Review of El Asunto del Tango by Dutch Saxophonist NIELS BIJL

Australia: everybody owns at least one surfboard, life IS a beach and the wildlife will kill you. To visit the land down under is on millions of bucket lists, but the reasons why make true Ozzies cringe. Same goes for Tango. We all love tango. Piazzolla's so-called greatest invention.

Entrance cue for Jay Byrnes. More Australian than Vegemite, but undoubtedly the undisputed Australasian expert on Latin American Music. His first CD El Asunto Del Tango is a crash course in the history, development and future of tango music. No matter what era, or which saxophone he uses: With invigorating ease, superb narrative skills and obvious passion he will guide you through 99 years of music history. The virtuoso first track Niebla y Cemento is a perfect opening: Jay Byrnes uses his skills not to impress, but simply to tell you a story. This is tango; please take a seat, and listen. Listen to the refreshing new recording of classics like Volver and Che, Bandoneon. Respectfully played, but always with both feet firmly in this new century. La Cumparsita is a real treat: for years it has been a show-off piece for violinists worldwide. Jay plays his alto saxophone with childish ease, and will always leave you smiling and wanting more. And yet these classics are perfectly matched by three (!) world premieres, by Rojas, Muslera and Lerman, proving that tango is very much alive, and so much bigger than this one Astor Piazzolla.
But then you listen to the centrepiece. Track 6. Soledad, by Astor Piazzolla. Pianist Daniel Rojas lays a foundation for a gripping story. Gently, at first, but slowly leaning on dissonants, challenging Jay to come in on his heart-warming baritone sax. Carmen Nieves joins in lovingly, and lifts the same melody to an even higher level with enchanting angelic phrasing. Jay takes the accompanying role very briefly, and invites Michael Kluger to join in on his accordion. Just when you think this ensemble has created the soul of Tango you’re pleasantly surprised to hear the undeniable groundwork of Isabella Brown’s bowed double bass. Within three minutes these musicians explain what music is all about. No ego, no drama. Just simple, accessible melodies, creating the perfect story.

And this is what makes Tango so great. With El Asunto del Tango Jay Byrnes proves that this music is so much more than Astor Piazzolla. Founded by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, Carlos Gardel, Aníbal Troilo. Carried on by Fernando Lerman, Daniel Rojas, Fernando Muslera. And right in the middle, where he belongs: Astor Piazzolla, the greatest storyteller from Buenos Aires. Not essential to Tango, but impossible to forget.


Just like wombats, or Goulburn’s Big Merino. You cannot imagine Australia without them.

Niels Bijl

The Netherlands