Special to The Record
Quartango, Canada’s original tango band, is bringing its own distinctive take on the sensual ballroom dance to the Comox Valley in a couple of weeks.
Since its formation in the 1980s, the quartet has left its own stamp on the music by insinuating jazz, Celtic, rock and other unexpected influences into cunningly innovative arrangements.
The quartet received the 2015 Juno Award for instrumental album of the year and the Opus Prize in 2013-2014 for world music album of the year as well as being a Félix Award finalist in 2014 for world music album of the year.
All of those honours were for its album Encuentro, which is Spanish for meeting.
Quartango member Jonathan Goldman said the title stems from the mingling of cultures in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires that created tango.
“As a port town, it was a place where a lot of people from all sorts of places from all over the world would live together,” he explained in an interview. “You would have people from Europe, from Spain, from Italy … eastern Europe, northern Europe, Poland, Germany, Russia and, importantly, too, you had musicians from West Africa.”
Tango has always been a product of these different influences, which Goldman said has appealed to Quartango members since its inception.
“We like to see how the tango can incorporate other genres and other stylistic idioms without losing its identity.
“Tango’s always been … nostalgic music. It’s very evocative music. When we play music people often tell us, ‘It’s like going to the movies where I can see a little cinema before my eyes.’”
Goldman explained that Quartango was Canada’s first tango band when it formed more than 30 years ago. Three-quarters of the musicians were immigrants from Argentina and Uruguay, where the tango originated.
In today’s all-Canadian lineup, he plays the bandoneon, a type of concertina (small accordion) particularly popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania.
“Bandoneon is really the instrument of tango,” said Goldman.
Bassist René Gosselin from Quebec is the only original member still with the band. He’s the principal double bass with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain.
Stéphane Aubin is a composer, concert pianist, arranger, musical director, accompanist and vocal coach of many well-known singers.
Violinist Antoine Bareil, a graduate of the Music Conservatory of Trois-Rivières, is a scholar of the Wilfrid-Pelletier Foundation, winner of the Canada Music Competition who also studied at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria.
Goldman said Montreal is a tango hotspot.
“If you’re into dancing tango, there are dancing events every night of the week. They’re called milongas … it’s really popular.”
An associate professor of musicology in the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Music, Goldman lived for six years in Victoria, where he was a professor of music at UVic.
“In Victoria, there are two (tango) dance schools I know of and there’s a tango festival.”
Goldman, who has been in the Comox Valley although he has never played at the Sid Williams Theatre, might learn when he’s here about the Comox Valley Tango Collective, which holds regular events.
The selections Quartango will play in Courtenay will also form its next album.
“It’s a way to showcase all those different influences, all those cultural encounters we make within the tango.”
With the new recording, Goldman says Quartango wants to evoke the spirit of Montreal in the 1940s and 1950s when the city “was famous for its nightlife, jazz clubs … tons of famous artists, jazz musicians from all over who would perform in cabarets.”
Quartango performs Nov. 3 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay. The 2016–2017 Blue Circle Series is proudly presented by Odlum Brown Limited. For concert details and tickets, visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit 442 Cliffe Ave.