Stagnaro, Patrono, Almario... and Flaherty?
A world of tango straight out of L.A.
How does an Englishman with an Irish name end up making a CD that includes Japanese-flavored tango performed by great Latin artists?
Published on LatinoLA: September 3, 2002
The groundwork for Tango Fiesta, a compilation of 14 tangos composed by Gus Flaherty, was laid in Flaherty?s childhood when his father, a merchant sailor, would bring back tango records after each stop at his favorite port of call, Buenos Aires. Growing up with the music, Flaherty always had a love for the tango.
But while exposed to it from childhood on, Flaherty didn?t spend much time with the composition of tango. ?I?d written a tango years ago,? Flaherty remembers, ?but I?d never done anything with it.?
That was until he saw a report on the news program 60 Minutes about the tremendous popularity of tango in Finland. Inspired by the show segment, Flaherty started to play with the idea of making an entire tango CD.
Tango Fiesta was arranged and co-produced by Emilio Kauderer whose credits include 11 international music awards and countless credits for movie and feature film scores, and David Pinto, who is known for his outstanding keyboard work. He is also the developer of a new software making it possible for blind musicians and composers to use computers for their work. Kauderer and Pinto also played the keyboards on Tango Fiesta.
The stellar cast on Tango Fiesta also included: Ramon Stagnaro, (lead and rhythm guitars), Ramon Flores (trumpet), Nick Ariondo (accordion), Freddy Ramos (rhythm guitar), Coco Trevisono (bandoneon), Jorge Patrono (percussion), Bobby Bruce (solo violin), Justo Almario (alto & soprano saxophone) and Danny Papakalos (bouzouki).
The idea of Tango Fiesta was to add some international flavor to the tango by means of composition as well as instrumentation. ?I saw this Japanese special on TV,? Flaherty explains Di Me, an Asian Tango, ?and they played tango with the alto sax.?
Recognizing this as a unique interpretation of tango, Flaherty went ahead and used the alto sax on Di Me, which still may not be as unusual as the use of electric guitar for Muevete Con Migo, a score written as an accompaniment for ice skating or gymnastics, or the bouzouki for Tango Hellez, touched up with the sounds of the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Flaherty?s intention was not to just borrow instruments of different countries and write tangos to fit them. Some of the tangos are an interpretation of the country they are accredited to, others make use of said local instruments, yet others incorporate a certain music style that dedicates the number to various countries. For the U.S. and Canada, Moonlight Tango is infused with jazz, and Tango Mexicano uses brass and bandoneon.
But Tango Fiesta is more than merely a line-up of uniquely written tangos. It represents a multi-cultural cooperation that resulted in a beautiful piece of work -- sometimes calm and inspirational, sometimes passionate. It also marks the beginning of a series of various Latin style dance compilations Flaherty plans to publish, all with an equally international line-up of great musicians from North and South America, Europe and Russia.
And according to Flaherty, a recording studio where everybody may break into their own language of Spanish, French or Russian at any time, needs only one thing: ?Emilio Kauderer? he laughs, recalling times when Kauderer would speak Russian with the violinists of the Leningrad Strings. Above just speaking a number of different languages, though, the artists also brought in their individual styles, ideas and interpretations, and made Tango Fiesta a truly international experience.
Flaherty is still enthused about the professionalism and talent of the musicians. He recalls one time when Justo Almario, who worked with stars like Placido Domingo and Jennifer Lopez, was given a wrong address for the studio. When he finally reached Flaherty, Almario was already close to another engagement he had that day.
?He asked me how many songs I needed done, he had an hour,? remembers Flaherty. ?I said ?three?. He came in, did three songs in an hour - and they were great! I said ?let?s not touch them? and added them straight into the recordings.?
A good thing for Flaherty and tango lovers that some years back, he followed the invitation of a woman he happened to sit next to at a burger place. ?She sat there with her bible, and as she left, she told me I should come by her church, they were having a concert.?
Flaherty went and, to his delight, found Justo Almario and other great musicians at the church, ?and they?d jam for 3 hours,? he recalls. Already knowing David Pinto and now Justo Almario, the rest was simply connections. Each of these musicians would know just the right guy to bring in when Flaherty explained what he was looking for, and the result is a disc one can play in the background to relax to, or put on to dance.
Most notably, though, Tango Fiesta is a CD that almost wasn?t: two bouts of cancer during the making of Tango Fiesta certainly slowed the production of the CD, but never stopped Flaherty. A band aid on his arm is the only reminder that this man still undergoes therapy for colon cancer; his lively demeanor and enthusiastic planning for Tango Fiesta definitely don?t.
?We?re now finally starting to promote Tango Fiesta,? Flaherty says, and his excitement shows as he points to the first press releases his work has received. His biggest hope: that Morley Safer, the man whose report about the tango in Finland inspired the creation of this work, may some day learn about Tango Fiesta?s history and maybe even round out his original tango report by taking Flaherty?s story and the players of Tango Fiesta to the television screen.
After all, not only the musicians who poured their work into the CD have impressive credits to their names. After graduating from the Toronto Conservatory of Music, Flaherty studied and played with musicians in Nassau, the Bahamas and Kingston before he came to Los Angeles. There, Dick Stabile, musical director of the Cocoanut Grove, arranged some of Flaherty?s compositions. Stabile also introduced him to renowned composer Henry Mancini and Flaherty spent two years studying with Mancini.
Flaherty?s former works include compositions that have been produced for events like the Golden Eagle Awards, a Royal Command Performance honoring Prince Charles and a Farrah Fawcett television special, and scores performed by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The CD Tango Fiesta is available on its own web site, http://www.tangofiesta.com. The site will also give more information on the various artists involved and links to their personal sites.