Spektral Quartet: From This Point Forward / by Doyle Armbrust


With eyes closed, chin tilting toward the peeling paint on the ceiling, he whips his hands outward with a velocity suggesting the presence of an adversary eager to out-draw him. The bandoneon surges to life, its bellows gasping in a lungful of air like a man nearly drowned. He careens between tightly-coiled chord clusters before shooting a nod to the string quartet, and all five hurtle forward in a taut rhythmic unison.

The sounds encircling your ears are those of Fernando Otero’s De Ahora en mas (translated “From This Point Forward”). These manic rhythms and claustrophobic canons form one of the countless new rivulets diverting from the artistic reservoir that is Astor Piazzolla and his tango nuevo. Classical musicians playing Piazzolla is a path so well-tread that the city has acquiesced and poured a cement sidewalk, but there is an abundance of South American music that remains largely undiscovered here in the northern hemisphere.

Fortunately, this music has a rabid advocate in Julien Labro. We first met Julien when we were paired for an all-Piazzolla set at Northwestern University, and soon after walking off stage we were ravenous for new charts. We started digging and were quickly binging on YouTube videos of Otero and Diego Schissi, the new generation of Argentine composer-performers. Then we were being dumbstruck by the Brazilian provocateur Hermeto Pascoal, who counts amongst his instruments: his shirtless belly, a pig, and the sounds of his own mastication. No need to go back, you read that right.

From Julien’s deft arranging work we have a blistering cello-as-slap-bass solo wrapping up Dino Saluzzi’s Minguito, seductive rendezvous between accordina and strings in Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Floresta do Amazonas and a menacing swagger in Miguel Zenón’s El Club de la Serpiente. The only arrangements here not penned by Julien are those by Otero and Schissi, who were inspired to create their own custom versions for this project.

I wish I had the real-estate in these liner notes to regale you with the stories of the recording process itself: the mysterious dachshund who trotted through the studio and then disappeared, the bout of insomnia that resulted in Miguel Zenón guesting on this album or the mighty wind symphony that called a last-minute rehearsal in the building during our final hours of recording. What I can tell you is that we are on fire for this music, and this collaboration is just beginning.

From this point forward…it’s on.

- Doyle Armbrust