The origin of Tango Nuevo music can be directly linked to the composer, director and bandoneón player Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla played the bandoneón in the orquesta tipica of Anibal Troilo, until 1944. After that he formed his own orquesta tipica (from 1944 to 1949) that deviated from the tango of that time in both rhythm and harmonic complexity. Piazzolla then went to Paris to study music, and returned to Buenos Aires in 1955 where he formed his Octeto Buenos Aires – and it is here that he began composing and directing Tango-Nuevo, combining characteristics of traditional tango, classical music and jazz. Ironically, whilst being greatly acclaimed today, Piazzolla was for many years disowned by the Argentine milongueri who denounced his compositions as corrupting tango.
The official site of Astor Piazzolla has this to say about the origin of Tango-Neuvo:
We have to consider the focus of the following because the influence of Piazzolla begins to be so powerful that all seems to be divided between before and after Piazzolla.
When Piazzolla returns to Argentina (1955) after his studies with Nadia Boulanger, he decides to form the OCTETO BUENOS AIRES. With this group Piazzolla produces innovations that influence forever his attitude as player and composer. A new violent passion to arrange and to compose (in two years he composed and arranged more that 40 works); his decision for producing a rupture with the traditional tango, and the conviction for developing a group of musicians that come up to the same temperature musically and on stage as what he saw in Paris with the Mulligan Octet, which impressed him so much. The Octeto Buenos Aires definitively links him to the instrumental tango but not exclusively. With a formation of two bandoneones, two violins, piano, cello, electrical guitar and bass, this group becomes a proclamation of the rejection to the place of privilege that the singer had, imposed in the tango of the 40’s, and also and expulsion of the dancer (unavoidable protagonist of that tango and personage always present in the actual tango-spectacle). With the Octet, Piazzolla goes deep into chamber music criteria that show the independence of the tango with the pattern of the Orquesta Típica. Furthermore, the electrical guitar incorporates a new timbre not existing in the genre. But, since that time it is decisive in the inexorable fusion between the performance and the composition. The intensity that Piazzolla wants for his performance enters the score and intends to reach a physical palpitation. The bandoneón, his style as a player, his conception of the phrases, the unexpected treatment of the tempo, the visceral explosion that breaks the calm, is more that the excellence of the player: it affects the treatment of the score. Piazzolla considers the Octet is the start of the Contemporaneous Tango. But, the revolution that Piazzolla makes (farther on the influences that produces and a lot of subsequent imitations), is a solitary revolution. The genre can’t absorb it and doesn’t evolve: rather Piazzolla breaks the genre. When it is said a lot of times, that Piazzolla killed the tango, we feel a confuse suspicion but with some truth about it. Since Piazzolla the tango ceased to be a protector and enveloping genre, with precise limits. With Piazzolla the tango becomes 'contaminated' with a lot of influences (the names linked to his esthetics seems to be its symbols: Gary Burton, Rostropovich, Gidon Kremer, Mulligan, Kronos Quarter, and of course all the young musicians of the tango). However, this interrelation of music is not eclectic due to the firmness of the style that Piazzolla gets.
Around Octeto Buenos Aires, Piazzolla himself says on the back of one of his albums:
In 1954, while being in Paris, I had the chance to see and listen to many jazz modern groups, among them, the Gerry Mulligan Octet. It was really wonderful to witness the enthusiasm existing among them while they played, that individual joy in the improvisations, the collective pleasure when they played a chord, in sum, something that I had never noticed up to now in tango musicians. As a result of this experience the idea of putting together the Octeto Buenos Aires grew within me. It was necessary to get tango out of that monotony that surrounded it, either harmonically or melodically, rhythmically and aesthetically. It was an irresistible impulse to bestow it with musical hierarchy and provide other ways of showcasing the instrumentalists. In two words, to succeed in making tango something exciting without tiring the player and the listener, and still be tango, and more than ever, music.
Tango-Nuevo music has evolved further during the 1970s, 80s and 90s with the influence of jazz, which moved tango into an even more experimental genre – which (at about the year 2000) brought on the advent of Neo-Tango, a logical progression.