by Katy Bourne
As a writer, it is sometimes very difficult to capture the riveting loveliness of an experience and translate it into mere words. This is the dilemma that I am confronted with now as I attempt to write about a very enchanting band that I had the pleasure of hearing last night at Bake’s Place. I am talking about Ben Thomas and his magical group Tangabrazo.
As the name suggests, Tangabrazo plays tango music or, more specifically, the three main styles of tango dance music: tango, milonga and waltz. Although the band typically plays for dances, this show was a rare opportunity to perform in a distinctly listening venue. As such, the group was able to delve into more improvisation and also to expand its repertoire to include modern arrangements more suited for listening, as well as original compositions.
Tangabrazo features bandleader Ben Thomas on bandoneon, vibraphones and cajon, Alex Chadsey on piano, Jeff Norwood on bass and Eric Rynes on violin. There is some serious musical firepower in this collective of musicians. Individually, each has deep and impressive resumes that would take several blog posts to cover. However, while I in no way diminish the mastery of these musicians, the thing that made this band tick for me was the spirit and reverence that they brought to the music.
I am certainly no expert on tango music. I know relatively little. I can only write about how it makes me feel. It was only six or seven months ago that I became hip to Astor Piazzolla, when my son Emmett gave me “The Rough Dancer & the Cyclical Night.” Since the introduction, I’ve been mesmerized by the richness and the beauty of this music. Last night was like a freefall into a dream. The band created a lush musical landscape that transported me to another place and time. For once, my over-thinking brain was quiet, and my experience of the music was completely visceral. They played a variety of material-from classic dance milongas to a handful of Piazolla compositions to an original tune by Ben- and created a nice weave of moods and tempos. A true ambassador to the music, Ben explained the background of the specific styles that the band was playing and also shared stories about the songs. I was struck by his infectious enthusiasm and by the authentic joy that shone brightly through his playing. The audience would have happily followed him anywhere. Eric Ryne’s violin was so achingly beautiful that I came close to tears a few times. I spoke with Eric after the show. I told him that any compliment that I could pay him would be too small and I meant it. Alex Chadsey and Jeff Norwood kept a steady rhythmic presence throughout and built a solid foundation for every song. This is a team that shares an almost otherworldly synergy, and I was delighted to go along for the ride. As I was walking out to my car after the show, I felt full.
I am so glad that Tangabrazo is making this music and sharing it with the rest of us. We live in such a fast and complicated world. It is sometimes difficult to ease back for the bigger view, to shut off our brains and to simply experience life through our hearts and our senses. Listening to this band play is sweet refuge. I highly recommend it.
For more information about Tangabrazo, please visit www.tangabrazo.com