Back in 2020, what feels like an eternity ago in this COVID interregnum, Orquesta Típica Andariega put up a fundraiser for a modest amount of €2.500, seeking backers for a new album of Osvaldo Fresedo covers. The amount was reached, and a digital download was released to those who donated on November 21, 2021, followed by a release on Bandcamp.
I was elated. This will sound wrong but bear with me: I hate Fresedo with a burning passion. I cannot stand hearing the orchestra, and I only dance to it by mistake, or when my apetite for dancing is stronger than my hate of the music. I wondered, and hoped: can Andariega make Fresedo's music palatable to me?
I would predict that he would get their signature "machine-gun" treatment such as "Margarita Gauthier" (which I love) from the earlier album Avanti. Yet the anticipated demolishing mostly has not happened: of the 8 songs on the album, six arrangements could be considered "traditional" and the dancer won't have any trouble identifying the tune. In only the last two burst out the quintessential Andariega staccatos to spray-paint the original canvas with some graffiti, and these are re-editions of their earlier work.
Traditional or otherwise, all the arrangements are made to please the crowd. While I have only ever played Buscándote and never any other Fresedo's recording on my milongas, I'll be happy to throw every single song from Fresedo con Amore into my sets.
The band is keeping their guns holstered for three quarters of the way, and interpret Fresedo's music without deconstructing and re-assembling it.
Sollozos, which in its original form propels me from the dance-floor towards the bar in 3 seconds tops, inherits a lot of its sweetness; plenty of sugar, but not overwhelmingly so. Less caloric, yet more nourishing.
Marisol Martinez enters the scene a few seconds after the two-minute mark, like an old "cantor de la orquesta" would; here as in the rest of the songs, she is part of the band, not its center of mass. I enjoy this nod to the Golden Age tradition. For this to work, the arrangement must be good enough to carry the tune with just the instruments, and this one is. As are all the others.
Isla de Capri has recently appeared on Dango, cleverly disguised as Det var på Capri and sung in Danish, makes a comeback with Marisol Martinez delivering it in the original Spanish. Unlike Fresedo's pre-diabetic sugar crush, Andariega's rendering has way more punch without sacrificing any of the song's lyrical qualities.
The better part of the story is instrumental, and the band tells both parts of the story: the uplifting, celebratory exposition, followed by a suspenseful counter-narrative, telling most of the story until Marison Martinez joins to declare the conflict resolved and finishing the song on a positive note with a recap of the main theme.
Sueño azul is dreamy and upbeat as the title would suggest, and there is no internal conflict to resolve. I felt that this song came dangerously close to over-sugaring it but the line was not crossed. At this point of listening to the album for the first time, I marveled at the restraint, or indeed respect, that the bandleader must have for the old bastard Fresedo, not to shoot through the melodic line with Andariega's staccato firepower. It was not to be: this album was not going to go post-modern, I thought. It was going to be a thoughtful re-imagining of Fresedo's music without a hint of irony.
Well, not so fast, soldier. In Siempre es carnaval, I've heard the first indication that Coviello was not going to just re-tell the same old tales without spicing them up if only a little bit. At first listen, my suspicion had not yet arisen: it sounded like plausible Fresedo, only with balls. It was after having made myself, under self-imposed duress, to actually listen to the original for the purpose of this review (yes, my dear reader, I did this because of you) that I realized how far this arrangement has departed. And what a marvelous job it does to show this gem of a song in a new light! It's still a happy walker, with just a lot more punch and oomph.
Now we get to the first instrumental of the album: Tigre viejo. I will admit that the original is quite passable, despite the violins still sometimes triggering me, as if Fresedo had run out of sugar before the recording session started on Thursday, August 16, 1934. I will give him that, yes.
Now, my most beloved rendering of this tune is by Tango Bardo, and I was anxious to hear how well could Andariega compete.
And you know what? I won't declare a winner, that would be silly. Andariega can certainly claim merit on their interpretation: it's just as charged and uncompromising. Imagine a bag of nails and razors being thrown into a rotating cylinder and being made to watch as it spins, faster and faster, breathlessly anticipating the first coming out any second and cutting through your skin but, miraculously, it does not happen: all sharp objects remain contained therein. And such it is with the arrangement: inasmuch as it would naturally lend itself to Andariega's usual treatment, the song ends up whole.
In simpler words: it's still a good ol' Tigre viejo.
The last new arrangement of the album is En la huella del dolor. The arrangement sharpens the staccatos but otherwise does not depart into novel territory. I've enjoyed the interplay of violins and piano startng about 0.44" and then again at 1.41", which is also present in the original; here, though, the piano responses reminded me of Biagi.
The last two songs are re-editions of Vida mía, originally appearing on the 2017 album Balliamo, and Buscándote from the album Gira gira of Sexteto Andiamo, reviewed here. I wish the band had invited Marisol Martinez to join them in re-recording these two instead of just including them as-is.
This reviewer found himself in an awkward position of holding two contradictory emotions simultaneously: disdain for Osvaldo Fresedo and lots of love for Andariega making a tribute to him. The band won me over, as I expected they would.
A kind listener who appreciates Fresedo's music will find a lot to like on this album, too. Perhaps more importantly, so will the dancers.
Every single track on this album is made for the milonga. The tempos are just right, starting with a comfortable walking tempo of the first three, and then speeding it up one notch for the other three. It's 1930s dance music recorded with 2020s technology, a pure joy for your ears and feet.
We've seen European bands taking the COVID break to indulge in making concert music, as you've read here in my reviews of Tangostoria by Bandonegro and Misión Tango by Cuarteto Soltango, for example. It's the Argentines who are reclaiming tango for the dancers again, most recently Tango Bardo with Roberto Minondi, and now Andariega with Marisol Martinez. For that I am thankful.