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"What might be most impressive about Karsten’s depiction of Piazzolla is how closely she focuses on the music.... The extraordinary group [she] has assembled for this project – Brandt Fredriksen on piano, Nick Danielson on violin, Pablo Aslan on bass and the guy who may be this era’s greatest bandoneon player, JP Jofre – leap and swing and bluster through a mix of Piazzolla hits and a handful of more obscure numbers in between Karsten’s narration.

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Transcendence and Inner Torment in Lesley Karsten’s Astor Piazzolla Biodrama That’s Not Tango

"That’s Not Tango may seem like an odd title for a musical biography about Astor Piazzolla. After all, no other composer did more to pluck tango out of the seedy, seething bars it was associated with and translate it into sophisticated concert music bursting with erotic energy. But this show… seems willing to question everything."

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A Musical Biography About Astor Piazzolla 

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"Ms. Karsten is a miracle of nature. Coming on stage, scowling at the audience, her voice a smokey Edith Piaf baritone, she relates the endless tribulations and triumphs of Piazzolla. 

Ms. Karsten announces and denounces Piazzolla’s threats from the Tango Establishment, feuds with his children, and almost unwanted fame toward the end of his life (as well as a Hamlet-like love for his father). As she piles up her relationships and music together in a verbal fugue, the musical trio strikes up Piazzolla’s own 'Fuga y Misterio.'

The miracle is the incredible musicianship of the three artists. In fact, the genius of the three players was as intensive, virtuosic and original as any chamber group in New York. The violin, bandoneon, and piano made stunning sounds, alone, in ensemble, in Bach as well as Piazzolla.

That's Not Tango is a fascinating, almost mesmeric exercise in acting and music. Ms. Karsten's emotions and the tango-based music can be spellbinding."

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Trials, Tribulations and Gorgeous Tunes: Karsten & Wadsworth's That's Not Tango

Lesley and JP Jofre talk Piazzolla with Devon E. Levons on Morricone Island / WMFU - how That's Not Tango came to be, how JP found Piazzolla  and Lesley found JP. 

Click here to listen to the interview:
Morricone Island - July 16, 2019

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"New York City is the perfect place for a biographical exploration of Piazzolla’s life and art. His family migrated from Argentina to the Lower East Side when he was three years old. It was in NYC that he first heard tango on his father’s old records and learned to play the bandoneón. It was there that he absorbed classical, jazz, and ethnic sounds ranging from klezmer to the traditional music of his Italian forebears. Without his polyglot NYC background and life story, he surely wouldn’t have become the composer he did. 'I believe New York lived on in him in a very deep, enduring way,' Karsten says.”

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More Than Tango: That’s Not Tango explores Piazzolla’s life and music at Jazz at Lincoln Center

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"That’s Not Tango is both drama and chamber concert. 'With That’s Not Tango, first and foremost I want the audience to be moved. I want them to have an experience,' says Karsten. 'As for Astor, he’s clearly a genius. His music affects people quite profoundly. But as a human being he was flawed – and we’re still accountable for our choices no matter what kind of genius we may possess.' ”

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'That's Not Tango: Astor Piazzolla, a Life in Music' to Debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center

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"That’s Not Tango is a musical monologue in which Karsten, as Piazzolla tells the audience his mythical story, traveling from the musician and composer’s boyhood on New York's Lower East Side to Argentina and back again, laying bare Piazzolla’s family and internal conflicts, his genius and thorny character, his inspirations and complicated relationship with Argentina, his musical manifesto and milestones. The relevatory and compelling text is accompanied by Piazzolla’s songs including 'Adíos Nonino' and 'Milonga de Angel,' which, as any tango fans knows, make for a dramatic soundtrack."

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'That's Not Tango: Astor Piazzolla, a Life in Music' Comes to Jazz at Lincoln Center

"The show begins with an aggressive intensity. Piazzolla tells his story, beginning with his childhood in New York. [The playwrights] pick the perfect moments to feature the music for maximum impact. The three musicians ... performed the music with a passion and perfection that would have made Maestro Astor Piazzolla proud.

That´s Not Tango achieves something very difficult: capturing the soul of an artist in 90

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This Truly Is Tango


"We enter Piazzolla's heart through his ears; the music of New York, Paris, Harlem, and Buenos Aires sweep us away. In the end, the threads of the man's life come together in a powerful marriage of text and music. 

You don't have to know who Piazzolla was or to even have listened to his music, to be moved and engaged by this show. If you've heard Piazzolla's music before -- you haven't heard it like this. 

Brandt Fredriksen, the pianist... plays Piazzolla, as well as snippets of Bach, Stravinsky, Ellington, and Bartok, with rhythmic energy and masterful technique.... Not only does [JP Jofre] play Piazzolla's instrument with impeccable skill, but he imbues his performance with Piazzolla's own laughter, tears, anger, and grief.... Nick Danielson, the violinist, brings passion and life to every note.... Seeing them live, in service to a master composer, is extraordinary."

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That's Not Tango - Theatre Review


“Lesley’s work as Piazzolla moves quickly beyond gender into the androgyny of the soul”, says [director Stephen] Wadsworth. “A woman in a persona so conventionally masculine, and whose music has a bald assertiveness and violence many associate with maleness, is very tango. Piazzolla was fascinated by the quick-change animus-anima exchanges between men and women dancing tango."

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Musical Production Pays Tribute To Tango Giant, Astor Piazzolla


"Key moments of the life of the Argentine musician and composer Astor Piazzolla are combined with a selection of his compositions, in a staging that pays tribute to the genius of his pieces.

This show promises to immerse the public in Piazzolla's personal relationships, his native Argentina, his life in New York and the journey that led to completely revolutionize the genre of tango. The work is based on the idea that Piazzolla revives to evaluate his own life."

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Exploring the life of Piazzolla


"Tantalizing! Lesley Karsten... portrays the musical God in gender-bending fashion. Exceptional musicians Brandt Fredriksen (piano), JP Jofre (bandoneon) and Nick Danielson(violinist) transport listeners to a soul-filled realm of nirvana. Their exquisite flair makes one seem that this was music they were born to play."

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That's Not Tango is a Tantalizing Treat


" 'We've moved from a more straightforward narrative of the facts of his life into an exploration of the inner workings of the man,' Karsten said. 'The premise is simple. He’s dead, hates it and returns because he has unfinished business... with himself. He has regrets, struggles with isolation, memories of love lost. He gave what he had to give — and the music is astonishing — but he needs to set the record straight. There’s a price to be paid for immortality.' "

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Joe’s Pub Tells the Life Story of Tango Master Astor Piazzolla in New Show 


"As Piazzolla, Lesley Karsten delivers a compelling dramatic narrative that offers a deeper understanding of Piazzolla's life, from his rough childhood in New York to the fame he achieved for revolutionizing the traditional tango. The show unfolds through an interplay between storytelling and virtuoso performances of Piazzolla's music by JP Jofre (bandoneon), Brandt Fredriksen (piano) and Nick Danielson (violin)."

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25th Anniversary of Astor Piazzolla’s Death Inspires ‘That’s Not Tango” at Joe’s Pub 


“That’s Not Tango – Astor Piazzolla, A Life In Music was written by Lesley Karsten and Stephen Wadsworth and is unique not only in its premises, but in its casting as well. Piazzolla, whose life the story depicts and celebrates, is played by a woman. Karsten is cast in the role, and she plays a compelling and fierce Piazzolla, giving audiences a deeper look into the composer’s life."

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Astor Piazzolla-Inspired Show To Run At Joe’s Pub


"What a pro show and what stunning music. The whole idea of it is brilliant. You have invented a new art form! It was a very balanced show, and the story was so interesting. Great script, great reading/acting ... just stunning!
"This is a must-see show and inspiring musical/theatrical experience. Brava and Bravo!

"Last night was great fun and reminded me of how opposites make opposites, and for an artist such as Piazzolla, the contrast could not have been more great and the results so culturally and artistically brilliant.  And you showed this dichotomy in an utterly original "frame" and through exquisite "production".  Every aspect of it was thought out and perfectly executed.  Superb! 

"I don't think I've ever had a more aesthetically pleasing evening as I had Friday night.  It made me smile, it made me laugh out loud, it made me cry, it astonished me musically.  I've heard Bernstein, Rubenstein, Bobby Short, Beverly Sills, Pavarotti, Dizzy Gillespie, Peggy Lee, and Ray Charles, and hundreds of others, and I have never seen or heard anything like [That's Not Tango.]"
John Snyder
Four-time Grammy winner and one of the most important jazz producers of the past 30 years

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