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Dale playing his Bandoneon.DALE ARTHUR MEYER
Bandoneonista and composer
May 21, 1948 - June 22, 2002

Another Bandoneon Goes Silent (1)

On Saturday morning, June 22, 2002, Ginger and I received a telephone call from Kate Motoyama, Dale Meyer's life-mate, informing us that Dale had passed away at about 3AM. Dale and his Strictly Tango Band had provided the music at the "Moulin Rouge Gala" milonga at Mission Blue earlier that evening.

Thus began a period of deep mourning for dozens of Dale's friends, admirers, and fellow lovers of the soulful music of the Argentina tango. Dale had devoted his recent years full-time to the study and performance of Argentine Tango. He was a devout student of the history, composition, performance, and promotion of tango music.

Aside from our wonderful memories of Dale and his performances with Strictly Tango, what we now have left are videos and CD's created by this wonderful man of music. Dale had recently expanded the format of his band to include tango cabaret, following the spirit of cabarets found in Berlin and Paris in the 1920's and 30's. The Bay Area's foremost European cabaret singer, Mia, had joined the band to make this possible. She had recently gained this title in a formal competition against the best of the area's European cabaret singers.

Strictly Tango playing for a Hit and Run Milonga in Maiden Lane, San Francisco.The following is a brief outline of Dale's professional career:

Dale Meyer started his musical career as a percussionist touring and playing with C.C Cale, Paul Horn, The Diamonds, and The Vogues. His extensive recording experience in Nashville sparked his interest in musical composition. Dale arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990's and began his odyssey with Argentine Tango. The National Society of Arrangers and Composers recognized his prize-winning score featuring the accordion at the Golden Score Awards in Los Angeles. Dale obtained his Bachelor of Arts in electronic music composition from San Francisco State University and recently earned his Master of Arts in music composition from Mills College. Dale Meyer was one of the few bandoneon performers in the world who was following in the footsteps of the innovative Astor Piazzolla.

Dale composed tango music under the pseudonym Parlando Rubato. I excerpt and quote the following from Dale's Mills College masters thesis:

"Parlando Rubato is the pseudonym used by French composer, Annie Durand, which is the pseudonym used by Bay Area composer, Dale A. Meyer. I became interested in tango music after purchasing an old accordion at a flea market in 1995. After listening to many musical genres that include free-reed instruments, I chose tango. To be more correct, tango chose me. The first tango album I purchased was Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla. It was love at first sound. I was immediately attracted to the chamber music style orchestration and the improvisational aspect of jazz. I soon realized that the accordion was not producing the sound that I originally fell in love with and purchased a bandoneon in 1996. The great difficulty in playing the bandoneon is easily transcended by its beautiful timbre. The rest is "future" history.

Tango is clearly the impetus for the music of Parlando, but little of the tango aesthetic remains except the bass line and remnants of the rhythm. The music of Parlando consists mostly of smaller ensemble scores. The scores are written for ensembles featuring three to five players. There is one composition, Malik's Garden, written for string orchestra and bandoneon. A close examination at Malik's Garden will prove invaluable to the understanding the music of Parlando.

Malik's Garden is a four movement concerto for bandoneon and string orchestra. The first movement is written for solo bandoneon and is notated on a grand staff without barlines. The spacing of the notes is a graphical representation of time to be interpreted by the performer and is marked "embellish freely" (fig. 10). The harmonic movement is rather elementary, but colored elaborately by the use of pitches such as flat nines. Raised fourths, fifths, and sevenths which are not related to the tonal center. Dissonant dyads such as the tonic and raised seventh are incorporated to add dissonance to what could be analyzed as traditional Western European harmonic progressions (Fig. 11). Ibid (Dale then includes several movements of the work). The first reference to tango can be found near the end of the first movement when a habanera rhythm is used as a left hand ostinato. The first movement ends with a completely improvised section over a simple I, IV, I, II, V, I progression in C minor. The first movement appears to be a vehicle for displaying the idiosyncrasies of the bandoneon. These include long phrases lasting the length of a single push or pull, holding sustaining notes with one hand while melodies are played with the other hand, and utilizing notes that incorporate the bandoneonís near five-octave range.

The second movement employs the complete string orchestra with bandoneon. The harmonic progression is reminiscent of the late Classical or early Romantic period, with the use of flat sixth chords and modulations to more remote tonal centers. Time signatures, not in the traditional 4/4 notation, are found interspersed throughout the second movement. The bandoneon is used throughout this movement to perform some of the same tasks found in a tango orchestra. It will play the melody in unison with another instrument, play in unison with itself (the left hand doubles the melody an octave lower), create an improvised solo, and play a marcata or golpe rhythm (placing the bandoneon on one knee, playing a staccato chord while bounding the heel of the foot on the floor). A habanera rhythm returns in the bandoneon's improvised section. The last section of the second movement is played using the traditional tango rhythm,† which has a military march-like feel. The quarter note pulse is heavily accented (Fig. 12)."

I have included this excerpt to illustrate Dale's serious professional approach to his compositions. Dale was a leader - an explorer in the true footsteps of Astor Piazzolla. He made no effort to emulate the traditional tango masters of the golden age, but rather, was his own man, out there alone with his vision of tango music for the present and future of the genre. In addition to Piazzolla, Dale was inspired by the likes of Kurt Weill, Bela Bartok, Pauline Oliveros, Alejandro Barletta, and Mauricio Kagel. Dale was also interested in the use of the bandoneon in music other than the tango, including the contemporary works of the Belgian group Waso, and 16 Horsepower in the U.S.

Dale's sense of humor was legendary. He was a most modest man, who had a great ability to laugh at himself. He was fond of mentioning his relationship with his two dogs and his music - how his dogs would cover their ears when he practiced - and would laugh when his music would cause the dogs to howl. I list here several examples of humor excerpted from his thesis:

"How can you tell when a bandoneonist is playing out of tune? - His fingers are moving.

A terrorist group abducted ten bandoneon players and threatened to release one every hour until their demands were met.

What do a bandoneon and a lawsuit have in common? - Everyone is happy when the case is closed."

Dale was interested in learning to dance the Argentine Tango. He took some informal Ginger & Dale dance lessonlessons from Ginger. Eventually, he reluctantly agreed to dance with Ginger during a band break at an upcoming milonga where Strictly Tango was playing. The night of the event, when it came time for the band to take a break, Dale was nowhere to be found.† Ginger accused Dale of "disappearing" when it was time to take to the floor. Friends (and members of the band) had great fun reminding Dale of this, and Dale's response added even more to the fun.

Dale formed Strictly Tango, the first all-tango band in the Bay Area, in 1995. This later inspired the formation of several other local tango bands. San Francisco is now one of few cities in North America to boast of three or more active tango bands.

One of Dale's greatest loves (in addition to cappuccino) was to play outdoors on the street. His dream, after traveling to Amsterdam, was to return to Europe with his band and play on the streets of European cities and villages. He created the "San Francisco Hit and Run" milongas played mostly in Maiden Lane near Union Square. This was his favorite venue, second only to the year the band had a steady engagement at The Top of the Mark atop the Hotel Mark Hopkins.† The weekly Monday milongas at the Top of the Mark were magical tango evenings and many regulars who attended wonder if they shall ever again experience such pleasure.† Dale also fondly recalled those dreamy evenings when the band had a steady contract to play at the Glas Kat Club in San Francisco.†† In addition to the "regular" venues, Strictly Tango appeared at several Napa Valley wineries, Bay Area Borders Book Stores,† Foreign Cinema, Gordon's House of Fine Eats, SF Business District Association and Market Street Association street concerts (in cooperation with the American Federation of Musicians Trust Fund), charity fund-raisers, music festivals, and local tango milongas, to mention a few. The band was always a hit at the Cotati Accordion Festival.†

Entirely self-taught in bandoneon and tango, Dale developed a unique insight into the needs of tango dancers, always insisting on a pronounced beat for the dancers. He loved playing for the dancers and got to know many of them personally.

Dale was a very generous person; he never walked past a street musician without leaving something in his open case and offering words of encouragement.†

Dale's death came at formative portion of his tango career.† His music was evolving in an innovative manner and was gaining wider recognition with each performance. Dale and the band produced several CDs.† Tangled Lies (recorded under the band name Parlando) was made up entirely of Dale's original compositions. This CD remains the favorite of many of Dale's fans. Other CDs are Hit & Run, Tango at the Top, and Strictly Tango. Another CD featuring tango cabaret was in production when we lost Dale. Dale had recently purchased a fine master bandoneon in Germany, a prized instrument made by the Germany's finest manufacturer. However, fine bandoneons are expensive and there isn't much money to be made playing in a tango band in San Francisco.† To illustrate Dale's love for the bandoneon and tango, he sold his much-loved custom-built motorcycle to secure the funds for the purchase.

The Bay Area received many notes of loss from Dale's friends and fans across the world. The following article appeared in the San Francisco Examiner:


As you know if you read this column regularly, your Striped One is a fan of the great Argentine composer and bandoneonista Astor Piazzolla. For the last several years, my best source of Piazzolla insights, bandoneon instruction and just plain musical camaraderie was the local composer and bandleader Dale Meyer. Dale passed away suddenly, aged only 54, two Saturdays ago, leaving his family, friends, and band, Strictly Tango, in shock. I can't imagine what it is going to be like not to call him with a historical tango question or to laugh about the latest Piazzolla-wannabe CD played on the saxophone, glockenspiel or kazoo.

Dale Meyer was not only an exceptional composer but he was also a very fine arranger.† In my opinion, he wrote the most original arrangement of what I consider Astor Piazzolla's finest song, "Oblivion". One version of it (though not the best) appears on Strictly Tango's CD "Hit & Run" (Planet Waldo Music). For many weeks after Dale's death, members of the band could not perform this piece without tears, especially Mia, who had to sing lyrics that so described the feelings of loss. As time passed, it became an anthem for the musicians to rise up and continue Dale's work.† Today the band has brought in new musicians, sought out new repertoire and written new arrangements, always respectful of the man and the dream that made it all possible.

This brings me to the point. Musicians, composers and performers need strong egos or they can't function. Yet Dale Meyer was literally the most generous, forgiving person I've ever met in the music business. Sure, he wanted success for his band and his music, but only if it was gained honestly and fairly. There would be no rewards for the band at the expense of others.† And as musicians left the band and moved on, there were never ill feelings, only those of encouragement.† I'm going to miss that attitude as much as I'll miss the laughs and the mournful sound of his bandoneon."

Dale left his life-partner Kate Motoyama, three grown sons and a brother, many friends, including fellow musicians, dancers, neighbors, and fans. His legacy is his music, his band, his many friends, and our loving memories of him. Dale brought great joy to many Bay Area tango events with his music. We have all suffered a great loss as... no kinder, more considerate, and gentle man that I have ever known has walked this planet.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† His friend, Richard Simoni


A Buenos Aires Cafe

As a kid I looked in from the


as I would at things beyond my


my nose against the windows,

blue like the cold

that I would later know

as I lived my life ...

Like a school for everything,

as a boy you already amazed me:

with cigarettes...

with faith in my dreams,

and the hope of love.

††††††††††† Lyrics: Enrique Santos Discepolo from CAFETIN DE BUENOS AIRES (1948)

††††††††††† Music:† Mariano Mores

††††††††††† From: TANGO,† Isabel Munoz & Evelyne Pieilleer, Editions Plume of Paris, France,
††††††††††††††††††††††† copyright 1994.

STRICTLY TANGO is a fantastic ensemble of very talented musicians who have been performing together since 1995 in the San Francisco area.

The most recent members of the ensemble were Dale Meyer (Bandoneon)-Paul Binkley (Guitar)-Su Buchignani (Violin/Piano)-Steve Hanson (Bass), Mia (Vocals).† Others that have performed and recorded with the band are Joe Prussner (Bass)- Michael Silverman (Bass)-Greg Kehret (Bass)-Katrina Wreede (Viola)-Mark Wyman (Piano).

Following Dale's death, the group has reorganized and as a sextet performs under the name Ensemble Bizou.† The members are Paul Binkley (Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo), Su Buchignani (Violin/Piano), Steve Hanson (Bass), Dave Miotke (Accordion/Vocals), Mia (Vocals), John Tenney (Violin/Mandolin).† These musicians' combined credentials are awesome. As Strictly Tango before it, Ensemble Bizou is in demand by their ardent followers at Bay Area festivals, performance halls and hotels. A demo CD of the new band is in production.

DALE MEYER was one of the few bandoneon performers in the world, following in the footsteps of the great Astor Piazzola He started his musical career as a percussionist touring and playing with C.C Cale, Paul Horn, The Diamonds, and The Vogues. His extensive recording experience in Nashville sparked his interest in musical composition. His prize-winning score featuring the Accordion acknowledged at the Golden Score Awards in Los Angeles by the National Society of Arrangers and Composers. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in electronic music composition from San Francisco State University and recently earned his Master Of Arts in music composition from Mills College.

PAUL BINKLEY began his guitar studies in London, Ontario, performing his first professional concerts before graduating from high school. He has a Bachelor of Music degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Master of Arts in Music degree from San Francisco State University. He has concertized with major symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies. He is also proficient on classical mandolin and performs in the internationally acclaimed Modern Mandolin Quartet.

SU BUCHIGNANI began her music studies at the age of three and has been playing professionally since the age of fifteen, when she became the youngest member of the San Jose Symphony.† She is equally comfortable performing in a wide range of styles from classical to jazz and is considered one of the finest strolling violinists in the San Francisco Bay Area.† She also works as an arranger and coaches non-classical vocal style.

STEVE HANSON has had an extensive and varied career on bass and tuba, from playing in Chinese funeral band to Woody Allen's Dixieland band.† After a successful career in New York, Steve made the move to the Bay Area and hasn't stopped working since.† He may be the busiest bass player in the area.† Steve is equally at home playing traditional jazz, Dixieland, Continental, German, as well as many other styles. Experts agree, he is the bass player of choice for strolling musicians.

MIA defies her young age, performing a variety of vocal styles with exceptional depth and maturity.† "Discovered" by the director of SummerSong Vocal Arts Institute, Mia went on to study at the Conservatory of the University of the Pacific and privately in Brussels.† In addition to other awards and prizes, Mia was the recipient of the Cabaret 2000 award for best foreign-language singer.† She holds a Bachelor of Business degree from UOP and works as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies on web design.†

If you like TANGOS then their video and CD's are a must for your musical library.

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