A quartet led by Pablo Ziegler repeatedly broke my heart at Polsky Theatre on Saturday. The sadly elegant music of the Quartet for New Tango sounded as if it was inspired by the brevity of lasting love affairs that are inevitably cut short by mortality.
Ziegler was the pianist in Astor Piazzolla’s groundbreaking Quinteto Tango Nuevo in the 1980s. I was among the thousands of converts who marveled at the Argentinian ensemble’s landmark 1986 albumTango: Zero Hour.
Saturday’s concert for an audience of about 300 opened with what might have been a sly tribute to Kansas City’s jazz tradition. Ziegler’s solo piano statement on “One Again… Milonga,” a track from his 2007 album Tango Meets Jazz, evoked Count Basie.
While the selections were meticulously arranged, Ziegler and bassist Pedro Giraudo made great use of a handful of opportunities to delve into jazz-based improvisations. The contributions of elite bandoneonist Héctor Del Curto and cellist Jisoo Ok, a woman best known for her collaborations with jazz musicians like Regina Carter, were just as splendid.
I was initially disappointed that ”Chin Chin” was one of only three Piazzolla selections on the program. Yet renditions of Ziegler’s original material were no less engaging than interpretations of Piazzolla’s compositions. Our earthly lives may be painfully brief, but the two precious hours spent immersed in Ziegler’s rapturously anguished music provided wondrous revelations.