CD Review: Tango Pacifico (from the Willamette Week)
May 12th, 2010 Posted by: Brett Campbell
Revirado (Furbco Records)
[NUEVO TANGO] The great Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla earned the ire of tango traditionalists for doing for that once-disreputable dance what composers from Dvorak to Gershwin, Louis Armstrong to Bob Dylan did with other grassroots musical forms: used it as the basis for a more sophisticated art music that never sounded like it was slumming.
Since then, classical musicians from Kronos Quartet to Eroica Trio to Yo-Yo Ma have dabbled, with varying success, in the composer’s sublimely skewed mixed meters. Although it likewise features a pair of Oregon Symphony players (assistant concertmaster Erin Furbee, bassist Jeff Johnson), Portland-based quintet Tango Pacifico’s Piazzolla tribute tweaks the tension between traditional and modern that gives his music its edgy energy.
All the group’s members, including San Francisco bandoneón player Adrian Jost, veteran multifaceted guitarist John Mery and pianist Mika Sunago, have studied this music at the source. (These CD release performances will also feature soprano Janice Johnson and dancers Rebecca Rorick Smith and Mike Naus.) The quintet expertly handles the tricky rhythms and shifting imagery of “Escualo” (which mimics the darting moves of its namesake, the shark) and the title track (which means “unruly, rebellious or irreverent”). It ably captures the fervor of “Concierto Para Quinteto” and the cafe lilt of “Decarissimo” and “Fracanapa.”
In ballads such as “Romance del Diablo” and “Milonga en Re,” which has the feel of a slow dance in a bar at closing time, Furbee’s lovingly nuanced, singing violin displays its classical pedigree yet never allows elegance to undermine the music’s passion. Revirado deftly dances along the line between tango’s origins in Buenos Aires’s corners of ill repute and Piazzolla’s ambitious art music.
About the Artists:
Erin Furbee joined the Oregon Symphony as Assistant Concertmaster in 2001. Prior to her arrival in Portland, she was a member of the Colorado Symphony for eight years, and she also played with the Milwaukee Symphony for a season. Originally from Chicago, Erin began the violin at age 4 with Rebecca Sandrok; she also studied with George Perlman and Betty Lambert. She attended the University of Michigan, received her Bachelor’s degree in Music from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and was a graduate fellow at the University of Minnesota. Erin’s main teachers have been Camilla Wicks, Raphael Fliegal, Jacob Krachmalnick and Roland and Almita Vamos. She has performed as a soloist with the Oregon Symphony, the Colorado Symphony and the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestras, and in December, 2009, performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Yaroslavl Philharmonic in Yaroslavl, Russia.
In addition to her great love for performing classical music, Erin enjoys playing tango music, a passion she developed after first hearing the music of Astor Piazzolla in 1997. While living in Denver, she and fellow bandoneon player Evan Orman co-founded a four piece tango group called Extasis and traveled to Buenos Aires in 1999 to study with musicians in many of the tango orchestras there. She has since made three more journeys to Argentina over the past 5 years, and was very lucky to be able to work with Jose Bragato, Piazzolla's cellist and arranger on a cd project for piano trio called Bragatissimo. In Portland, Erin performs with two tango groups. In 2001, she formed Tango Pacifico, a 5-piece band which specializes in the music of Astor Piazzolla. The group has performed with Fear no Music, on the Chamber Music on Tap series, the Oregon Symphony Gala, and at Tango Berretin for dancers. Tango Pacifico received a grant in 2002 from the Knight Foundation to perform a show of tango and samba music, and recently released their first CD, Revirado in May, 2010. She also plays with Orquesta Tipica Krebs (a group formed out of its predecessor, Conjunto Berretin)-an 8 piece ensemble which often performs at milongas for dancers, and has been featured at Portland Tangofest and Valentango.
Erin is also an avid chamber musician and teacher. She was a member of Fear no Music for five seasons, and performed with the Bellingham Chamber Players for many years. She taught a class at Portland State University on orchestral repertoire/auditions, and has given master classes at schools and universities throughout the Oregon area. She enjoys teaching, and maintains a private studio in Portland. Her summers are spent playing at the Belllingham Festival of Music and the Chintimini Festival in Corvallis.
Mika Sunago, a native of Sao Paulo – Brazil, has performed and placed in several national and international competitions throughout Brazil, USA and Japan. Moving to the USA in 1987, Mika Sunago completed her Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Piano Performance and Conducting at Indiana University. Mika has accumulated vast experience in solo and chamber music. During the years when Mika lived in NY city, she was a collaborate pianist for performers such as Leila Josefowicz, Hannah Chang and Christine Walewska. She was also an accompanist for many opera singers from the Metropolitan Opera House. Her performances and interviews of Latin American music have been broadcast in radio and TV programs in the US (NPR), Japan (NHK & ABC), Austria (ORF), Argentina (Solo Tango & RAE) and Brazil (FM Cultura/TV Cultura). Mika has performed chamber music and solo concerts throughout Brazil, Argentina, Japan, and US, including Puerto Rico. Now living in Portland-Oregon, she taught at Reed College for many years and has been soloist with the Columbia Symphony. She has also performed with local groups, such as Third Angle Ensemble, Fear No Music, Portland Opera, Oregon Symphony’s Nerve Endings and Tango Pacifico. In addition to engagements with several groups Mika has collaborated in recordings of many CDs and TV programs of contemporary musicians (Steve Reich, Lou Harrison). Mika has three CDs released: “Between the Tropics” (collections of solo Latin American Piano Music), “Café 1930” (Piazzolla Tangos) and “Bragatissimo” (piano-cello Tangos). A new CD with Tango Pacifico (tango quintets) is scheduled to be available in 2010. Mika is also an oncology Registered Nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, OR.
John Mery was born in Santiago, Chile, grew up in the US and has lived, studied in Europe. John began playing the guitar as a child, and like most guitarists, was originally interested in rock and other popular styles. He discovered the classical guitar after his family moved to Spain when he was eleven; it greatly inspired him. Upon returning to the U.S. he dedicated himself to the study of classical guitar. His skills earned him a scholarship to the guitar program at the University of Arizona where he went on to receive a master’s degree in guitar performance. During his time as a student, John was invited to perform in master classes held by some of the world’s top guitarists, including David Russell, Abel Carlevaro, Oscar Ghilia and Christopher Parkening. He has studied with Thomas Patterson, Steven Saulls, Gerd Wuesteman (Germany), Pedro De Castro (France and Spain) and Carlo Barone (Italy). In 1993 John won the Schaeffer Memorial Guitar Competition. John has performed as a soloist and in ensembles across the U.S., in Europe, and in South America. He moved to Portland, OR in 1999,where he became head of the music program at Portland Community College. Since then, he has become a regular member of the Northwest music scene as he continues to perform and record in a wide variety of genres and styles. He is a founding member of the Oregon Guitar Quartet. John has been playing tango, some of the first music he heard as a child, for a couple decades. He rediscovered tango music through the music of Astor Piazzolla during his college years. John's other passions include gourmet cooking and traveling (he speaks several languages fluently). He shares his time and talent with his wife and two children.
Jeff Johnson was born in 1957 in Missoula, Montana. He graduated from the University of Montana in 1980, and received a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music in 1982. He also studied for a year at the Cleveland Institute of Music. From 1982 to 1992 he was Principal Bass of the San Antonio Symphony. He has been a member of the Oregon Symphony since 1992. Jeff maintains an active extracurricular performing schedule. He is a member of the Third Angle New Music
Ensemble , Tango Pacifico, and the Sunriver Music Festival Orchestra. In addition, he teaches at the Community Music Center and frequently coaches with youth orchestras. Jeff‘s interests are mostly musical, but he also likes to read, write, hike, and golf. He is married to soprano Janice Johnson, and they have two children, Margaret and Timothy.
Adrian Jost studied music in the French Riviera and his native country, Switzerland. As a young boy , he won the gold medal of the French Association of Accordionists at age 11. This led him to study the
Bayan with composer Fritz Tschannen, Switzerland’s teacher of teachers, and later with world-class performer Stephane Chapuis. He completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Yverdon, won the 1996
Landis&Gyr contest , and came to Chicago to work for Siemens. There he discovered
Tango while pursuing a Master’s degree in science at Northwestern University. The high-tech industry brought Adrian to the Silicon Valley where he co-founded Trio Garufa, a tango group that plays for dancers and concerts throughout the San Francisco area. He has traveled to Argentina many times to study with the great bandoneon masters of Buenos Aires, and dances tango as well. He also plays with Tango Pacifico, a five-piece tango group based in Portland , Oregon , which specializes in the music of Astor Piazzolla.