"Oblivion" - Astor Piazzola

Astor Piazzola (1921-1992) led a successful career as a performer, composer, and scholar, combining aspects of Argentinian music with aspects of classical and jazz music. His addition of these elements to the Argentinian tango tradition became known as nuevo tango. His parents, Italian immigrants, decided to move to New York City when he was four years old. While his parents worked, he spent his days on the streets of Greenwich Village, and Lower Manhattan. Wandering the burrough, Piazzola heard jazz and classical music, and listened to records of Argentinian tango at home. At age nine, his father purchased him a bandoneon and arranged for music lessons with the pianist Bela Wilda, who taught Astor to play Bach on his new instrument. The bandoneon is similar to the accordion and is most popular in Argentina and Uruguay, where it plays a central role in tango music. Amidst the Great Depression, Piazzola began composing, and his increasing ability with the bandoneon drew attention, though his family returned to Argentina in 1936. 

Back in his country of birth, he continued to perform tango music, and he studied composition with the noted pianist and composer Alberto Ginestera. Throughout the 1940s, Piazzola composed a number of classical compositions, and founded Orquesta Tipica, which performed tango music. Feeling contained by tango, he spent time listening to jazz and even traveled to Paris to study classical music with Nadia Boulanger. Upon returning to Argentina, with the clarity that he should continue to pursue tango music, Piazzola founded an octet, influenced in part by saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's jazz octet. This group of eight musicians (2 bandoneons, 2 violins, cello, double bass, electric guitar, and piano), as well as a quintet (bandoneon, violin, double bass, electric guitar, piano), became his two primary ensembles for the rest of his performing life. Piazzola spent that latter part of his life touring the world and performing nuevo tango music.

Piazzola wrote his composition "Oblivion" for the 1982 movie "Enricho IV." The melody of the music is influenced by the tango and he incorporates the tango rhythm into the piano accompaniment. While the piece can be heard on practically any instrument, I love this recording by the Canadian saxophonist Julia Nolan. She and the pianist, Rita Attrot, play together beautifully, with great sensitivity. As you listen, enjoy Julia's phrase shaping, luscious sound, and wonderful vibrato.