Tomás Cotik & Tao Lin

Piazzolla: Legacy

A successful tribute album accomplishes four goals: It serves as a gateway to the honoree’s original recordings; it stands alone as great art, regardless of the listener’s level of familiarity with the source material; it interprets the tunes in a fresh way; and it showcases the artistic strengths of the recording artists. A fine example is the Kronos Quartet’s 1985 album Monk Suite: The Music Of Thelonious Monk. In the years that followed, the Kronos Quartet would introduce fans to Argentine tango icon Astor Piazzolla, thanks to “Four, For Tango”—a track on the 1988 disc Winter Was Hard—and the 1991 album Five Tango Sensations, which was a collaboration with Piazzolla. Today, Argentine violinist Tomás Cotik and Chinese-American pianist Tao Lin are also in the business of saluting Piazzolla (1921–’92), a master of the bandoneon. Cotik and Lin’s 2013 tribute to Piazzolla, Tango Nuevo (Naxos), generated positive reviews, including one from DownBeat. The duo’s new album, Piazzolla: Legacy, has as its centerpiece the four-part, 21-minute suite Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, which illustrates these brilliant musicians’ ability to shift tempos. The violinist and pianist can gracefully wring emotion from heartbreaking ballad tempos or generate fireworks with breakneck riffs. About half of the 13 tracks are duets, while the rest of the program adds acoustic bass and/or two percussionists. Alfredo Lerida recites poetic lyrics on one track, “Balada Para Un Loco.” Among the songs that these musicians infuse with exciting drama are “Milonga Del Ángel,” which Piazzolla included on his classic 1986 album, Tango: Zero Hour. The liner notes to Piazzolla: Legacy include an informative essay by Fernando González, who explains how Piazzolla reshaped the tango genre with a style that drew upon European classical music, jazz, klezmer and rock. Cotik and Lin are to be applauded for demonstrating ways in which Piazzolla’s music can, in the right hands, retain its core genius in a variety of instrumental settings. (Cotik and Lin will perform selections from the new album during a March 27 concert at Broward College’s Bailey Hall in Davie, Florida.)