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I figured that producing an album of this scale was going to be daunting, so I called my friend Ignacio Varchausky (tango musician, producer, educator and radio host) and asked if he would help me brainstorm. Ignacio has produced tons of tango album…he’s been to this rodeo many times. I told him that I thought it would be important to strike a balance between a number of factors: instrumentation, compositional style, tango style (because there are many different tendencies and sub-genres in today’s tango), gender, even nationality and geographical location – today’s tango boom is happening in Buenos Aires, but also in places like New York, Paris, and Tokyo.
At first it felt impossible…I told Ignacio that with all of the new tango music being produced, it felt like I would need to make 30 albums, not one. However, very quickly it became apparent that there were parameters that helped narrow down the pool of artists. For one, the piece of music that inspired the project (Astor Piazzolla’s Histoire de Tango) is instrumental, so that meant we wanted only instrumental pieces, and composers who mostly create instrumental music (as opposed to songs). Also, I was specifically interested in composers who perform their own music, so that brought the number down. And then Ignacio gave me something really interesting to think about: he asked me what kind of relationship I had with each of the artist. Did I get along with them? Did I trust them to follow through on the tasks I would be giving them? I believe this was some sage advice. Most of us thing of producing a recording (I know I used to) as a solely artistic endeavor. But once you start producing you realize very quickly that a big part of the job is about creating budgets, scheduling, solving problems, and meeting deadlines…not exactly romantic stuff.
So, on Ignacio’s advice I made a really, really long list, put it into a spreadsheet, added comments about the different types of parameters (style, instrumentation, etc.) and played around with it. And then I started putting out the invites, having chats with composers, answering their questions about how the whole project would work. Everyone loved the idea, so we were off to a great start.
It took a while to finalize the list. Producing an album with 11 composers and their groups is sort of like juggling 11 balls, each of which is juggling between 2 and 16 balls of its own. There were artists who loved the idea but had scheduling conflicts, artists who never received a call from me because I had too many of one type of group or style and I needed to squeeze in another, and most of all, artists who loved the project from the first minute and ended up being available. The puzzle came together piece by piece.
In the end I think there could have been several possible versions of this album, all of them excellent. But the final lineup is truly amazing: there is an incredible range of instrumentation, from solo bandoneón to full tango orchestra; there will be guitars on 3 of the 11 tracks; there will be flute and saxophone. There will musicians from and based in Argentina, the US, Japan, and Europe. Most of all, there will be a lot of really, really inspired music that represents what tango is in 2020.