Roberta on the Arts: Pedro Giraudo Big Band at Jazz Standard

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 12, 2016
Read the Original Review on Roberta’s Website

”Muñeca”, “Push Gift”, “La Ley Primera”, “Lapidario”, “Desconsuelo Suite” (“Maté amargo”, “Con un nudo en la garganta”, “La Bronca”).

Pedro Giraudo, from Argentina, infuses his music with the roots of Argentine tango and Argentine folk music, and his compositions and styling also exemplify the Big Band influences of Ellington and Mingus. Coincidentally, I had just posted a review of Giraudo’s most recent album, Cuentos, and tonight’s concert featured many compositions from Cuentos. Sitting right next to the big band, specifically next to the trombones, in a front table at Jazz Standard, I not only listened but truly absorbed the fantastic, effusive sound. This first set opened with “Muñeca” (“Doll”). Ryan Keberle, on a trombone solo, as in the recording, presented lots of percussive flourish. The brass section merged with Jess Jurkovic on piano and Giraudo on bass, with contrasting and harmonized themes heard throughout. The sixteen-man band became individualized during its luminous solos, duets, and trios. It should be mentioned that Giraudo composed the music for the entire set. I noted in the CD review that “Muñeca” could be a score for an adventure film, with its drama, pulse, and flashy brass. Speaking of brass, the muted trumpets weren’t muted for long, with searing edge, taut syncopation, and propulsive urgency. Tatum Greenblatt, for one, was in rare form on trumpet, catching my attention with his resonant tonality.

The second composition, also from the album, was “Push Gift”, which was written in homage to Giraudo’s wife, as she recently gave birth to their second daughter. The gift is a tradition to help the mother-to-be at her time to “push”. The saxophones opened with Carl Maraghi maximizing the musical drama on a baritone sax solo. It became immediately apparent that this was a seasoned and disciplined ensemble. In fact, when I reviewed Mr. Giraudo’s Big Band here at the Standard in 2008, many of the same musicians were already working together. “Push Gift” included echoing, energized, and electrified passages. “La Ley Primera” (“First Law”), inspired by a long, Argentinean poem about a cowboy, showcased Alejandro Aviles on mellow, melodic alto sax, throughout. Trombones and saxes provided ambient backup with flashy breaks.

A premiere work, “Lapidario” (“Lapidary”), was written as a description of cutting or merciless comments, even comic “lapidary comments”, as Giraudo explained. It should also be noted that Giraudo was generous in his comments to the audience, further engaging its full attention. Baritone and alto sax solos were followed by a portentous chorus of trombones. Todd Bashore, on alto sax, went wild with a raucous, explosive theme. Jonathan Powell, on trumpet, added one more searing, pulsating solo, before the saxophones sent trills of notes, like tumbling waterfalls, on the heels of the full, big band. The final composition of the set was the three-part “Desconsuelo Suite”, “Mate amargo” (tea of bitter herbs), ), “Con un nudo en la garganta” (with a lump in your throat), and “La Bronca” (the rage). This piece was exceptionally percussive and imbued with clavé rhythms and Latin embellishments. At this moment I thought of the bands I’d heard at the Copacabana. Giraudo’s bass solo had inflections of Piazzolla tangos, poignant, emotional, and transporting. The soprano sax was scintillating in a pianissimo interlude. Soon saxes raced like speeding taxis in whirling repetitions. A solo trombone drove the finale, fusing with piano and bass.