotan Project and Bajofondos, as orchestras sweep grandiose string arrangements around deep, intense piano phrases, bandoneon that in turn stabs out blood-curdling crime passionel squeals or long, elongated notes that cry of lost love, and delicate guitar phrases that speak of lighter, happier times.
Anibal Arias, Oscar Ferrari and Alberto Podesta are three of many new names to non-tangoistas but they will send chills of familiarity down the spines of many fans of the old-school orchestras and singers. Lágrima Ríos is another. She's actually from Montevideo, Uruguay and on two tracks it's just her and her cool, high vibrato and a lively plucked guitar.
At the other extreme, Emilio Balearce y Orquestra bring a portentous, cinematic style to their full, emotive everything-including-the-kitchen-sink orchestration. The songs are all agreeably traditional, as are the interpreters, although octogenarian Juan Carlos Godoy is joined by rising young star Cristobal Repetto for a theatrical, baroque delve into the '20s and '30s heritage of the great early Argentine radio stars such as Calos Cardel.
All in all, Cafe de Los Maestros showcases some of the great music of the 20th Century in a beautifully packaged and annotated double CD.
Now all that's left is to track down the documentary to see these treasures of times past in glorious up-to-date action.

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