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Los Tangueros del Oeste
Alma Vieja

Avantango Records
Review by Tom Orr

Nuevo tango isnít new. The French/Argentinean Gotan Project and a few others of their ilk have been at it for a good number of years - in the footsteps of Piazolla and others that went first, though there are still trails to be blazed within it. Bassist and bandleader Sascha Jacobsen no doubt knew as much when he formed San Francisco-based Los Tangueros del Oeste (Tango Players of the West). I suppose any band that mixes traditional and modern sounds still runs the risk of irritating purists, but thereís no good reason to carp about Alma Vieja.. The zesty rhythms of tango are at times smoothed out a bit by electronica additions but just as often enhanced by jolts of flamenco and jazz. And at no time do they lose the characteristic passion that makes tango so appealing and subtly sensual.

Several tracks, ďMilonga de Los MuertosĒ exemplary among them, benefit from having their torchy, heartfelt vocals all but untouched by technology while the musical accompaniment has a light sheen, including beats that never overplay their hand, that packages the singing in such a manner as to make both sides of the equation appreciated all the more. On the instrumental pieces, itís the acoustic sounds of piano, upright bass, bandoneon, guitar and violin that donít have their space overly invaded, instead being allowed to roam the electronic horizon as the dominant force rather than the secondary one. The overall sonic approach of the album doesnít always hit the bullís eye, and it could simply be personal preference that compels me to cite a few brief moments when the vocals resort to rap cadences that detract rather than enhance. But for the most part, itís classily crafted stuff that will make tango dancers (which the band reportedly does include onstage in their live shows) want to hit the floor in addition to providing a refreshing thrill for anyone with ears to hear. - Tom Orr

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