It seems impossible for Norwegian pianist Hakon Skogstad to wear just one title. In addition to his pianist title, he is also a chamber musician, accompanist, teacher, arranger and composer. He has won awards for his work and he specializes in classical music and Argentine tango. Skogstad has played concerts in the US, Argentina, Germany, Norway and Sweden.
According to Skogstad, he has always been “fascinated by the unique sound of the bandoneon.” The traditional tango instrument inspired Skogstad to adapt techniques usually reserved for the bandoneon and use them on the piano.
Skogstad explains, “I wanted to see if I could incorporate the multilayered, flowing and improvisational manner of playing – – constantly changing focus between the bass, chords, and melodic structures, rather than trying to do all at once…this approach can be heard throughout the album…”
The playing on “Two Hands to Tango” certainly sounds as if a duo, if not a trio of musicians are rendering the notes that come to life from the recording.
In a relatively brief discography, Skogstad has managed to show off an impressive set of skills. He plays with emotions, rather than just notes. Skogstad’s ability to not merely manipulate the piano, but to pressure it to yield to his myriad chords and notes is noticeable in the first listen. Present, too, is his background in classical music. “Two Hands to Tango” is full of music that is classic, sometimes a touch classical, but at its heart is the complicated emotions of a tango. The album reverberates with beauty, style and heart. The best songs on the album are difficult to choose. However, “Los Mareados” and “Felicia” are two that stand out.
“Los Mareados” by Hakon Skogstad
The song begins slow and moody. Deep notes move quickly and fast, high ones sprinkle in around them. Then, roughly a minute in, a different motif shows up. Skogstad’s classical training gives listeners something else. There is so much to keep up with that it is difficult to tell what the pianist is up to.
“Los Mareados” seems an exercise in dynamics. The song never allows the listener to break away from the darks and lights of the song. The dark notes are pitch, and the light ones are relative sunshine. At the same time, the whole song moves with an energy that Skogstad seems to imbue all the songs on the album with. It is engaging until the last note.
“Felicia” by Hakon Skogstad
“Felicia” has a bit more movement than “Los Mareados.” The song gallops open with a series of mid-range notes that sound both gallant and a touch moody. The motifs here could be danced to, if listeners had the skill set to do so. There is a feeling of a swirl, to the lilting notes that come after the big, gallant notes have died down. But when the big notes return, it is exciting and it is those notes that will keep a song that is potentially for dancing, from ever slowing down.
“Felicia” is also fun. Skogstad plays it as if he is having fun manipulating the chords to make the dark notes ring deeply, and to also make the lighter notes sparkle. It is worth listening to over and over.
“Two Hands to Tango” is available from Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes.