5 @ the 1st plus Payadora Tango ensemble 24

Review by Judith CaldwellreviewerJudith
The Toronto quartet, Payadora Tango Ensemble warmed the audience on a cold November afternoon the second of the 5 @ the First 2015/16 series of concerts with tangos from Argentina.   Tango apparently comes in both dance music; either the familiar syncopated rhythm or a more waltz-like variety, or as a performance piece not meant for dancing and Payadora offered the audience all three.  The concert began with a fiery, passionate syncopated tango called ‘Retrato de Julio Ahumada’ by Leopoldo Federico which featured a piano solo in the middle and earned audience appreciation.

The members of the tango ensemble

The members of the Payadora Tango Ensemble

  Most of the music in the first half was unfamiliar but was engagingly introduced by members of Payadora –Rebekah Wolkstein, violin, Joseph Phillips, bass; accordionist Branko Dzinovic, and Tom King– piano.  Each is an extremely accomplished musician with a classical background.
All have branched out into multiple directions and that is probably necessary to be able to play tango well with its classical Spanish influence overlaid with African rhythms, folk music and klezmer hints.  They played ‘Milonga Pour Deux’ with a habenera beat; a loud and lively ‘Payadora’ by Julian Plaza; an urgently rhythmic Argentinian folk song by Astor Piazzolla,  a passionate ‘heart on the sleeve’ love song by Pedro Loren, and a slow simmer on the back burner by Osvaldo Ruggiero – and that was all before intermission.
Being much more familiar now with tango, the audience was ready for more and the second half began with a big intro to ‘Tanguera’; a lush, syncopated, expansive work with visions of ladies in sweeping dresses taking long steps.  Then they moved to ‘Danzarin’ by Julian Plaza which is apparently famous in the dancing community, but one would need to be an excellent dancer to do justice to this mercurial work.   Next was El Choclo known to those of a certain vintage as Kiss of Fire, it is actually translated as Cob of Corn, but still sounds like a vintage Hollywood tango. More drama was added with ‘Los Mareados’ and soul with ‘Quejas de Bandoneon’, a truly lovely piece.
An extra ‘party piece’ which showcased each ensemble member was lively, fun and difficult and led to mid-performance applause for the rocking bass and the wonderful jazz piano.  By now it was difficult to tell who was having more fun – the audience or the performers.  The afternoon wrapped up with ‘Retrato de Milton’  Astro Piazzolla which gave a blend of a soulful violin;  intense accordion; a quiet introspective piano and a supportive bass – it allowed each to shine but showed all were necessary to make it work.  A fitting finale to a warm concert by some very talented musicians culminating in a well-deserved standing ovation.
5 @ the First returns on January 23rd,  at Hamilton’s First Unitarian Church.



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