Monday, February 22, 2016

Tango Extremo

© -  Steven A. Cerra - copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Based in The Netherlands, Ben van den Dungen is a superb soprano and tenor saxophone who performs on a regular basis with the Latin Jazz group Nueva Manteca and with his own quartet.

He is also a member of Tango Extremo, a sextet dedicated to the music of the Tango that was founded in 2003. Tango Extremo has played at many venues and stages all around the world including: Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, Turkey, Kurdistan, Ireland, Croatia, Russia, China, South Africa, Botswana, Bolivia, Uruguay, South Korea, Greenland, Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, Aruba, Curacao, St Martin, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and of course The Netherlands. In August 2009 they performed at the Buenos Aires Tango Festival in Argentina, the most prestigious tango-festival in the world.

Ben sent me preview copies of two of Tango Extremo’s latest CD’s and I was very much captivated by the music on them.

The first thing this struck me about Tango Extremo was the high caliber of musicianship on display by all concerned and how “tight” they were as a group. Tanya Schaap on violin, Ben, primarily on soprano sax, Hans van der Maas, accordion, Rob van Kreeveld, piano, Allesio Bruno, bass and percussionist Geraldo Rosales play their music as one.

Another strong impression that Tango Extremo’s music creates is that it swings - the music has a metronomic insistence to it much like Jazz.

And although Tango Extremo sounds like a traditional Tango Band, at the same time, its music is innovative and original. Perhaps this is because their approach is similar to that of Program Music - music that is intended to evoke images or convey the impression of events.

Most of their recordings are based on themes, for example, compositions and composers associated with Russia, its culture and its people. Tango Extremo has also released a CD that focuses on the musical melting pot of the nightclubs of the 20s and 30s in Paris and Berlin. Themes are also drawn from classic film noir movies or Carnival in Rio.  In March 2016, Tango Extremo will be touring The Netherlands with a very special program based on its own version of Western Europe biggest classical masterpiece, the St Matthew Passion.

The group’s latest CD is entitled Project Havana which is described as follows in the accompanying press release:
“This time Tango Extremo comes up with a new exciting project: Havana! The group has arranged and combined breathtaking tunes from two important South American harbour cities: Buenos Aires and Havana. Although there is a large distance between these cities, in the music that was born there we find interesting similarities and musical elements that were just asking to be combined. We did that and the result of that you will hear on this album. Both cities breath love, despair, sadness, jealousy and passion and so does their tango, their danzon, their charanga. Come along to a sleepless and sultry night out with us!” - Tango Extremo’s website is loaded with videos with examples of the music of each of its 10 CD’s well as order information which you can also find on the Jazz and World Agency’s site at

Here are two sample videos that I developed which will provide you with a taste of what’s on hand in the music of this wonderfully distinctive band.

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