If any proof is needed that the allure of tango has exploded far beyond the borders of its Argentinean origins, one need look no further than Philly’s own Oscuro Quintet. The band’s members come from backgrounds as diverse as France, Korea and Lancaster; at least two of its members discovered the music for the first time not in some sweaty South American nightclub but at concerts in Belgium and Korea.
Formed in 2007, with its current lineup — pianist Thomas Lee, bandoneon player Shinjoo Cho, violinist June Bender, guitarist Alban Bailly and bassist Ben Blazer — solidified three years ago, Oscuro has built up a solid repertoire of tango music both traditional and modern, ranging from 1930s standards to new music penned by band members.
“A lot of groups are inspired by Astor Piazzolla,” Cho says, citing tango’s most influential composer, who revolutionized the music beginning in the 1950s. “That’s great, but I think they stop there, so the interpretation becomes limited and the spirit behind it gets a little lost. We realized without understanding the traditional style, we wouldn’t be able to competently interpret and perform the modern tango that was derived from it.”