TOSELLO SOLLA REYES, whom I heard recently at the enchanting new venue in Brooklyn called The Classon, consists of the singer Sofía Tosello, the pianist Emilio Solla (both from Argentina), and the violinist Sergio Reyes (from Guatamala). They return to the same location next month, on April 18, and I urge you not to miss them.
Their project is billed as “The Argentine Songbook – Revisited,” which entails mostly but not exclusively tango, and blends a respect for history with the deconstructive panache of experimental jazz. Solla is the driving force of the latter, attacking the keyboard with a visible craziness, and sometimes the wires as well, reaching deep inside the upright piano and generating cacophonies with his bare hands. It was no shock to me that Reyes fit right into this, not only with the violin, but with his trademark melódica, a strange hybrid of an instrument guaranteed to tweak the sensibilities of traditionalists. Still, it is the singer who is at the heart of a song in concert, and Tosello is one I have followed for years. She continues to surprise while still maintaining a continuity of vision, like a traveler whose identity deepens with each encounter, absorbing the byway while refining the essence.
Tango integrated with experimental jazz is, so far as I know, a new place for Tosello to have gone. But even as she went there she never, as sometimes happens in acts of reconsideration, lost the historic bases of the classic tangos she sang; rather pulled our recollection of the songs forward, such that we, as much as she and the musicians, did the reconsidering. “Nostalgias” rose up like a huge inscription, chipped out letter by letter, a stoic monument to private pain and collective loss. “Volver,” which she rightly called one of the “anthems” of the tango, became, in actuality, anthemic, which is to say that it spoke to a larger sense of return than only the individual. In each case, the song was subtly redefined, as collective drama instead of personal lament.
The deconstructive tone was set early in the evening, when Solla went about demolishing the sentimentality of “Malena” by interspersing its verses with resounding chords; the lyrics were recounted, as much as felt, by Tosello, who is greatly emotive but not given to simplistic affect. It was a version of “Malena,” about a singer who sings the tango “like no other,” the identity of whom has been much debated, made more tale than reportage, less about a singer heard in reality than an idealized figure the emulation of whom is fraught with peril: how many singers have missed the aspirational irony of the lyrics, that they can never equal the talent of their mythical subject? “La pomeña,” by Leguizamón and Castilla, was similarly recast, in a gorgeous rendition that gave to a song rooted in the carnival celebrations of northern Argentina an air that was urban and cosmopolitan while still colored by the song’s provincial origins.
A word on the venue. The food and drink are superb, and the atmosphere highly welcoming. By the second set, the initially chatty café audience sat completely tamed. I look forward to returning for the next appearance of these artists, when they are bound to startle me anew.