by Robert Leeper
Don’t be fooled by the picture above: JP Jofre is no typical accordion player. In fact, he doesn’t even play the accordion. The Argentine musician is a young star and advocate of the bandoneón, a member of the concertina family known for being an essential part of tango ensembles in South America. Last night, Jofre and his Hard Tango Chamber Band brought a bit of their tango flair to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar, presenting three sets that included works by ubiquitous tango composer Astor Piazzolla, Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer, and original music by JP Jofre himself.
Jofre roundly refutes the stereotype that his chosen instrument is strictly for buskers and raucous dancing; coaxing a tender vibrato throughout the evening, he brought a nostalgic and melancholy sound to a number of slower songs, like Astor Piazzolla’s classic “Oblivion” and the Jofre original “After the Rain.” These mellower, passionate songs showcased the talent of his group—often featuring sweetly singing violin and viola lines—as well as their ability to create intimate moments of overwhelming beauty, even while throngs of people packed into the Met’s Great Hall.
Jofre’s stylized approach to tango was appropriate for the space, and the more “classical” setting allowed the group to create harmonic and melodic interest—traits not always present in the more traditional music written for the dance form. Extended techniques from the string section abounded, as did Jofre’s rhythmic drumming on his bandoneón. Some of the most dramatic moments came during the crashing ends to pieces in which Jofre would pull the bandoneón open to its incredible full length, demonstrating the range and capacity of sound he controls within the instrument.
This performance was a part of the ongoing series of free performances at the Met’s Balcony Bar every Friday and Saturday evening, curated by the acclaimed string quartet ETHEL. The Balcony Bar provided a pleasant atmosphere, with great music and a selection of tasty cocktails, but those of you thinking of attending for strictly musical reasons should be wary. The hall was packed with people not particularly interested in the performance above them, and talkative bar-goers made it difficult to take in some of the nuances of the music. If, however, you are interested in a more general evening out and not so much in soaking up every note, rhythm, and subtle timbale change, then stopping by for a drink is highly recommended.JP Jofre is back at the Met’s Balcony Bar again tonight, July 27, from 5–8PM. Be sure to catch the rest of the ETHEL and Friends series here; all performances are free with Museum admission.