Young woman posing with a violin

Went to our gloriously funky Columbus Symphony's Latin Fiesta (Homage To Tango) at the Southern Theatre, Saturday May 21, and man, was it muy tremendeso (please forgive my pidgen Argentinian language problems, I mean, they do speak Espanol down there, don't they or is it Portuguese; Doris, hon', google dat for me, wouldja, babe? Thanks so much!).

Back in my record store days, I never listened to tango all that much and when I did, I didn't listen to a lot of it. It was--if you can believe this--actually too moody for a guy like me. Which is nuts. Because even I know I'm musically at least one of the moodiest sonsabitches on the planet. Chuck Berry's got nothin' on me.

Nevertheless, I've been down with Astor Piazolla ever since I found my myself hanging out with Happy Chichester one Sunday afternoon after a weekend gig at Cleveland's Agora back in the day, in a CBS record company rep's office, to be exact. After an interesting half-hour's discussion about this'n'that she excitedly showed us 10 Astor Piazolla CDs she just gotten to pass out. Pretended I knew who the heck he was so she would give me one. Thus, I remained puzzled about the music for several years until I finally "got it."

CSO's first piece was Last Round by Osvoldo Golijove (and here I'd like to say, whoever in the f*ck he was but I know better: he's a highly accomplished composer of Argentine classical--which tango is sometimes called--and quite still alive), a fabulously frantic piece, practically a musical version of Hitchcock's breathless action on Mt. Rushmore, pure edge-of-your-seat drama.

Then the breather.

Where everything in the first movement were (was?) as if either running up a hill or running down, an exhausted, deep melancholy took over. The conductor Rossen Milanov's arm motions had sort of a mechanical sense to them before the tone changed to a graceful weaving and sewing together of violin lines. My notes said something like, 'six minutes into this and I'm already exhilarated, beautifully deflated and sure another flurry of fury is coming.'

I wasn't wrong. The piece ended with me shaking my head at its extreme but deep emotional votality. Prisoners were taken, prisoners were exchanged. Astor Piazolla up next.

The late great A.P'.s The Four Season of Buenos Aires, was I think, one of the coolest pieces of foreign, alien music to me I have ever heard. With the lioness of a violinist, world-acclaimed Bella Hristova, taking the lead, I think at one point I was having an out-of-body experience. Tango is obsessed with passion and for some reason the Argentines interpret their passions with high-strung emotionalism, a string heavy Morse Code of, oh I don't know, a million-and-a-half 1/32 notes. There must be a lot of men walking around with fingernail scars on their backs in Argentina. The shit is out of control.

Even more amazing: Piazolla's avant garde moments. Ms. Hristova's parts several times called for to play completely unaccompanied by our massed orchestra. And when she wasn't out-shredding Eddie Van Halen or even Quiet Riot's Rudi Sarzo (yes, I know he was a bass player, shut up and let me boogie), she did wildly non-musical things on the violin. Like make a descending screeching sound, or plucking a weird pattern or another strange almost non-musical ploy. It was cool as hell. Never heard an orchestra get or a star player get that wild.

OK, now, this will be a stretch even for you folks who were at Monterey and Woodstock. While she didn't nor couldn't much sound like Hendrix, I swear to god, she was doing stuff I think as 'out' as Jimi did during his utterly beautifully adventurous free-jazz interpretation, Machine Gun, his sonic ode to the existential horror of the Viet Nam war.

No, she obviously couldn't feedback or make her fretboard go screaming into that dark black night of the soul. But in many ways her part of the Piazolla Four Seasons was a tango equivalent, it was that bold and bodacious and bursting with Argentine soul passion.

Look, I'm not completely nuts. I sort of facetiously used the word 'funky' to describe the CSO as such in my first sentence.

But if you read the history of tango, it was dance invented by slaves in the 19th century in Argentina and eventually married to the music of European expatriates in the very, very early 20th century. And if I may be so un-humble as to say, the Hendrix comparison metaphorically works: he was a Cherokee/African-American and psychedelic blues painter. You want to make devastatingly great music--equally mix (or unequally) mix cultures that technically seem poles apart.

You just gotta find the right genius to do that and the best players who can understand his how and why. Saturday night at the Southern was a melting pot almost unimaginable to me.

By the way, it was my first tango concert--ever.