On a humid spring night in Texas, East Austin was abuzz with anticipation. The vibrant energy was in the air, not just because it was the opening weekend of SXSW but because Beekman33 was in town and ready to tango. This year’s event presented a unique combination of musical styles in the intimate setting of the Milonga Room; a candlelit, fairy-tale space ornately decorated in lush red and deep gold housed in the basement of The Buenos Aires Cafe.
Our first musical offering showcased the styles of Astoria Tango Revue, a trio led by accordionist Dr. Janusz Grebowicz. Accompanied by Bruce Saunders on guitar and myself on clarinet and sax, dancers took to the floor as the trio performed renditions of classic Tangos and Milongas such as “La Cumprasita”, “Los Ejes De Mi Carreta”, “El Choclo”, and more obscure works like “9 de Julio” by Jose L Padula and “To Ostatnia Niedziela” by the great Polish composer Jerzy Petersburski, who served in the Polish Air Force in 1939 then later led The Belarusian Jazz Orchestra in Soviet occupied Poland. Artists like Petersburski inspired a young Janusz to discover his love of accordion music. During summer afternoons as a young man growing up at Iwanki Królewskie, his family’s lakeside home, amidst the backdrop of the beautiful Polish countryside Janusz absorbed tango music. Sipping on Polish beer and strong vodka, taking breaks to snack on mushrooms known exclusively to the region, Janusz spent hours practicing the accordion and studied the standard Tango repertoire as well as a diverse array of romantic music. Like many of the artists associated with #Beekman33, Janusz is an expert in other fields. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Janusz is an award winning Associate Professor of Natural Sciences at University of Houston Downtown and is a recent recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Award.
The night evolved from the delicate dance and the romantic flare of the Tango to the high energy of a late night jam session featuring some of Austin’s premier jazz artists. This night was particularly special for me as it truly felt like a bonafide homecoming. We had Brannen Temple, a musical powerhouse who is a world class talent based in Austin and was an inspiration to me during my formative years in Texas in the early 2000s. The brilliant guitarist Bruce Saunders added harmonic depth and virtuoso solos to the proceedings while Nick Clark held down the fort with his driving and soulful bass playing. Andre Hayward, my frontline counterpart, is considered by jazz fans to be among the finest trombonists in the world. His solo feature on “Willow Weep For Me” was one of the highlights of the night and a perfect vehicle for his golden tone and lyrical melodies. As the trombone cadenza reached an apex, the room fell silent and a mysterious yet tangible spirit encircled the audience. Moments such as this reveal the magical atmosphere which has come to epitomize the Beekman 33 experience.
Written by Stan Killian
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