Piazzolla Studio Recordings
Piazzolla's studio recordings are my favorite of his works. The majority of his studio-recorded albums were created in the last 5 years of his life.
La Camorra: The Solitude of Passionate Provocation is my favorite Piazzolla recording. Produced by Kip Hanrahan, this album is breathtakingly beautiful. At times, three or four different melody lines are playing against each other, as in a string quartet, swooping in and out of each other in perfect balance. All the music on this piece is original, and I haven't found another recording of these pieces. It has been re-released by American Clave records, in an attractive gold-colored digipack.
Tango: Zero Hour was Piazzolla's "hit record." When I was in college, doing my work as the radio station jazz director, I saw this record, and didn't even listen to it. I assumed that anything with an accordeon on the cover was bound to be terrible! It wasn't until two years later, when I was renting an apartment in Berlin, that I heard Piazzolla. I went to the Berlin Jazz festival to see the avant-garde Jazz band Last Exit. Lo and behold, Piazzolla was one of the opening acts. My mind was completely blown when I heard him perform. By chance, the apartment I was renting at the time had a copy of Zero Hour. I think I listened to it non-stop of two weeks. This is completely devastating album, almost as incredible as La Camorra.
Pablo Ziegler's piano playing is particularly complex and beautiful on this album.
The cover of The Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night features a really tacky photograph of a couple dancing, with the man's tongue licking the woman's armpit. Perhaps it is a reference to Tango's sordid past as music for bordellos! Never-the-less, this is a solid recording, with a few gems. Some of the songs have a saxophone, which I feel is overbearing in the mix, and doesn't fit well (for me) with the otherwise classical instrumentation. Something fundamental that I like about Piazzolla is the classical instrumentation which provides a foundation for the breathy bandoneon (accordeon). The saxophone has a similar breathy quality, but it's dynamics aren't as subtle, and don't work as well for me.
Five Tango Sensations features Astor Piazzolla playing with the Kronos Quartet. This is a short 27 minute CD of five pieces Kronos comissioned from Piazzolla. these are all string quartets with Bandoneon, with Piazzolla playing. Suprisingly, it works fairly well, due mostly to the fact that the Violin is such a dynamic instrument, so it is able to keep up with the Bandoneon. I've heard a recording of Piazzolla on harpsichord, and didn't care for it: the peformer used post-production on the volume to create harpsichord "dynamics". Like all Kronos recordings, this is released on the Elektra Nonesuch labels, and benefits from an immaculate production. Kronos Fan Page and the Warner Classics page.
Pulsacion fools you into thinking that this is an old recording because of its cover (which appears to be an old photograph). This is recorded with Piazzolla's orchestra, rather than with his quintet. Pulsacion is a wonderful five-piece composition, and this is the only recording I know of it.
Love Tanguedia is a good studio recording of many of Piazzolla famous tangos. A few are found only on this disk. The recording quality is very capable, though not of the La Cammorra and Tango: Zero Hour heights.