The Russian Jazz Tango Queen

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OBLIVION / PIAZZOLLA: Fuga y Misterio. Oblivion. La Muertye del Angel. Libertango. STAMPONI: Flor de Lino. LAURENZ-CONTURSI: Milonga de Mis Amores. Como dos Extraños.* LEGUIZAMÓN-PÉREZ: Si Llega a Ser Tucumana. DAMES-SANUINETTI: Nada.+ PETERSBURSKI: To Ostatnia Niedziela. COBIÁN: Nostalgias / Yulia Musayelyan, fl/*bs-fl/+voice; Maxim Lubarsky, pno; Fernando Huergo, bs; Mark Walker, dm / Zoho Music ZM 202104

Ordinarily, this is the kind of CD I just pass by without listening. Tangos, whether classical or jazz, don’t really appeal to me except once in a blue moon, and for the most part I consider Astor Piazzolla’s music to be pretentious and lacking in real content. But one listen to the first track on this CD, and I was hooked. Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell ya, Yulia Musayelyan really kicks butt!!!

She was born in Russia but makes her home in Boston, where she attended the Berklee College of Music. Interestingly, the rhythm section on this CD is comprised of Berklee faculty members, which probably accounts for the zest and energy of these performances. And the album starts out with a jazz-tango-fugue…what could be better? Next to Musayelyan herself, the star of this recording is pianist Maxim Lubarsky, whose playing mirrors and enhances her own.

Like all flute players, classical or jazz, Musayelyan has a limited dynamic range; it’s the nature of the instrument, but she makes the most of the dynamics she can control. No, she doesn’t swing as hard on the flute as Lew Tabackin did, but few jazz flautists were ever in his class and she certainly swings enough. The second piece on this album, Héctor Stamponi’s Flor de Lino, is a tango in 6/8, something you rarely encounter, and here you come to appreciate the seamless interaction of bassist Fernando Huergo and drummer Mark Walker, who play together as one instrument. But yes, keep listening to Lubarsky and the way he listens intently to what Musayelyan plays and picks up where she leaves off, completing and embellishing her musical thoughts. The two of them also seem to be of one mind, and when you combine them with the seamless rhythm backing, you have something really special.

Piazzolla’s Oblivion is not a particularly good or interesting piece of music, but the quartet make it an effective bridge between Flor de Lino and Pedro Laurenz’ Milonga de Mis Amores. The milonga isn’t quite a tango, but it is a cousin, generally danced at a quicker tempo and without pauses. This one starts out rather slowly, but Musayelyan suddenly increases the tempo and we’re off to the races. Musayelyan sings on Como dos Extraños, and her Spanish pronunciation is surprisingly idiomatic (though she doesn’t have much of a voice). With La Muerta del Angel, Musayelyan and her little band kick things into high gear once again, with excellent results.

The album ends with Piazzolla’s most famous piece, Libertango, in a lively arrangement that highlights the counterpoint. For lovers of this kind of music, this disc is a must-have.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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