Pablo Ziegler: The Pianist that Caresses our Listening
by María Cabeza
“Tango is a musical style that must evolve and not a ridiculous folklore to distract tourists” – Astor Piazzolla
The excellent Argentine pianist, Pablo Ziegler, delights us, once again, with his presentation at the national auditorium CCK- Kirchner Cultural Center).
After two years without coming to his native country- Argentina-, he captivates us with a proposal that combines his repertoire of “Jazz Tango” with a program for Two Pianos which he called “Dos Pianos Quinteto”.
Ziegler has played “Two Pianos” programs with such great classical pianists as Emanuel Ax and Christopher O’Riley; this was the first time in Argentina with Masae Shiwa, a Japanese pianist.
“Masae has shown that she knows my music and Astor’s very well and interprets it with great elegance and depth. We have been working together for many years but finally, I have discovered this possibility of playing together. I’m really happy with how this duo sounds.” Ziegler said.
His repertoire included themes by Piazzolla as well as his own compositions. He was accompanied by: Walter Castro on bandoneon, Armando de la Vega on guitar and Horacio “Mono” Hurtado on double bass. The special guest was Pipi Piazzolla -on drums-, grandson of Astor Piazzolla.
The place was packed; you could feel a mixture of melancholy and happiness which you can only experience when you listen to music like Ziegler’s. Pablo is jazz, he is tango, blues, a bit of folklore; It is improvisation, it is freedom. That is why he received a standing ovation.
Masae Shiwa in Two Pianos invited us to imagine a perfect world where everything is in tune; with his body movements which accompanied her hands, she pleased us, she made us go Deep inside of us. Pablo Ziegler, in complete concordance, delighted the audience with a masculine look, accurate pose, stern, gentleman if any.
The yin and yan of the same concert.
Masae commented: “For me it was a surreal experience to play the music of Piazzolla and Ziegler in Buenos Aires where the public knows very well what it is about. It was an honor to have been able to debut in Argentina sharing the stage with Pablo, his musicians and Pipi Piazzolla.”
Ziegler met Piazzolla in 1978 and there is no doubt that this friendship and sharing Piazzola’s music made an impression on the pianist. Ziegler’s training is more linked to jazz and classical; even so, the influence of Astor Piazzolla is intertwined.
When Astor passed away, Ziegler continued with this cadence of the master Piazzolla while developing his own imprint.
He lives in NYC and is acclaimed and recognized throughout the world, having won a Grammy in 2005 for his CD “Bajo Cero” and in 2018 another Grammy for “Jazz Tango”. It is an avant-garde of what already existed, since it transformed tango into a rhythm that combines classical, tango, jazz and folk.
A few years ago, the audience did not understand and questioned his music -as well as that of Astor Piazzolla- until, finally, they realized that they were in front of a musician who offered them an exquisite and unique interpretation. He has the well-deserved honor of being a sponsored pianist for Steinway & Sons, who also releases the records of some of their pampered pianists: Ziegler is one of them.
Today, Ziegler positions himself as a revolutionary, a musician who composes and plays in absolute freedom on every stage he steps on.
Daniel Astor- Pipi- Piazzolla is the drummer of his band “Escalandrum”. The name “Escalandrum” was given in honor of his grandfather, the unforgettable Astor Piazzolla. His band is an Argentine jazz group – that’s how he likes to name it – because, “although it has a jazz influence, stylistically you can see that it doesn’t look like anything. That is our great virtue. It sounds like it is from Argentina and that’s why they invite us to play everywhere”, he tells me while driving.
The band is 22 years old; it has recorded 14 albums – they are on record 15 – and has toured 40 countries. They have several projects including one with Elena Rogers and it is at its best, both professionally and personally. “We are a big family”, defines Pipi. The members are the same since we started the band and we even have the manager from the beginning, Horacio Sarria.
Regarding Ziegler’s presentation in Buenos Aires at the CCK, I invited Zielgler to come to Argentina to be part of the Astor Piazzolla centenary. The pandemic complicated us a bit but he was able to close a date at CCK and I ended up playing almost the entire concert.
It was the first time that I played with Pablo in a formal way – other times it had been jam-type. For me, it was a great pleasure to share with former musicians of my grandfather, with those who are contemporaries of Astor. Imagine that I have known them since I was a child; It is a glory, it is fulfilling a dream. I loved being part.
Masae played amazing; she is magnificent! I realized the latter from the first note that sounded in rehearsal. They are two top-class pianists. Masae was also very happy because she adored my grandfather.
Everything came out perfect; there was a fantastic energy, the audio sounded awesome, the auditorium exploded with happiness.
Atilio Talín was the manager, producer and agent of Astor Piazzolla for more than 30 years; his friend and, what best explains it, his brother in life-even if it’s a cliché-. He was present at the concert that Ziegler gave in the CCK auditorium and said that he attended because of the friendship that binds him to Pablo and the admiration he feels for his music. He begins by talking about Astor Piazzolla and tells me “Astor had an electronic octet in which Libertango stood out. It was such a success that any other musician would have exploited that singular phenomenon. One day he tells me: “Atilio, you know that I am a constant innovator, what about going back to the quintet? And I replied: “I understand that it is your intimate fiber, Astor”. Astor Piazzolla was restless, he was always creating; his head was pure music. For this reason, based on tango, he creates a new universal language. “Astor always told me: “My thing is the future” and right there he asks Oscar López Ruiz to call Ziegler (López Ruiz, a jazz man who also knew Ziegler) and he asks me to find the others musicians to complete the quintet.
Pablo did not know tango, but he was so in love with Astor’s music and such was the honor he felt when he was summoned, that he adapted from the outset to interpreting this melody, typical of Ziegler’s professional security. Astor, when trying it out and asking him to play, just by listening to him perform the first theme, he didn’t let him finish to tell him: “Enough, enough! Starting today, you are the pianist of the quintet”. Pablo is a musician who comes from jazz. We were 10 years together. Astor always had “the National Team of musicians”. When integrating a musician, it could be a closer friend, but, if he did not play as Astor intended, with all the pain, he did not incorporate him.
In the concert at the CCK, that idea of two pianos was sensational and very well thought out by Pablo; the Japanese pianist, Masae Shiwa, splendid. That night in Buenos Aires I felt happy; it gave me encouragement. It was a first-class show.
There is no popular music and classical music but good music. And that concert was more than that. Ziegler brilliantly adopted Piazzolla’s musical culture, interpreted it as it was. Astor Piazzolla’s music cannot be changed. That is another value that I recognize in Pablo: respect for Piazzolla’s music.
“Because this quintet lasted 10 years, adds Talín, they could play by heart – without sheet music – and understand each other with their eyes. It was a perfect match.” Ziegler interprets Piazzolla’s music as it has been written, he honors it, he always revered it. Then he presents his own compositions, exquisite, by the way.
Going back to Ziegler’s concerts -now without Piazzola-, in his first ensemble, Ziegler doesn’t play bandoneon, but with a trio he does marvelous things. Nevertheless, as the intelligent musician that he is, he realizes that the bandoneon is fundamental to that music of Buenos Aires.
With very good criteria, he incorporates the master Walter Castro, who is wonderful, on the same level as the rest of the members. Ziegler also composes very nice songs; another thing that differentiates him from others is that he does not copy Piazzolla, he has his own style. As a human being, Pablo Ziegler is an extraordinary individual and, as a friend we are one, in affinity, regarding music. I remember that on tour we were together, one for the other. Considering that he still has a lot of musical life ahead of him, he will undoubtedly always represent his mentor.
Mariano Pichón Grisiglione
Pichón pigeon is a saxophonist from Rosario- son of the renowned music teacher, Juan Grisiglione. He also plays the traverse flute. He is a former founding member of LOS 5 LATINOS- a musical vocal group (1957-2012).
With Pablo Ziegler he worked for 16 years making jingles together with Carlos Alberto Lapouble – until he passed away. The production company was called La Public Jingles y Asociados.
He says of Pablo Ziegler’s concert at the CCK National Auditorium: “I really enjoyed it. With Ziegler we are colleagues and I must say that I was amazed by the concert and the presentation on two pianos together with Masae Shiwa, an unparalleled success”. I am a jazz musician and Pablo too and he has managed to capture the essence of tango, that of Piazzolla’s music and enrich his own.
I repeat, it was a first-class show. Pablo is a great pianist and his entire band makes up a group of musicians who are worth a lot; It is a pleasure to hear and see them.
A pleasant surprise, Masae Shiwa; a Japanese pianist who, without having our idiosyncrasy, interpreted the music of Ziegler and Piazzolla with a very deep feeling, out of the ordinary.
Without a doubt, he affirms, Ziegler is the best pianist that Astor Piazzolla ever had.
He is a sound engineer, musician and artistic producer. What George Martin was to the Beatles.
I dedicate myself to recording discs; I have a recording studio. My father was already recording with Pablo Ziegler- he had a recording studio called Audion. When I finished school, I started working in the studio, learning to record. I went to the Lasalle school and Audion was opposite. So, from school, I would go to the studio with all my classmates.
The concert sounded tremendous, spectacular. I had never seen it with Pipi, it was very good. Pipi is a great musician too; just like the whole band.
Pablo is number one in the world, he is one of the greatest tango pianists and apart from how good he is individually, he was a pianist in Piazzolla’s quintet. What they did together with Piazzolla is one of the most impressive things done in Argentine music.
Ziegler is a very complete musician. He studied conducting for 12 years and originally played classical and jazz music.
Pablo also taught me how to mix, how to record tango and jingles. I worked several years with him and learned music – a very kind person. I am a musician – far from Pablo’s musical level – but he explained to me how to play such and such a thing… it was a very enriching learning experience.
Regarding Masae Shiwa, I had no idea that she played the piano. So, when I saw her on stage, I thought “Pablo brought a Japanese pianist.”
When I left, I confessed to Pablo: “I didn’t know she was a pianist and no at such an outstanding level. Shiwa is extraordinary!”
The place where they played – the CCK National Auditorium – is colossal; the concert was great. Pablo, impeccable; Masae impressive and the band, as a whole, excellent.
People were happy, very excited. They were watching a “First Class” concert.
Photos by Manuel Pose Varela / Courtesy of Centro Cultural Kirchner
María V Cabeza is an Argentinian writer- translatorpublicist. She loves Writing and enjoys the Sea, the Arts, Animals and Freedom.