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Hilliard Greene
Invitation to the Dance - Reflections
Argentine Tangos


by Hilliard Greene
July 23, 2002


By Hilliard (Hill) Greene, NY Jazz Bassist

July 23, 2002

When I traveled to Buenos Aires for the second time, I stopped at the Wine Club to hear Nestor Marconi and his ensemble. I was so knocked out by what they were doing, that I decided to explore Tango. Several weeks later, back in New York, I went to Joe's Pub to join Roberta Zlokower for a Pablo Ziegler Trio concert, with Pablo Aslan on bass, Satoshi Takeishi on drums, and Pablo Ziegler on piano. I got totally hooked. What they were able to do with, to, for, around, and through the music was very inspiring. I remember telling myself, throughout the evening, that this was a great style and performance format for a bass player.

After the performance, Roberta introduced me to Pablo Aslan, and I immediately arranged with him to study Tango bass. Pablo is an excellent teacher. Part of my study is to attend live Tango performances, at Milongas and other events, where I am able to listen to the music and observe how the musicians interact with each other. Another aspect of my study is to listen to a growing collection of recordings of artists that represent all approaches to old and modern Tango, so I can build the concept and feeling for the music.

The most important aspect of my study is what I do for my own personal practice. Although Tango is new for me, my 30 plus years of playing and studying classical and jazz helps me understand the music of Tango. Yet, there is much to learn. I spend most of my time analyzing what a bass is doing at any given moment, during a song, and how it blends with the instruments. Pablo Aslan is very important in helping me understand this relationship. He is able to explain the what, where, and why's of the different players and how to listen and how to feel. He explained the three horizontal layers of the music and displayed how the bass can travel between all three layers. Traditionally, in jazz, a bassist will stay close to the bottom layer, playing music that supports the band. Pablo also shows me the basic Tango rhythms and explains the history of each of the rhythms, so I can understand and appreciate the music.

My stereotype of the bass, that the bassist would play glissandos every two measures, was blown out of the water! In Tango, nothing could be further from the truth. I have also come to understand that the harmony in Tango is similar to Jazz harmony, with harmonic rhythms moving in the same pattern. Yet, certain aspects of musical form are different, and I am studying songs and vocal-based orchestral music. Until I am more comfortable with the Spanish language, which actually makes the music more interesting, it will be difficult to totally get a handle on Tango music.

I plan to practice, in the near future, with a seasoned artist, like Maurizio Najt, the wonderful Tango pianist from Uruguay. I hope other Tango musicians will follow Maurizio with offers to jam, as is the practice in Jazz, since this is the way players develop performance skills, by playing with others, who are more experienced than they are. Although it can be extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable, it is a viable way to grow into an avid performer.

The process of exploring Tango is giving me the good feelings and joy of discovery that I had, when I was first learning to play Jazz.

Hill Greene checks out the Tango at SPICE

Hill Greene on Bass

Photo courtesy of Hilliard Greene

To hear some of Hill's music, Click here.

To check out Hill's website, go to http://home.earthlink.net/~hilliardg/.

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