MP3 Gonzalo Bergara - Porteña Soledad
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10 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Gypsy Jazz, LATIN: Tango
Show all album songs: Porteña Soledad Songs
Gonzalo Bergaraâs first CD is music, all music, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. Music. Chops? Sure. Mad, wicked, hella chops. Enough to make you wonder if this is humanly possible if youâre not Jimmy Rosenberg. But mostly just music.
Repertoire? Originals. All but one, originals. The one? Some of These Days. (And when was the last time you heard that one?) This is a composerâs CD every bit as much as a playerâs.
And the whole thing is about as upbeat as a late Beethoven Quartet, which is to say, not very. This is not triumphal Louis Armstrong filtered through Django Reinhardt with minor 6ths thrown in. This is a brooding, dark, melancholy collection. There are three up-tempo originals, but even two of those have a tinge of sorrow. Five are downright gravid with tears.
Seldom do we go to popular music for serious concerns, but thatâs almost the only place Bergara does go. He has what Miguel de Unamuno called âthe tragic sense of life.â If, there is a theme here it is something like, âthe human condition is hard, but not without beauty.â Begara does what great artists do: he offers a unique perceptive locus from which to view the world, so you can see life a little more clearly. But he never patronizes you by suggesting itâs all beer and skittles.
The CD opens with a track entitled B-612. Now this is either a vitamin supplement or the name of the asteroid Le Petit Prince comes from. Like the book, the track is charming almost childlike. It is only at the bridge that the first touch of sweet sadness intrudes. And all on clarinet. Rob Hardt plays the opening theme. Thatâs a kind of musical generosity that doesnât occur on very many first time recordings.
And when was the last gypsy swing C D that demanded a political response? The second track, Insulto, begins with Lou Dobbs railing against the U.S.âs porous southern border, a border that Bergara crossed on his way up from Buenos Aires. Then a tinny piano that might have been recorded in a crummy bar in Nogales plays quiet block chords that grow more insistent until Dobbsâ voice is drowned. That distraction cleared, the guitars begin. The theme could easily have been the soundtrack for Babel, haunting and ineluctable. And I wonder with someone as careful as Bergara, if it can be an accident that the first three letters of the title are I.N.S.
By the third track, Elenaâs Bossa, another quality of Bergaraâs compositional strategy comes clear. Keep the main motif simple, really simple. There is a starkness, an unadorned clarity to every melody. He leaves himself no place to hide. You can learn Elenaâs Bossa in an afternoon. (And youâll want to. Itâs an obvious standard in exactly the same way that John Jorgensonâs F.A. Swing is an obvious standard.) Everybody throws a homemade bossa onto his CD these days. Itâs just that this one is better.
Como Una Flor is so delicate, so sweet, I feared I might sink into a diabetic coma. But then comes the solo, theme and variation, with such astringency, the balance was impeccable. He could have crossed Niagara Falls on a high-wire in a tornado and never missed a step.
You have to get all the way to track five for unalloyed joy. Meatwadâs Revenge is the bastard off-spring of Fats Waller and Charlie Parker. It opens with an Omnibook style riff that would be right at home sandwiched between Donna Lee and Ornithology. Then a ârhythmâ bridge brings it slap into Fatsâ barrelhouse. Again, the major player on this track isnât Bergara, itâs John Jorgenson on clarinet. And it is a spectacular solo, as if both Sidney Bechet and Benny Goodman were sitting on Jorgensonâs shoulders whispering ideas into his ear which he transmutes as seamlessly as a simultaneous translator at the U.N.
Then Some of These Days. You want chops? Hereâs chops. But whatâs really fun is the variety of sounds he coaxes from his guitar. And the counter-melodies he wrestles from the original. Shelton Brooks is one of the great under-appreciated American originals and Bergara nails his masterpiece.
To be quite frank, Blues for Charlie is kind of a cheat in the originality department. Mostly itâs a straight riff blues that doesnât break any ground that Blues for Ike and Blues Clair havenât raked over just as well. Then he throws in a bridge. Not a completely different song âlike, say Viperâs Dreamâbut a bridge that fits perfectly and breaks open the form in a nifty way. Once again he completely trusts his sidemen. Itâs Rob Hardt again, a regular member of Bergaraâs four man âTrioâ Gonzalo, this time on sax. Itâs a lovely change of texture and they blend and play follow the leader with each other, in a way that gives life to this fundamental form. Bergara happens to be a scratch blues guitarist. But here he takes only two choruses and leaves the rest of the piece to Hardt. Of course, the choruses are as jewel-like as a Jan van Eyck. But still, he arranged it for the music not as a showcase for his technical skill.
Charcos (which I believe refers to pools of the kind that form on the street during the rain) begins with twist around a virtual radio dial (tinny again) that settles on a bass obbligato and simple guitar strum. Then a rush of static is followed by a crystalline statement of the theme on guitar and Jimi Hawesâ rich, fat, subtle bass lines come into focus. Itâs as if Bergara wants us to learn to listen more carefully, to be able to tune out the static to hear the beauty underneath, the way you learn to see rainbows in the oily film that floats on those puddles.
Agridulce (Bittersweet) is another gypsy bossa, and if it isnât as perfect as Elenaâs Bossa, it is an implicit restatement of the essential purity of his whole concept: a steady pulse overlaid with a simple but compelling melody. Melody is central to Bergaraâs music. He is a bewitching improviser, but the melody is never far from his heart.
The CD ends with the eponymous Porteña Soledad, (A Buenos Aires Solitude). Needless to say, this isnât a last track romp to leave everyone smiling. But in the way of all great art, despite the fact that the pathos of the melody borders on the suicidal, you do end up smiling. Because itâs so damn good. The pulse is methodical, almost plodding, but finally relentless. The theme moves forward, hesitates, stops, moves on. It is almost the polar opposite of the end of Waiting for Godot, where Gogo and Didi say they have to go, but they donât move. This music suggests one canât go on. And then goes on.
Gonzalo Bergaraâs music exists in a way that very little music does. He has lavished such care on ever phrase, built each arrangement with such lapidary precision and pared away anything extraneous, the music becomes sculpture. It has weight, density, gravity. This is serious. And deeply moving.
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