Tango Pacifico was formed in 2001 by violinist Erin Furbee, Assistant Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony. The band is heavily influenced by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinean composer and bandoneon player. The members include Erin Furbee and Oregon Symphony bass player Jeff Johnson, as well as top-notch local musicians Alex Krebs, bandoneon, Mika Sunago, piano, and John Mery, electric guitar. Tango Pacifico has been featured at the Chintimini Music Festival in Corvallis, Ivories Jazz Lounge, the Oregon Symphony Gala, the Bellingham Chamber Players concert series, Chamber Music on Tap series, and at Tango Berretin. In 2002, Tango Pacifico received a grant from the Knight Foundation to perform a show of 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 including numerous stints in Buenos Aires, and have worked with Piazzolla’s longtime friend, arranger, and cellist Jose Bragato.
Unique to the group is the bandoneon, 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 bandoneon players in the US—Furbee surmises that there are only about 20 bandoneonists who could play this music in the entire country, the group is very fortunate to have Alex Krebs playing with them.
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.
Erin Furbee joined the Oregon Symphony as Assistant Concertmaster in 2001. Prior to her arrival in Portland, she was a member of the Colorado Symphony for eight years, and also played with the Milwaukee Symphony for a season. Originally from the Chicago area, Erin began studying the violin at age 4 with Rebecca Sandrok; she also studied with George Perlman, and Betty Lambert. She attended the University of Michigan, received her Bachelor of Music degree from Rice University, and attended the University of Minnesota for graduate school. Erin’s main teachers include Camilla Wicks, Raphael Fliegal, Jacob Krachmalnick, and Roland and Almita Vamos. She has performed as soloist with the Oregon Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Southeast Iowa Symphony, the Chintimini Music Festival Orchestra, the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, and in December, 2009, she performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Yaroslavl Philharmonic in Yaroslavl, Russia.
In addition to her great love for performing classical music, Erin enjoys playing tango music, a passion she developed after hearing the music of Astor Piazzolla in 1997. While living in Denver, she and fellow bandoneon player Evan Orman co-founded a four-piece tango group called Extasis and traveled to Buenos Aires in 1999 to study with musicians in many of the tango orchestras there. She has since made several more journeys to Argentina, and feels very lucky to have been able to work with Jose Bragato, Piazzolla’s cellist and arranger on a CD project for piano trio called Bragatissimo. In 2001, she formed Tango Pacifico, a 5-piece band which specializes in the music of Astor Piazzolla. In June, 2012, Erin performed the Four Seasons by Piazzolla with the Chintimini Festival of Music in Corvallis, and with the Southeast Iowa Symphony in 2011. Erin also plays with the Alex Krebs Tango Sextet, which often performs at milongas for dancers, and has been featured at Portland’s Tangofest and Valentango.
Erin is also an avid chamber musician and teacher. She was a member of Fear No Music for five seasons, and performed with the Bellingham Chamber Players for several years. She taught a class at PSU on orchestral repertoire and auditions, and has given master classes at universities throughout Oregon and Washington. She enjoys teaching, and maintains a private studio in Portland. Erin’s summers include traveling, and performing at the Bellingham Festival of Music and the Chintimini Music Festival in Corvallis. Her hobbies include cycling, hiking, reading, and traveling.
Alex Krebs has been playing the bandoneon 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 6 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.
Mika Sunago, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has performed and placed in several national and international competitions throughout Brazil, US, and Japan. Moving to the US in 1987, Mika completed her Bachelor and Master’s degree in Piano Performance and Conducting at Indiana University. Mika has accumulated vast experience in solo and chamber music. During the years when Mika lived in New York City, she was a pianist for performers such as Leila Josefowicz, Hannah Chang, and Christine Walewska. She was also an accompanist for many opera singers from the Metropolitan Opera House. Her performances and interviews of Latin American music have been broadcast in radio and TV programs in the US (NPR), Japan (NHK&ABC), Austria (ORF), Argentina (Solo Tango and RAE), and Brazil (FM Cultura/TV Cultura). Mika has performed chamber music and solo concerts throughout Brazil, Argentina, Japan, and the US. Now living in Portland, she taught at Reed College for many years and has been soloist with the Columbia Symphony. She has also performed with local groups, such as Third Angle Ensemble, Fear No Music, Portland Opera, Oregon Symphony’s Nerve Endings, and Tango Pacifico. In addition, Mika has four CDs released: Between the Tropics, Café 1930, Bragatissimo, and Revirado. Mika is also an oncology certified registered nurse (RN, OCN) at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, where she is a supervisor of the Cancer Care Unit.
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. John 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. John holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Arizona and has also studied in Spain, France, and Italy. John was born in Santiago, Chile, and speaks a number of languages fluently.
John 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, Oregon.
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. Jeff 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. Jeff’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.
Adrian Jost studied music in the French Riviera and his native country, Switzerland. As a young boy , he won the gold medal of the French Association of Accordionists at age 11. This led him to study the Bayan with composer Fritz Tschannen, Switzerland’s teacher of teachers, and later with world-class performer Stephane Chapuis. He completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Yverdon, won the 1996 Landis&Gyr contest , and came to Chicago to work for Siemens. There he discovered Tango while pursuing a Master’s degree in science at Northwestern University. The high-tech industry brought Adrian to the Silicon Valley where he co-founded Trio Garufa, a tango group that plays for dancers and concerts throughout the San Francisco area. He has traveled to Argentina many times to study with the great bandoneon masters of Buenos Aires, and dances tango as well. He also plays with Tango Pacifico, a five-piece tango group based in Portland , Oregon , which specializes in the music of Astor Piazzolla.