One of the new compositions that Los Guachos played last night was a tight, off-centered round called "Parallel." It was a highlight of the second set and spoke to a deeper truth in Los Guachos' construction: in many ways, this band of eleven speaks in a series of concurrent dialogues. Some of the clearest, most arresting moments of last night's performance came when these two-way conversations rose above the rest of the music—Jeff Ballard and Richard Nant exchanging rhtyhms on drums and bombo; Guillermo Klein and Ben Monder weaving piano and guitar lines between one another's strings; dueling strikes in the horn section cutting through the air like clashing épées.
Many arrangers with eleven instruments at their disposal would deploy them more or less in unison, making loud, bold music. Great arrangers like Guillermo carve lots of small ensembles out of a larger ensemble. The trick is creating a tremendous density of ideas while not piling on too much sonic weight. At this, Guillermo is a master musical manipulator.
Ethan Iverson was there last night as well, and he has a nice review of the show over at Do The Math. (Jeff Ballard, indeed!) And via Ethan's blog, I discovered the meaning of a cryptic remark Guillermo made to me last night. "You're an eminence in Argentine jazz now, people are quoting you," Guillermo told me as we stood by the Vanguard's backdoor on Waverly Place. I laughed it off as flattery, but I should have realized Guillermo doesn't flatter.
In his review of Klein's show at Duke over the weekend, The Thread's Brian Howe cites my Argentine-jazz radio documentary pretty extensively. A nascent discussion is even breaking out in the comment thread with the Argentine bassist Pablo Aslan. (My reply is awaiting moderation.) NPR jazz blogger-in-chief Patrick Jarenwattananon has a must-read guest post there as well.
Photo credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times (from Guillermo's last appearance at the Vanguard, August 2010)