Cosmopolitan Tango: Astor Piazzolla at Home and Abroad
Chapter 3 traces the career of Astor Piazzolla, the legendary composer, musician, and bandleader whose travels in Paris and New York led to his invention of the New Tango in the early 1960s. For Piazzolla, North American cool jazz served as a model for transforming an old-fashioned dance music into a sophisticated and up-to-date genre that expressed a cosmopolitan nationalism perfectly suited to Argentina’s anti-Peronist middle class. Despite this debt to jazz, Piazzolla’s music in this period avoided the sort of stylistic fusion evident in Barbieri’s Latin jazz. Since it did not conform to the established formula of a modern, North American genre embellished with exotic, rhythmic elements, the New Tango failed to capture a significant audience in the United States. By the early 1970s, new developments in jazz and rock made Piazzolla’s music sound old-fashioned, and he began to lose his audience in Argentina. He disbanded his quintet, moved to Europe, and dabbled in jazz fusion. In the 1980s, though, the international context shifted again in Piazzolla’s favor. The rise of “world music” finally enabled him to attract North American listeners, which in turn reinforced a revival in his status at home. After the fall of the country’s most brutal dictatorship in 1983, many Argentines sought to rediscover an older version of national identity untainted by decades of violence. Piazzolla’s New Tango, once heard as the epitome of progressive, avant-garde modernism, now induced a comforting nostalgia.