The tango nueva has a new champion in pianist Ziegler, who is well qualified since he was with grand master Astor Piazzolla's bands in the last years of Piazzolla's life. This music is even more challenging than Piazzolla's; it's jazz-oriented and not as swinging, less dominated by the bandoneon, with more piano and electric guitar lead. Ziegler's core band is Walter Castro (bandoneon), Enrique Sinesi (guitar), Horatio Hurtado (bass), and Horacio Lopez (drums), they play on ten of the twelve tracks, recorded in Buenos Aires, Two other cuts with a different band featuring tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano were waxed in N.Y.C.. Once again, this is not music strictly in the tango tradition, or following the path carved by Piazzolla, but an entirely new, creative sound inspired by the modern tango. The three selections that pay tribute to Piazzolla are the 6/8 modal, behemoth romp "Imagenes 676," the last piece recorded by Piazzolla and Ziegler and redone here; "Primavera Portena," with its staccato, head-nodding, and spontaneous half-time accents, and Ziegler's "Astor's Place," inspired by a walk with Piazzolla, actually a stealthy, slinky number that speaks directly to the intimacy of their friendship. The rest are Ziegler's riveting compositions: "Conexion Portena" with cinematic dramatism in its ever-shifting tempos, the similar "Ritmico y Nostalgico" jumpy and all over the place in its urgency, and a highlight -- "Alrededor del Choclo" -- an adaptation of the famous classic tango "El Choclo" or "The Corn," using a circle-the-wagons approach to hinting at the theme, but never actually playing it straight out. The purest tango form comes from the sad sax of Lovano during "Muchacha de Boedo" in agreement with the bandoneon of Hector del Curto, and Lovano's other feature, "Once Again...Milonga," is spirited, the tenor's moves and countermoves shadowed by bandoneon and Ziegler's piano. There's also a Chick Corea-inspired dancing figure as the centerpiece of "Sandunga," for Ziegler's wife, and the scatting, darting, daunting sounds of "Desde Otros Tiempos," which starts as a steady midtempo, goes lugubriously slow, then goes frantic with passion, as most romances go.
In the liner notes, the quite informative Fernando Gonzalez (Miami Herald) calls tango a music of "winks and dares, " a perfectly concise description for what you hear on this truly remarkable and beautiful disc of music. Listen to this in contrast to Guillermo Klein's "Los Guachos II" (Sunnyside) for both sides of the emerging sound of creative music born in Argentina, fueled and inspired by jazz improvisation. The results are revelatory. Highly recommended.