Oregon Symphony


Concert Information

Guest Artist Bio

Tango Pacifico

Tango Pacifico

Tango Pacifico was formed in
2001 by violinist Erin Furbee, assistant concertmaster with the Oregon Symphony. The band is heavily influenced by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinean composer and bandoneón player. Tango Pacifico members include Erin Furbee and Oregon Symphony bass player Jeff Johnson, as well as top-notch local musicians Alex Krebs, bandoneón; Janet Coleman, piano; and John Mery, electric guitar. The group is excited to perform with singer Pepe Raphael and bandoneónist Héctor del Curto on this concert with the Oregon Symphony.

Tango Pacifico has been featured at the Chintimini Music Festival in Corvallis, Ivories Jazz Lounge, the Oregon Symphony Galas, the Bellingham Chamber Players concert series, Chamber Music on Tap series, at Tango Berretin, and with the Oregon Symphony in 2014. In 2002, Tango Pacifico received a grant from the Knight Foundation to perform a show involving tango and samba music, and in 2010, their first CD, Revirado, was released, receiving critical acclaim. Members of the group have studied Piazzolla’s music extensively, which included numerous stints in Buenos Aires, and have worked with Piazzolla’s longtime friend, arranger, and cellist José Bragato.

Unique to the group is the bandoneón, a fiendishly difficult instrument to play, and a cousin to the accordion. It is often referred to as the “devil’s box” because of its awkward buttons arranged in no particular order. “It’s like having to learn four different typewriter keyboards,” according to Furbee. Given the difficulty of Piazzolla’s music, and the rarity of bandoneón players in the U.S., the group is very fortunate to have Alex Krebs in their group, and to collaborate with Héctor del Curto on this concert.

For those not familiar with his work, Piazzolla revolutionized the traditional tango by forming a new style of music termed tango nuevo, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music. In addition to playing with musicians from Argentina, Astor Piazzolla performed and recorded with vibraphonist Gary Burton and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, as well as other jazz luminaries.

Tango Pacifico’s music stays true to Piazzolla’s tango nuevo style in its incorporation of elements of jazz, its use of extended harmonies and dissonance, and its use of counterpoint. There is also an element of improvisation, with the musicians embellishing melodic lines and adding percussive effects to the mix. The result is an individual style that transcends the combinations of influences.

For more information on Tango Pacifico, go to tangopacificotheband.com.

Erin Furbee

To see her bio, click here.

Alex Krebs

Alex Krebs has been playing the bandoneón for the last 12 years after graduating from Reed College in music. He has directed several tango groups, including Conjunto Berretin, as well as orquesta tipicas and currently directs his sextet. He has backed up legendary tango singers Alberto Podesta and Ariel Ardit and has released six Argentine tango albums, including one of his own compositions. He has taught Argentine Tango dancing for the last 16 years and runs an all-tango dance studio, Tango Berretin, in SE Portland.

John Mery

John Mery is a critically acclaimed recording artist who specializes in classical and electric guitar. He has performed and recorded extensively as soloist, ensemble member and sideman. His work has been featured on radio and television nationally and internationally. In 2006 he founded the Oregon Guitar Quartet and has since released four uniformly praised recordings with the group. Mery is a D’Angelico Guitars “proudly endorsed artist.” Recent performances include the 2013 International CMS Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the 2013 Credomatic Festival de Musica, where he performed a series of concerts around Costa Rica. Mery holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Arizona and has also studied in Spain, France and Italy. Mery was born in Santiago, Chile, and speaks a number of languages fluently.

Mery is on the music faculty of Lewis and Clark College and Portland Community College, where he is the Chair of Music and Dance. He currently resides with his wife and children in Portland.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson was born in 1957 in Missoula, Montana. He graduated from the University of Montana in 1980 and received a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music in 1982. He also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music. From 1982-1992 he was principal bass of the San Antonio Symphony. He has been a member of the Oregon Symphony since 1992. Johnson maintains an active extracurricular performing schedule. He is a member of the Third Angle New Music Ensemble, Tango Pacifico and the Sunriver Music Festival Orchestra. In addition, he teaches at Portland State University and the Community Music center, and frequently coaches with youth orchestras. Johnson’s interests are mostly musical, but he also likes to read, write, hike and golf. He is married to soprano Janice Johnson, and they have two children, Margaret and Timothy.