Friday 16 May 2014

Martin Alvarado - The Atlas of Tango

Martin Alvarado - Tango sensation
Catching Martin Alvarado in concert is like trying to snare a shark in jam jar. It is no surprise that this Tango heavyweight was awarded a coveted LUKAS (Latin UK Award) for best concert by an International Artist in 2013, for he is no minnow of his genre in either talent or appearance.

Last Thursday (18/05/2014) I visited the Colour House Theatre, Merton Abbey Mills to try and capture Martin Alvarado in my sketchbook at least. His appeal is a manly one, with hands and shoulders so broad you suspect he has cradled more celestial spheres than Atlas himself and perchance kissed a few lips too.

The man with the barrel chest was not just a brute but also playful too. His third song of the evening Fruta Amarga (Bitter Fruit) was sweeter than the name suggests, with a lilt that made one think of the seaside rather the cold churn of the nearby river Wandle.

Accompanying Alvarado throughout the evening was the dark and mysterious Claudio Constantini on bandoneon and latterly piano. For an artist it is a visual treat to see the bandoneon in full flow. Constantini often had his eyes cast down like a shy lover but it seems his attention was transfixed by the slinking instrument in his hands. It squirmed and wriggled like a child who was being chastised on the knee of a Victorian disciplinarian.

Claudio Constantini - bandoneon
Alvarado switched from comic to heartfelt troubadour in the blink of an eye. The end of the first set was particularly strong with a trio of 'The same sorrow', the rapid fire and up tempo milonga 'Campo Afuera' and Carlos Gardel's 'El día que me quieras'.

The last time I sketched Martin Alvarado was at Lauderdale House, London in 2013 alongside critic and mentor Rich Rainlore. I was captivated by Tango pianist and composer Juan Maria Solare who played an all too brief set. Since then I have been fortunate enough to create the artwork to his latest release which has introduced me to the magic of Gardel. He is back in London next week at Bolivar Hall if you want to experience Solare first hand (Friday 23rd May, Free Entry, 7pm).

The second set started in a purring atmosphere of intimacy, and it was easy to fall under the spell of Alvarado's  Cheshire Cat grin. I realised my hypnosis was complete when I found myself buying a drink for the likable Headteacher next to me in a fit of Tango hedonism.

Alvarado doesn't always talk of love and he was served well on more than one occasion by the sinister musical undertow of Claudio Constantini. Together their music spoke of the rituals associated with loneliness, the repetition and sparse beauty that can sometimes envelope you. The song which epitomised this decent would be Martin Alvarado's performance of 'Alfonsina y el Mar' (Ariel Ramirez/Félix Luna) which tells the tragic story of Alfonsina Storni (1892–1938) who tragically or bravely walked out to sea until she drowned. Luckily life didn't imitate art and the ample crowd at Colour House Theatre negotiated the treacherous river Wandle without any casualties. Although I suspect one or two of the audience fell for the charms of Mr Alvarado.


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