Tango Pacifico was formed in 2001 by violinist Erin Furbee, Assistant Concertmaster with the Oregon Symphony. The band is heavily influenced by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinean composer and bandoneon player. Tango Pacifico members include Erin Furbee and Oregon Symphony bass player Jeff Johnson, as well as top-notch local musicians Alex Krebs, bandoneon, Janet Coleman, piano, and John Mery, electric guitar. Pepe Raphael, vocals, is also a frequent guest with the group as well as Adrian Jost, bandoneon and Mika Sunago, pianist.
Tango Pacifico has been featured with the Oregon Symphony, the Chintimini Music Festival, Ivories Jazz Lounge, the Oregon Symphony Galas, the Bellingham Chamber Players, Chamber Music on Tap series, The Old Church series, and at Tango Berretin. In 2002, the ensemble received a grant from the Knight Foundation to perform a show involving tango and samba music, and in 2010, their first CD, Revirado, was released, receiving critical acclaim. Members of the group have studied Piazzolla’s music extensively including numerous stints in Buenos Aires, and have worked with Piazzolla’s longtime friend, arranger, and cellist Jose Bragato.
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Unique to the group is the bandoneon, a fiendishly difficult instrument to play, and a cousin to the accordion. It is often referred to as the “devil’s box” because of its awkward buttons arranged in no particular order. “It’s like having to learn four different typewriter keyboards”, according to Furbee. Given the difficulty of Piazzolla’s music, and the rarity of bandoneon players in the US, the group is very fortunate to have Alex Krebs in their ensemble.
For those not familiar with his work, Piazzolla revolutionized the traditional tango by forming a new style of music termed tango nuevo, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music. In addition to playing with musicians from Argentina, Astor Piazzolla performed and recorded with vibraphonist, Gary Burton and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan as well as other jazz luminaries.
Tango Pacifico’s music stays true to Piazzolla’s tango Nuevo style in its incorporation of elements of jazz, its use of extended harmonies and dissonance, and its use of counterpoint. There is also an element of improvisation, with the musicians embellishing melodic lines and adding percussive effects to the mix. The result is an individual style that transcends the combinations of influences.
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