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Los Angeles Times March 05, 2001
A Musical Crossover, on a Grand Scale
Music * The works of Astor Piazzolla, whose tangos draw from jazz, classical and Latin genres, are enjoying new life.

The jazzmen have joined forces with the Quintet for New Tango led by Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler, who made his mark with master composer Astor Piazzolla. Rehearsing Piazzolla's "Fugue and Mystery," the ensemble wails and growls and slides from tango to jazz and back again.

"Piazzolla had always wanted a pianist who didn't come out of the tango," said Ziegler, 56. "Everything was written out in Astor's music, but I started to improvise. And he would say: 'Yes, I like that. Improvise. But don't improvise in jazz, improvise in tango.' We made his quintet much jazzier. Tango and jazz approached each other. And we reached a point which I have taken as the starting point for my group."

Piazzolla's father, an Italian immigrant barber, taught his son to love the tango. The young Astor fell in love with the big bands of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in Harlem and hung out with roughnecks and boxers--including a teenage Jake La Motta, the future champion to be immortalized in the movie "Raging Bull." For the rest of his life, Piazzolla spoke a fluent English heavy with the inflections of Little Italy.