Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina in 1921. He is often credited as the creator of modern Tango, through his Nuevo (meaning new) tango style. Piazzolla brought Tango out of stagnation and popularised the genre through fusion with other musical styles. The Argentinian composer was a world-class musician, inventor, renegade, and arguably the person that did more for Tango’s worldwide popularity than anyone, except maybe Carlos Gardel. Astor Piazzolla's music lives on in the multitude of covers, interpretations, and homages to his music.
In 60 s and 70 s, Piazzolla was seen as a rebellious figure. He wrote compositions based on his own vision of Tango. The purists baulked at the popularity of his Tango-Jazz and Electronic Tango music. Like many innovators, he was viewed as eccentric by the mainstream media and the conservative musicians of the day.
“Piazzolla is not Tango” is the phrase his detractors used as an attempt to deride his achievements. But Piazzolla believed in his musical style. He was a true pioneer, creating a genre and becoming an icon.
Piazzolla Influenced Musicians In All Styles
Many popular artists we know and love consider Piazzolla a major influence on their musical styles. Some have interpreted and covered his work.
Al Di Meola, one of the world's most respected guitarists, was a fan and released an entire album of the Argentine composer's music. His “Plays Piazzolla” album from 1996 is a classic reinterpretation of music by a man whose reputation was built on reinterpreting styles.
Di Meola stamps his own latin and jazz-influenced style on Piazzolla's music in this incredibly beautiful hommage.
Yo Yo Ma, the American-Chinese cellist, and one of the most recognisable names in the classical performance realm, released an album called “Soul of Tango” in 1997 to critical acclaim. The album contains several Piazzolla tracks and helped create a resurgence of interest in this beautiful music from Argentina.
Here's Ma playing one of Piazzolla's best known compositions, Libertango.
Another cellist, known as Hauser, who hails from Croatia, is a member of the 2Cellos musical group. He has performed in over 40 countries and won many prestigious awards for musical performance. Here's a video of Hauser performing one of the best versions of Oblivion with a live orchestra.
Kronos Quartet, a four-piece group from the US, that performs everything from classical music, to jazz, to African traditional, to the music of Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The quartet of musicians performed live with Piazzolla, as well as popular music stalwarts like David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Tom Waits. Kronos Quartet has won countless awards and accolades stretching back decades.
Astor Piazzolla wrote the music for Five Tango Sensations especially for the quartet, who recorded the album in 1991. Piazzolla played the bandoneón, his main instrument on the album. It was the last studio recording the great musician ever made.
One of the more interesting ‘covers’ is Grace Jones's “I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)”. Based on the melody of Libertango, this modern electronic take on Piazzolla's most recognized tunes was an instant success.
Spanish Flamenco guitarist extraordinaire, Tomatito, and Santa Dominican piano wizard, Michel Camilo, released the album “Spain Again” in 2006 with three Piazzolla compositions.
This wasn't the only time the duo covered a tango tune. The album “Spain” contains a track by Argentine Jazz guitarist Luis Salinas called “Aires De Tango”.
The piano and flamenco guitar version of Libertango is an exciting and innovative rendition of a track that has been covered countless times before
Piazzolla blended classical, jazz, electronic experimental, and Rock with Tango to create one of the most powerful voices in music. His globe-trotting travels lead to extended stays in Paris, New York, and Italy. It was in Italy where he recorded arguably his most famous piece, Libertango.
The composer and bandoneon player wrote for orchestra, film, and quartets, played Bandoneon (a type of accordion, but with a sweeter sound), piano and violin.
Just how far musicians can go with wild interpretations and versions of the Argentine composer's music is not clear yet. Every year, artists release their own homages to Piazzolla's music. KOOP's version of Vuelvo Al Sur is a sort of Latin-jazz summer track with xylophone and voice taking the melody.
Esquire magazine called him the ‘One-man Pink Floyd of Nuevo Tango’. One of the most creative musical forces in any genre left a legacy of over 1000 works which continue to inspire musicians in almost every style of music today.