Live Four Qtango
Beyond the box step Albuquerque's QTango flourishes as one of the country's most innovative live tango orchestras BY JOHN HENRY MOORE There is only one dance that evokes mystery and sorrow, beauty and joy, and that dance is tango. Born in the brothels of Buenos Aires, tango consumed the world in the 1920s and '30s, when it was danced by America's heartthrob, Rudy Valentino. It is still danced in back rooms and out-of-the-way places today. And the dance goes hand in hand with the music. Tango music is like the dance - passionate, intense and incredibly difficult. And no orchestra is ever a tango orchestra without the bandoneón, the concertina/ accordion that is the signature instrument of the traditional Argentinian form of the dance. Albuquerque is home to one orchestra that travels the country to play packed theaters as well as dive bars, wherever tango is being danced and there is a longing for live music. QTango was formed in 2009 by Erskin Maytorena, and the group - which plays with anywhere from four to 13 members on instruments such as piano, violin, horns and guitar - has quickly gained recognition for it's high level of musicianship and original approach to tango music, an approach rooted in the feeling of tango as much as the 2/4 or 4/4 time. Maytorena was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he played saxophone in his father's band from a young age. He later trained as an opera singer, moved to New Mexico in 1984 and traveled Europe and the United States to pursue his musical career. Maytorena, in an interview with Local iQ, said he was led to tango by his wife, Svetlana Petkovic, a former professional ballerina trained in St. Petersburg, Russia. "After quitting ballet she tried different dances until she found tango," he said. "Finding the dance so intriguing, I was compelled to try it myself." As a musician, Maytorena was also drawn to the music of tango. With a flourishing tango scene in New Mexico, he could see the need for a live tango orchestra. So Maytorena picked up the bandoneón and held open-mic nights for classical musicians at The Roasted Bean, an Old Town coffee shop. He slowly collected musicians of a like mind and talent, and as they played together, the tango dancers just showed up. Out of these live performances, QTango was born. Now over two years old, the orchestra has performed across the western United States, from El Paso to Las Vegas, Nevada, to San Francisco. QTango has also found time to record two records - the group's second release, Live Four, came out this month. The response to the group's music has been enthusiastically positive. "They sound better than some of the bands in Buenos Aires," said Gustavo Benzecry Sabá, an Argentina-based tango teacher and author of several tango books, who encountered QTango on a teaching trip to the U.S. "They are the future of tango." Current members of QTango include Maytorena, who is band director, singer and plays the bandoneón and clarinet; Olga Home, first violin; Anthony Chau, second violin; Michael Shu, third violin; Brad Richards, violin four; Nick Diamond, violin five; Sam Jacobs, sixth violin; Patty Guyer-Stevens, violin seven; Glen Holmen, double bass, trumpet, French horn; Jean-Luc Matton, double bass; Vince Spiak, double bass; Mary Oleskiewicz, flute; Natalia Tikhovidova, piano and Francisco Muñoz, guitar. QTango's next Albuquerque performance will be a staged show at the KiMo Theatre called For the Love of Tango. The New Mexico tango scene has gained international recognition in recent years, and top regional teachers such as Petkovic, Michael Walker, Mike Malixi, Bill Gruner, Cory Leonard, John Henry Moore, Tony Espinoza, Adrienne Cozza, Carrie Field and Paul Akmajian, along with their top students, will perform to QTango's live music.