Sunday, May 31, 2009

In which I play for a milonga party on a whim.

Last week my mentee (she'll be in HIGH SCHOOL next year!) and I talked about regret. I told her I wished I were more spontaneous, that I could repress my instinct to mull things over before I sign on.

So when my friend Daniel called me on Tuesday and asked if I'd like to play at a tango party with him four days later, I said yes.

Daniel is the tanguero (also maker of biodiesel fuel out of french-fry oil, solar panel engineer, former animal acupressurist and art-gallery owner) who took me sailing on his catamaran and showed me his ruined beach house - which since has burned completely to the ground! - and home gasoline factory.

I said yes even though Daniel has only been playing the tuba for a few months and I expected the worst...

Next day, 8:15 am, he came to my house for a short rehearsal. I wasn't reassured - he had a lot of trouble getting to the down-beat on time, and when you play a huge loud instrument and its principle responsibility is the down-beat, that's bad.

I said: when one gets behind one must abandon beloved cascades of notes (bass runs come at phrase end and are his instrument's primary opportunity for self-expression). "I know you practiced them, but if you're behind you must forget about them and forge ahead..."

Daniel practices his tuba for 4-5 hours a day, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that next day, when we met for our rehearsal at his friend Janet's house, he had improved immensely!

Here they are, aren't they so adorable together?

Daniel GREASES HIS MOUSTACHE when he plays, it's so big and fluffy that otherwise it gets between his lips and his mouthpiece and ruins the seal. (My son, who has played the baritone horn for many years, was an unwilling witness to that early-morning rehearsal and moustache-vaselining and was appalled.)

Janet, Daniel and I practiced five songs that day, and ran them again last night before the party. At that point we had to abandon one of them, it wasn't ready for prime time...

I'd baked a jelly roll to take to the party (I'll post the recipe later) and there was a fine spread. The women all put on their stiletto heels, the lights were dimmed, the dj spun Argentinian disks with keening bandoneons and tenors throbbing out songs of ruined love; couples swirled in slow, dramatic motion.

At 11:00 pm (much past my bed-time) we were announced! People were not sure what to expect, given that they'd never seen me before, and given that they knew Daniel had been thrown out of the tango jam session not long ago ("loud" and "behind the beat" not being a felicitous combination).

All went well. Janet and Daniel were great! And I loved fiddling and singing these emotional songs though they're so misogynistic.

As I understand it, when the Argentinian tango was born, Buenos Aires was a wild-wild west outpost populated by cowboys, speculators, and whores. The songs are all about disloyal, cruel women. My suspicion is that the guys who wrote the songs were jerks and all sensible women would dump them...

I don't know if we'll do this again, but I'm so glad I said yes this time.



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