Julien Labro (bandoneon, accordion, accordina,); Aurelien Fort Pederzoli (violin); Austin Wulliman (violin); Doyle Armbrust (viola); Russ Rolen (cello); with special guest Miguel Zenón (alto saxophone on tracks #3 & #7)
The music of Astor Piazzolla is well known to North American audiences, but what came after the Tango Nuevo revolution?
Julien Labro and the Spektral Quartet have set out to uncover exactly that with their upcoming album on Azica Records, From This Point Forward. “Jazz,” “contemporary classical” or “tango” are genre labels far too cramped to encapsulate the music of Argentine composer/pianist Fernando Otero, whose De Ahora En Más is featured on the record. Breathless fugues, opaque chord clusters and circular grooves here have a tincture of tango, but the language has evolved into something much more risky. Also hailing from Buenos Aires, composer/pianist Diego Schissi has similarly transformed the tango vernacular with tunes like the irrepressible Líquido 5. Perhaps it can best be summed up in the composer’s own words, in email correspondence with Labro and the quartet: “It is display of Full Power, a forceful demonstration of energy...edgy and a bit uncontrolled.”
Labro and the Spektral Quartet began their collaboration after being serendipitously paired for Northwestern University’s Big Squeeze accordion summit. With Piazzolla’s Five Tango Sensations as their point of departure, the group immediately began sleuthing for more recent scores. Crafting many of the arrangements himself, Labro moved across the Argentine borders, embracing the progressive voices of Brazil’s Hermeto Pascoal (think Frank Zappa) and Puerto Rico’s Miguel Zenón. By coincidence, Zenón was performing at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase during the recording of From This Point Forward, and the MacArthur fellow joined the quintet for Heitor Villa-Lobos’s alluring Floresta do Amazonas: Veleiros as well as his own incendiary composition, El Club de la Serpiente.
Astor Piazzolla’s music was not left behind in subsequent generations, of course, and the composer’s careening Milonga Loca is a cornerstone of the album, as well as the quintet’s concert programming. With Piazzolla as the launch point, Julien Labro and the Spektral Quartet will introduce American audiences to a largely-unheard corner of new South American repertoire, and will continue to ask, What comes next?