Six years ago, as he finished a master's degree in music performance, Koichiro Suzuki wanted to create a challenging program to play for his graduate recital at Duquesne University.
"My teacher, Lance LaDuke, was really interested in the idea I had about doing some kind of tango music with the euphonium," said Mr. Suzuki, a member of the River City Brass Band since 2007.
So, Mr. Suzuki formed a tango band called Cuidado, a Spanish word that means caution or danger. Founded in 2007, the five-member group performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. Dancers will perform with the band.
Mr. Suzuki fell for the dance and the musical genre's complex rhythms when he took a tango class at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music performance in 2005.
A native of Okinawa, Japan, Mr. Suzuki has been playing the euphonium -- a smaller version of the tuba with a warmer, less brassy sound -- since the age of 9. The 36-year-old musician lives in Edgewood with his Russian wife, Yulia Zhukoff, a 26-year-old classically trained cellist who teaches local students and also works in the advancement office at Carnegie Mellon University.
The couple also teach tango dancing Monday and Thursday nights at Absolute Ballroom on Hamilton Avenue in Larimer and Sunday nights at the Wilkins Community Center on South Braddock Avenue in Swissvale.
Tango was born on the bustling streets of Buenos Aires. In the 1900s, the music migrated to Paris, where it acquired a refined, classical sophistication, Ms. Zhukoff said. Then it spread across Europe and Asia. Today, American television viewers know it because of shows such as "Dancing With the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance."
Originally, Cuidado consisted of Mr. Suzuki, Vladimir Mollov, an award-winning accordion player, and guitarist Mike Borowski, 25, of the North Side. Mr. Borowski earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music performance from Duquesne University. He arranged the Angel Suite for the group, which they often play in concert. He plays a Guild semi-hollow electric guitar.
"It is pretty uncommon in the States to play this music and actually build up a repertoire. When I'm writing music and arranging music, it's challenging to figure out the instrumentation," Mr. Borowski said.
He also arranged "Milonga in E."
" 'Milonga' is a couple different things. It's a type of rhythm in tango. It's also the name of the social dance," Mr. Borowski said. "There's a basic tango rhythm, a milonga rhythm and then there's a waltz."
Mr. Mollov, 30, performed with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans and earned a business degree from the school. He met his wife, Annie, now the group's violinist, while the two were performing with the Tammies. The couple married in 2011 and live in Forest Hills.
Annie Mollova, who began learning to play the violin at age 9, earned a master's degree in music performance at Duquesne University. She learned how to dance the tango while she was a high school student in Boulder, Colo. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2004 and is director of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society; her husband's day job is computer programming.
Mr. Mollov said he lives to play music and has taken accordion lessons since the age of 7. He loves the melodies in tango music and the harmonies that go with them as well as the passion in the music and its rich history.
His wife said performing tango music is intense.
"You have to dig in and pull it out from the very bottom of yourself. You can't hold back at all if you want to make tango convincing," Mrs. Mollova said.
Originally, the band had a clarinet player, who moved out of town.
"When we had a clarinet, we sounded more like a fusion band," Mr. Suzuki said, adding that the violin makes the band sound more traditional.
At concerts, Mr. Suzuki said, "I put my horn down and start dancing." His partner is his wife. They will travel to Argentina in February to learn more about tango culture.
Upright bass player Matt Booth, 26, of Bloomfield grew up in Clifton, Va., earned a bachelor's degree in music technology from Duquesne University and teaches at Empire Music in Mt. Lebanon.
"It's very fun playing live because it's also very improvisational. You'll hear different stuff on each performance," he said.
Marylynne Pitz: email@example.com or 412-263-1648.