Tosca/Alberto & Yasmin
The Ritz/El Sol y la Luna, January 4 At 7pm on a Thursday evening, the night Austin's weekend begins, Sixth Street is still a sleeping giant: lights out, doors closed, a slice of Roppolo's because Hoek's is just coming to life. Upstairs at the Ritz, it's even sleepier, the stage empty and Tosca himself -- longtime local accordionist Glover Gill -- entertaining a couple of people at the bar. The ad says 7-9pm, but if some long, dull meeting at work goes a half-hour too long, you won't miss a note. As Tosca's four divas make their way in one by one, all dressed in varying degrees of black, the stadium seating of one of Austin's oldest surviving live music venues fills with the unseen stealth of a clock's moving hands. The entertainment is free. Once everyone is assembled -- Goth string quartet, clarinetist, pianist, and audience -- Gill hoists his Hohner with a grunt, calls out a tune from the pages on his music stand, and the arch, Argentinian romanticism of Astor Piazzolla wheezes to life. Tango! As the clarinet takes the accordion's arm, the piano sends up sharp circus chords, violins -- twin fiddles -- viola, and cello joining the swaying chorus. The strings are sad, but the accordion and clarinet pirouette about the empty dance floor of the high-ceilinged room. Obviously, somebody should be clutching someone else with a rose in their mouth, and it just so happens that a couple Tosca met in Buenos Aires recently, "Danielle and Susanna," cut a dashing pair on the hardwood floor. Their gazes locked in carnal embrace, the young Latin couple charge back and forth to the dramatic music like they were skating across ice. Applause erupts. "Gracias," says Glover. This only encourages more couples to press their bodies together in the spotlight. Meanwhile, down Congress Avenue at small Mexican eatery El Sol y la Luna, Alberto Cabañas and his wife Yasmin Ventura do the same with their voices. Featured on Tosca's divine new 2-CD set, La Ciudad del Tango, the South American natives, in Austin through Feb. 22 and originally scheduled to guest with Tosca this cool winter's eve, stand in the restaurant's window and duet like their tropical homeland was their backdrop instead of the Continental Club. While he pleads on his acoustic, she entreats him with adoring looks almost as delicious as the house flan. A "very, very, very" old waltz from Peru, a song from the Andes, Uruguayan folk, and "the tango Al Pacino did in Scent of a Woman" go mano a mano with clinking glasses and silverware against crockery, often losing. Close to 9pm, they announce the last song, from Spain -- Granada. "Olé!" they cry. Olé! indeed.