Initiatory and revealing experiences can occur in particularly unpredictable circumstances. The child Dani Piazzolla was a little boy who spent hours and hours practicing in front of the 88 keys of a piano, until one day he got fed up with academic discipline, decided that artistic studies bored him and chose to “make the life of a teenager normal”. Thus two years passed without an instrument passing through his hands. But one good afternoon of soccer in the stadium of River Plate, the team of his loves, he stumbled upon an exhibition of a band of drums and drums and experienced his particular fall on the road to Damascus. “That day I went crazy and I knew there would never be a plan B. I realized that even if I walked away, the music would always come back to me.”
More than three decades have passed since that epiphany, Daniel is today revered under the nickname of Cheek, has a long dozen titles as a member of Escalandrum – an essential formation in the Buenos Aires jazz scene – and the wise pulse of his drumsticks has accompanied international geniuses such as Chick Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, Gary Burton or the song diva German Ute Lemper. He has naturally assumed that everyone identifies him from the outset as “Astor Piazzolla’s grandson”, a reference that will accompany him until his last breath. And, despite the overwhelming nature of his resume, he is a flag of disarming humility. “As a drummer”, he sums up by phone from his Buenos Aires home, “my goal has always been to play in the most conducive way so that others can shine”.
Those the rest will be, starting this Saturday in a performance at the Sacred Art Festival (FIAS) of the Community of Madrid, the other four members of Piazzolla x100. It is a kind of Spanish-Argentine superband born to honor the legacy and teachings of Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla, surely the most important composer in the southern country, whose centenary of his birth is celebrated this March 11. The idea of honoring his illustrious grandfather arose in May from a conversation between Pipi and Federico Lechner, the Argentine jazz pianist based in Madrid. And both did not take long to complete the line-up with other greats of that new jazz generation who does not shy away from traditional sounds or the demanding chamber music or symphony. This is how Claudio Constantini’s bandoneon, the double bass of Antonio Miguel from Zaragoza, and the voice of that young and versatile Salamanca prodigy, Sheila Blanco, who already season many sauces come together.
The father of the so-called “nuevo tango” was highly contested at the time by the guardians of orthodoxy, always so jealous of purity. And this despite the fact that, at just 18 years old, the good old Astor had already accompanied Carlos Gardel on his bandoneon in New York and that a few years later, after his return to the southern cone, he joined the orchestra of an eminence like Anibal Troilo. “But my grandfather did not want to put a stop to his passion for jazz or classical music, which was instilled in him by a Russian piano teacher”, notes Daniel Piazzolla. And he warns, from an admiration that goes beyond consanguinity: “Tango has room to transgress and change skin, but Piazzolla makes it very difficult for us. My grandfather’s music has validity until beyond the year 3000. And he achieved it, to even greater amazement, from complete solitude: there was no movement of composers, all his achievements were obtained by himself ”.
Choosing the repertoire of Piazzolla x100 has been a devilish five-way sudoku game: each member voted for their preferences, but striving for a balance between vigorous themes, ballads and vocal pieces. That, and that his scores left room for improvisation. “The melodies are sacred, pure perfect”, certifies Pipi. “We would not dare to change a single note. But we have looked for the holes for the improvisational adventure ”.
They have asked him a thousand times about his grandfather, of course. As many as his father, Daniel, who in the eighties took over synthesizers in the electronic octet of the great master. So many years and stories later, Pipi is still moved when he looks back on 1983 and that night of Astor’s glory at the head of the symphony at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. It was the already incontestable consecration, the thunderous ovation. To immortalize it, the composer took a copy of the program and dedicated it to Pipi in his own handwriting: “For my dear little grandson. Never forget the night your grandfather triumphed ”.
“He was a happy man”, recapitulates the percussionist. “His best advice was to play a lot of jazz, to listen to the Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett Trio, and to always try to make new, cutting edge music. That was his obsession: not to repeat himself ”. Hence, the five vertices of Piazzolla x100 have been conjured so that his six presentation concerts in Madrid (Saturday 20 at the Teatro Salón Cervantes in Alcalá de Henares, 21 in Alcobendas, 23 and 24 in the capital, 27 in San Lorenzo de El Escorial and 28 in Parla) are reasonably different, even starting from the same repertoire. They will constitute one of the first episodes for a new edition of the FIAS, which this year, despite the pandemic, offers 47 concerts between February 18 and March 25. Of them, 19 are absolute premieres and 15, specific commissions of the festival itself, increasingly eclectic in styles and further away from its classical origins and limited to music of religious inspiration.