We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Juan Pablo Jofre and his bandoneón
We rarely review instrumental music but we make an exception for JP Jofre whose bandoneón literally sings in his hands; it sings of Argentina's culture, it's people and its history.  Invented in 1840 by German instrument dealer Heinrich Band, it was brought to the New World by sailors and laborers and rapidly established itself in the milonga, precursor to the tango.

It is popular not only in Argentina but also in Uruguay and (surprise!) Lithuania.  In the 20th c. it was popularized by Astor Piazzolla.  It is somewhat related to the concertina but played very differently from the accordion.

In the hands of Mr. Jofre, the bandoneón becomes an extension of his body and the playing a kind of dance.  Yesterday Mr. Jofre appeared at the Somethin' Jazz Club, a charming and intimate venue in East Midtown, with a group he calls the Hard Tango Chamber Band, comprising Daniela Candillari on piano, Fung Chern Hwei on violin, Jessica Meyer on viola and Ron Wasserman on bass.  Guest artists were Amy Kang on cello and Sita Chay on violin.

We think of jazz as largely improvised, making it difficult to think of this music as jazz inasmuch as all the parts are scored.  Aside from a piece by Mr. Piazzolla, one by Mr. Wasserman and an arrangement of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus",  all the music was composed by Mr. Jofre himself.

This is serious music with many moods and colors, finely shaped melodies and driving rhythms.  It feels highly influenced by the tango but it isn't dance music.  It is music to listen to and to feel.

Mr. J.'s bandoneón is a beautiful instrument of ebony wood with delicate inlays of mother-of-pearl.  When Mr. J. plays it becomes a part of his body and the music comes from the heart.  We were delighted to share the experience.

© meche kroop

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