I have known Emilio Teubal, who is Argentinian, mainly for his appearances as a pianist in tango bands. But what he is, principally, is a jazz artist who both composes for and leads an ensemble. I finally saw him in that capacity at the relatively new, and very nice, venue called SubCulture on Monday night.
Including his own piano, the band consisted of eight instruments, the others being electric bass, clarinet, tenor sax, cello, electric guitar, trumpet, and drums. I list them because I was struck by Teubal’s full band sound, which was rarely dominated by a single instrument, much less by solos or showpiece moments. I closed my eyes frequently as a way, I think, of cutting out the visual particularity of looking at any one musician at a given time.
The multiplicity of sounds, and their relative simultaneity, seemed to me to add up to the component parts, if you will, of rather ordinary, but complex, human experiences. Some jazz ensembles produce the aural equivalents of journeys, or landscapes, or love stories, or triumphal events. Teubal, on the other hand, calls to mind tasks or actions with which we are all familiar, like stretching after a deep sleep, rising from a profound labor, walking determinedly but aimlessly, like a child learning to walk, or dealing with grief. Indeed, two of the compositions played Monday were inspired, respectively, by Teubal’s young son and by an untimely death.
Experiences like that are culturally inspecific; people everywhere awaken after sleep, father sons, or reflect on loss; but Teubal, in his foreswearing of virtuosic structure, shapes them in a particular way. His compositions widen, rather than build to a height or converge on a point, and when done they do not close in on themselves. Someone said to me afterwards that listening to them was like watching dye spread through cloth, a near perfect image except that the edges of his compositions are not vague but have a definite, curved boundary. They open like fans to their maximum width, without retracting the emotions we have felt or the states we have been placed in.