Combine the classical discipline associated with string instruments with sultry tango melodies and jazz improvisations, and you’ll get the Nuevo Tango style music of Ástor Piazzolla. The Oblivion Project, a band dedicated to the performance of Piazzolla’s music, introduced this style to members of the Binghamton community on Friday night at the Roberson Museum and Science Center.
The museum’s “Vintage 1956-1964” room hosted its first concert during Friday evening’s show. The room was filled with artifacts from that time, such as old appliances and dolls, as well as larger-than-life size photos of stars like The Supremes and Marilyn Monroe. Amidst the stunning displays, the band instantly commanded the audience’s attention with the bass’s deep, defined opening bow strokes of “Buenos Aires Hora Cero.” A quirky, complex and fun song, this piece set the tone for the rest of night. With sounds ranging from deep and sultry to free and fast-paced, the show did not disappoint.
The unapologetically unique sound of Piazzolla’s music shocked the audience’s senses, exposing them to a different genre.
“It opened up a new world for me,” said Nancy Zimmet, a Vestal resident. “I’d never heard tango like that before.”
Cellist Derek Snyder first heard Piazzolla’s music as an undergraduate student at Western Illinois University in the 1990s. He went to Chicago to hear the great Russian cellist Rostropovich play a song written for him by Piazzolla called “The Grand Tango.”
“I couldn’t remember his name,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t until a few years later that I started exploring it and then started this group in 2003.”
Along with the bands’ violinist, Gabe Bolkosky, Snyder put together a group of musicians of varied backgrounds and styles, much like Piazzolla did.
“Piazzolla always kind of mixed improvising musicians with [those who were] classically trained,” Snyder said. “His guitar player was always a jazz-based guitarist, sometimes his pianist was classically based, sometimes jazz, so that’s kind of what we’re doing here.”
While Snyder, Bolkosky and bassist Gerald Torres were all classically trained, pianist Mau Quiros was self-taught, guitarist Erin Vaughn has a background in rock music and percussionist Pepe Espinosa was taught by his father, a Cuban drummer. For some of the members, Nuevo Tango is very different from what they are used to.
“I was gonna be a head banger, touring the world,” Vaughn said. “If somebody would have said [to me] you’d be playing Nuevo Tango in a small chamber group I’d be like ‘yeah okay, of course I am.’”
Bolkosky shared his appreciation for the way Piazzolla mixed his classical training with tango.
“He kind of draws it all together so that people like me who are sort of classically trained can come in and participate,” Bolkosky said. “It felt like the music I’d been wanting to play my whole life.”
The Oblivion Project’s vocalist Migguel Anggelo got his start in acting, but then discovered his love for singing and decided to pursue it full time. Although only featured in three of the evening’s 14 songs, Anggelo played an important role.
In a striking rendition of Piazzolla’s “Balada para un loco” or “Ballad for a Crazy,” Anggelo allowed his love for theatre and dance to shine through. Wearing a thick scarf, with one pant leg pulled up to his knee, it was obvious that this would be a unique performance. Through his expressive facial expressions and twirling and running through the aisles — only stopping to kneel down next to an audience member, place his head on his shoulder and tenderly stroke his head — Anggelo was able to translate the song’s eccentric meaning.
“The song’s in Spanish, the lyrics are so rich, they are so metaphoric,” Anggelo said. “I say I need to do it like I’m acting.”
As a whole, the concert was well-received by the audience.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Philip Cali, a Binghamton resident. “I can’t wait to get to their website and give them a little support.”
Over the years, the members of the band have changed, with Snyder as one of the only constants. Although Bolkosky was one of the originals, he took a long break from the band to pursue other musical projects.
“I missed it terribly, and I’m happy to be back,” Bolkosky said.
Now, however, they are settled in and don’t anticipate any more changes. They are about halfway done with their debut album, which they began recording last year.
“It’s a fine group of musicians,” Vaughn said. “I think all of us could play anything and be happy together ’cause it’s a good group of guys, a good camaraderie and a lot of respect.”