Mandragora Tango has been playing live tango music for dance since 2001. We've played mostly traditional tango for most of that time, saving our trippyest grooves for very late night dancers. Executive producer Jennifer Kozar asked us if we'd consider making an album that explored this direction. She is a huge fan of electro- and alternative tango, such as Gotan Project, Narcotango and Bajofono Tango Club. She wanted to see what we could do if we tried to mix traditional tangos with electronic and acoustic beats.
We worked with Hip-hop producer Stefon "Bionik" Taylor and came up with "Barrio Longfellow"
Barrio Longfellow" means "Longfellow Neighborhood" and is named after the neighborhood in Minneapolis where all of the musicians on this album live. You can think of it as the indigenous tango of a city not traditionally associated with tango. And you'd be surprised and amazed at how good it sounds and how much fun it is to dance to, even if you cannot tango!
A historical curiosity: the gentleman on the album cover is Robert "Fish" Jones, a Minneapolis fishmonger who speculated in real estate and developed our neighborhood around 1900. He named it after the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Jones built the Longfellow Pleasure Gardens which had the first public zoo in Minnesota. The album cover depicts Jones on a walk with his favorite anteater.
1) El pato zambuillidor argentino ("The Argentine Diving Duck") This track kicks off our first electronic music forray. It is an in-your-face dance tune unlike anything we've ever recorded before. It has nothing to do with ducks.
2) Decadencia Portena ("Decadence of Buenos Aires") is a Bellydance-influenced milonga by Scott Mateo Davies. In addition to his guitar work, he is playing the Ud, which is a 4-stringed Arabic lute.
3) Passacaglia is an homage to both J. S. Bach and Astor Piazzolla. A passacaglia (pass-a-CA-li-a) is a classical form with a repeating bass line. This piece is inspired by Bach's Baroque organ works and Piazzolla's 20th Century fugues.
4) Patotero sentimenal ("Sentimental Gangsta") is a classic tango from 1922. Tango dancers might be familiar with scratchy old 78RPM versions played by Osvaldo Fresedo or Carlos DiSarli. They would be forgiven if they didn't recognize our Arabic-Disco-Tango interpretation.
5) Duelo criollo ("Creole Duel", but in this case Creole means Argentine-born, regardless of race) Another vintage tango which we modernize with Mateo's "Milonga Campera" guitar beat and Bob's Latin piano riffs. You can almost hear knife stabbings in the booming piano bass notes.
6) Miaou (The French spelling of what a cat says) is a fun little vals that mixes up French Musette and Spanish Flamenco with a little bit of circus music.
7) Los verdes y amarillos (The Green and Yellows) A lilting vals dedicated to the Green Bay Packers, who had just won the Super Bowl when Bob wrote this tune.
8) Café con limón (Coffee with Lemon) A jazzy vals dedicated to former Mandragora violinist Alan Kagan, who had the odd habit of putting a lemon slice in his coffee.
9) Los ejes de mi carreta ("The Axles of My Cart") "Because I don't grease my axles, they call me lazy. But if I enjoy the song they sing, who cares if I grease them". A Milonga Campera (Milonga from the countryside) by the Argentine folksinger
Aathualpa Yupanqui. One of Mandragora's favorite late-night groove tangos featuring mesmerizing guitar work by Mateo
10) Barrio Longfellow ("The Longfellow Neighborhood") The title track of this album refers to the neighborhood where we all live.
11) Locura (Madness) A dark, brooding tango with little flashes of light. This was the first song we worked on with BIONIK.
12) Beid el-Jinn ("Genie's Eggs") A little ethnobotany lesson: "Mandragora" is the Latin (and Spanish) name for Mandrake, a plant said to have mystical powers. (If you rip a Mandrake from the earth, its screams will drive you mad). The Arabs believed that the fruit of the Mandrake was the egg from which a Genie would spring.
13) Duelo Criollo - Bionik Remix We locked Bionik, Mateo and Rachel "La Mala" in a studio to see how they could remix Duelo Criollo and this is what they came up with.