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  • Jonathan Widran

Håkon Skogstad, 8 Concepts of Tango

Though a cursory understanding of the history of Argentine tango and Astor Piazzolla would surely provide helpful context, listeners who check out the exotic feast for the ears veteran Norwegian pianist Håkon Skogstad and his amazing octet (including two bandoneons and a string quartet) throw down on the ambitious, perfectly titled album 8 Concepts of Tango can fully engage and immerse in its sexy and sensuous charms, percussive dynamics and dramatic flourishes without it.

That’s because more important than simply mining the genre’s history, Skogstad has, over the course of his three solo albums, been creating an exciting new chapter for contemporary audiences. The epic, melodic, rhythmic and emotionally eclectic 8 Concepts of Tango caps the fascinating trilogy the versatile musician and composer began in 2018 with the solo piano collection Two Hands to Tango and expanded on Visions of Tango (2021), a Norwegian Grammy winner for best classical album that included Skogstad’s original Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra.

From the frolicsome romantic adventure “Caserón Porteño” (ode to a Buenos Aires hotel that helped cultivate the talents of aspiring artists) through the feisty, high energy Renaissance and Baroque music flavored “Battaglia” and haunting yet hopeful, string quartet driven reflection “Lamento,” the new eight track program draws inspiration from Piazzolla’s Octeto Buenos Aires.

Other highlights on Skogstad’s road to expanding the landscape of nuevo tango are the gentle and graceful, then purely whimsical “A Contemplative Rhapsody,” the tough-edge staccato intensity of the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra-inspired “The Anvil” and the lush and lyrical “Romance para Ocho.”


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