Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eduardo Lazarowski tango orchestras seminar, July 2015

Alicia and Eduardo in NC
Eduardo Lazarowski grew up and studied in Buenos Aires before moving to North Carolina's famous Research Triangle, and rediscovering tango as a dance form. His multimedia presentation on the Golden Era orchestras of tango has become the highlight of my trip to the beautiful Casa Tango - and stay tuned for Eduardo's upcoming book!!

Before I turn to my seminar notes, let me add a few words about the Casa Tango experience, which in many ways defeated my expectations. The dance hall was full of light and paintings; the food was nothing short of remarkable (ahh Michele's fruit tarts!); the vibe really friendly. On the other hand I was surprised how socially awkward would be the arrangement of the men seated together at one side of the hall - for, as it turns out, our tango men aren't too skilled in maintaining conversations with each other in the absence of the ladies (but luckily, an escape to the kitchen and the lounge always offered co-ed socialization and saved the nights ... and it was clear that many invitations to dances happened in the lounge and the hallway rather than just across the dance floor). Speaking of the latter, I thought my long-distance cabeceo skills were reasonable, but I didn't realize that when the opposite sexes are seated tightly on narrow chairs, and the heads of the two leaders or two followers aren't separated by more than a few inches, then a cabeceo needs a true laser precision ... otherwise, be ready to confusions between one's cabeceo's intended and unintended targets. Ouch.
The dogs were the happiest away from tango :)
And lastly, I really looked forward to gain some insight from the classes - improving the milonguero technique could be a true mind-altering experience - but the classes were generally too full to get enough personal attention and physical touch from the instructors, so the verbal instruction with its New Age rhetoric predominated (this verbiage may work nicely for the mood-setting but is too nebulous for the technical instruction, and simply makes me tune out if used in too large doses). In this delicate craft of the milonguero technique, I guess I'd rather stick with the private lessons! (Of course my own mood-setting may have been hampered by my own hobo circumstances ... a sleeping bag with two dogs curled up inside, under the random pines on the outskirts, for the living quarters, and skinnydipping under the highway bridge for the morning shower, ya know :) )

Eduardo Lazarowski's lecture

Once he wanted to go to history, but chose biochemistry... now exploring the history in depth again. Originally a seminar was the on whole history of tango since 1850. Today - just the orchestras.
1930s-50s. Beautiful multimedia. Animation, sound, just superb.
Starts from Gardel - melodic, singable, How to make it danceable?
The opposite extreme end of the spectrum ... Astor Piazzolla ... rhythmic yet irregular

Who were the guys who made it danceable like we like it? Canaro, Firpo, De Caro, Fresedo trailblazing between 1920-1930

Rosendo Mendizabal
Then come 4 masters D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo, Pugliese

A flashback to 1890-1910 - fluid, improvising bands. Rosendo Mendizábal - a middle class black pianist - records possibly the first tango sheet music. 1895
Villoldo many famous compositions like "El choclo"
Vicente Greco - first Orquesta Tipica 1912 (Eduardo plays their "Hotel Victoria"). Canaro debuted with Greco - he was a same-block neighor.
Genaro Esposito - 1913 Entrerriano. Bandoneon! "El Tano" Genaro hired Firpo who introduced piano into the orchestra.

Francisco Canaro 1920 - listen - all the instruments playing more or less together all the time. Now compare with Firpo - 1928 "El Amanecer" - layering of instruments, melodic layers.  Start of "evolutionists" as opposed to trad school like Canaro, or Anselmo Aieta who had debuts with him of D'Arienzo, Lomuto, and D'Agostino. But it was solely the rhythm which was danced then - the melodic layers just assisted with the mood.

Sexteto De Caro
In 1925, the things begins to change. Julio De Caro sextet of 1925. Pedro Maffia, Pedro Laurenz. Harmony, phrasing, rubato, staccato, syncopation, arpeggio etc etc.  Pizzicato. soloists, counter-cantos. Thoroughly educated musicians. Listen to the 1926 "Recuerdo".

Layoffs and poor pay of the Great Depresson disrupted the orchestras. De Caro transitioned away from the dancers. Fresedo remained the sole evolution-school force. He ruled at the cabaret. Soft, melodic dancing for the remaining rich. Roberto Ray sounded like a Spanish import to the porteños! Too perfectly speaking, too perfectly accompanying the music. In the same era Canaro ruled the Music Hall,  with the musical comedies, kind of symphonic in sound and theatrical in scope, his 1932 invention and also a rich-folk entertainment. Not many regular people dance by the mid-30s....

1936-1937 - Big Change (but also economy improved and politics turned a bit less oppressive, so the mood brightened overall). Juan D'Arienzo! Staccato and contrasting pauses. Young, unruly people are hooked. Jobs for musicians appear again!! And the orchestras come back: Troilo 1937, Di Sarli 1938, Pugliese 1939. And then a whole wave.

Alberto Echagüe - a real porteño voice, and he sings the rhythm, not the melody like it used to be. Compare with the later D'Arienzo vocalists like Jorge Valdez - 1958 "Hasta siempre, amor" - still a rhythmic voice, but overwhelmingly shifted into melody.

Francisco Fiorentino
Troilo is the master of phrasing. Reinvented the singer role as a rhythm-marking "instrument" in such a way that dancers can follow it with Fiorentino - that started even before Echagüe. (DP note - I would think that the rhythmic, irreverent appeal of the music and poetry and the rough syllable-cutting vocal quality were carried through the Decada Infamia by Edgardo Donato's orhestra and singers such as Felix Gutierrez - for example, of the 1932 "El huracan" - but perhaps the local lore wouldn't give enough credit to the Uruguayan and Afro tango musicians?)

Di Sarli composed "Bahia Blanca" as a remembrance of his childhood when he knew he will die soon (he had pancreatic cancer and died in his 50s). Di Sarli could be very rhythmic but "in decent clothes" unlike D'Arienzo. Legendary left hand piano - "el bordoneo" style - kind of following the milonga-campera strumming of the gaucho guitar, affectionately known as "la bordona". Also arrastres (drumroll-like all-strings on a guitar originally), adopted for bandoneons. "A la gran muñeca" is a great example of both techniques. Great singers worked him - Rufino started as a teenager, before he was "a grownup in long pants" - it was Di Sarli who bought the first "leones" (pantaloons) for him. Podesta, Duran. The best time for the danceable-music singers was in the 40s. In the 1950s Di Sarli rearranged a lot of ancient compositions, in a romantic way with incredible virtuosity, but the instrumentals of this later era stand out in particular.

And finally to Pugliese. Really expanded the horizons. Started with rescuing De Caro's concepts, and famously invented "la yumba" - the new kind of arrastre. "Urban arrastre". "Was so good that even his political enemies let his music slip through".

What made the music of the 40s great? Outstanding level of the musicians. Resurgence of the vocal tango. Great lyricists. "Una emocion" sings of the union of tunes and words.
"Natu" teaching tango history (to be reviewed soon!)

Finally a plug for Osvaldo Natucci, "the first modern DJ in Argentina" (who burst into the BsA milonga scene only in teh mid-1990s, but revolutionized teaching and conceptualizing of the tango DJing), and his music collection which is so heavy on the 40s. Di Sarli, Troilo, Pugliese, D'Arienzo top his list by #s of tango titles - here is another way to define the "Most Important Orchestras".

And an introduction of Eduardo's own, "90% ready" tango history book!

(Speaking of history, I promise to return to the oldest and most famous Argentine DJs - Osvaldo Natucci, Felix Picherna, Horacio Godoy - and to explore where and when we got our DJing concepts of tandas, cortinas, structures, and flows - soon!)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Avenues Milonga Playlist, July 2015

A more quiet summer milonga, especially because many locals went to the Sun Valley tango weekend. Still we occasionally had 5 couples on the floor, and, despite a late start, ran all the way to 1 am. But of course it has been difficult to gauge the energy levels and to fine-tune anything / to decide what is the best to drop of the much longer draft list...
01. Francisco Canaro - Instrumental "El cabure" 1936 2:37
02. Francisco Canaro - Instrumental "Hotel Victoria" 1935 2:49
03. Francisco Canaro - Instrumental "El chamuyo" 1933 3:11
04. Oleg Gazmanov "Summer Rains" 0:26
Strongly rhythmic Di Sarlis
05. Carlos Di Sarli - Instrumental "Catamarca" 1940 2:23
06. Carlos Di Sarli - Instumental "Shusheta" 1940 2:22
07. Carlos Di Sarli - Instrumental "La Trilla" 1940 2:19
08. "Na Pua O Hawaii - George Ku Trio"0:22
09. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "En tu corazon (vals)" 1938 2:46
10. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "Valsecito de Antes" 1937 2:19
11. Juan D'Arienzo "Amor y celos" 1936 2:22
12. Maya Kristalinskaya "Nezhnost (Tenderness)" 0:17
13. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Solo compasion" 1941 2:58

14. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ahora no me conocés" 1941 2:35
15. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Así era el tango" 1944 2:49
16. Oleg Gazmanov "Summer Rains" 0:26
A second instrumental tanda of Di Sarli, almost from the same period as the first one, but this one goes in the mellow and lyrical direction
17. Carlos Di Sarli - Instrumental "Germaine" 1941 2:58
18. Carlos Di Sarli - Instumental "El paladín" 1941 2:34
19. Carlos Di Sarli - Instumental " Ensueños" 1943 2:43
20. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide 1" 1980 0:21
Osvaldo Donato ads, from Tango Decoder blog
Milongas with the voice of Horacio Lagos. I already wrote how the orchestra of Edgardo Donato imploded in 1942, after Edgardo fired his vocalists, and then his brother, the pianist and composer Osvaldo Donato, also left along with several other orchestra musicians. More recently, Michael Krugman unearthed several more pieces of the Horacio Lagos puzzle on the Tango Decoder blog. Apparently just as Edgardo Donato reassembled his band as a "Tipica Moderna", Osvaldo Donato also debuted with the orchestra  (on December 3, 1943 at Cafeteria El Diamante) - and Horacio Lagos kept singing with him. And in March 1944, the Osvaldo Donato and Horacio Lagos were still performing together - as the newspaper ad claims, filling the house of the Bar "El Nacional"
21. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos "De punta a punta (milonga)" 1939 2:21
22. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos "La Milonga Que Faltaba" 1938 2:24
23. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos y Randona"Sácale punta" 1938 2:18
24. Maya Kristalinskaya "Nezhnost (Tenderness)" 0:17
25. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama "Tormenta" 1939 2:35
26. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama "No me pregunten porque" 1939 2:51
27. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama "Te quiero todavia" 1939 2:54
28. Oleg Gazmanov "Summer Rains" 0:26
29. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "El encopao" 1942 2:34
30. Enrique Rodriguez - Instrumental "El morochito" 1941 2:34
31. Enrique Rodriguez  - Armando Moreno "En la buena y en la mala" 1940 2:26
32. "Na Pua O Hawaii - George Ku Trio" 0:22
33. Francisco Canaro - Francisco Amor "Salud, Dinero, Amor (vals)" 3:06
34. Francisco Canaro - Francisco Amor "La zandunga" 1939 3:16
35. Francisco Canaro - Francisco Amor "Cuando Estaba Enamorado (vals)" 2:49
36. Maya Kristalinskaya "Nezhnost (Tenderness)" 0:17
transitions after valses to a progressively slow tanda. Looks like a successful experiment:
37. Ricardo Tanturi - Instrumental "Comparsa Criolla" 1941 2:53
38. Ricardo Tanturi - Enrique  Campos "La Abandone Y No Sabia" 1944 2:47
39. Ricardo Tanturi - Enrique Campos "Oigo Tu Voz" 1943 3:07
40. Oleg Gazmanov "Summer Rains" 0:26
41. Sexteto Carlos di Sarli - Instrumental "Pobre yo" 1929 2:12
42. Sexteto Carlos di Sarli - Instrumental "Belen" 1929 2:44
43. Sexteto Carlos di Sarli - Ernesto Fama "La estancia" 1930 3:25
44. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide 2" 1980 0:18
Possibly the best of many El Llorons out there...
45. Quinteto Pirincho - Instrumental "El lloron" 1948 2:01
46. Quinteto Pirincho - Instrumental "La cara de la luna (milonga)" 1959 2:29
47. Quinteto Pirincho - Instrumental "El torito" 1950 2:20
48. Maya Kristalinskaya "Nezhnost (Tenderness)" 0:17
49. Osvaldo Fresedo Roberto Ray "Yo no se llorar" 1933 2:36
50. Osvaldo Fresedo Roberto Ray "Recuerdo de bohemia" 1935 2:36
51. Osvaldo Fresedo Roberto Ray "Sollosos" 1937 3:27
52. Carmen Piculeata "Variation Corelli" 2013, 2013 0:28
53. Pedro Laurenz - Alberto Podesta "Garua" 1943 3:09
54. Pedro Laurenz - Alberto Podesta "Todo" 1943 2:37
55. Pedro Laurenz - Alberto Podesta "Recien" 1943 2:43
56. "Na Pua O Hawaii - George Ku Trio"  0:22
57. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Recuerdo (Vals)" 1941 2:26
58. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Con los Amigos (A mi madre) (Vals)" 1943 2:42
59. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "La Serenata (Mi Amor)" 1941 2:32
60. Maya Kristalinskaya "Nezhnost (Tenderness)" 0:17
61. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Que te importa que te llore" 1942 2:44
62. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Jamas Retornaras" 2:31
63. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Tristezas De La Calle Corrientes" 1942 2:46
64. Carmen Piculeata "Minor Blues" 2013, 2013 0:23
65. Donato Racciatti - Instrumental "Quejas de bandoneon" 2:35
66. Donato Racciatti - Olga Delgro "Queriéndote" 1955 2:49
67. Donato Racciatti - Olga Delgro "Hasta siempre amor" 1958 2:57
68. Russian Folk "Gypsy Girl (cortina)" 0:22
69. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Tengo mil novias" 1939 3:06
70. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "Uno que ha sido marino! (vals)" 1944 2:57
71. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Fru Fru (vals)" 1939 2:57
72. Carrapicho "Tic Tic Tac cortina 1" 2007, 2007 0:17
73. Rodolfo Biagi - Andrés Falgás "La Chacarera " 2:24
74. Rodolfo Biagi - Andrés Falgás "Cielo!" 1939 2:31
75. Rodolfo Biagi - Andrés Falgás "Son cosas del bandoneon" 1939 2:44
76. Alla Pugacheva "Million Scarlet Roses" 1982 0:19
Different periods and different directors of the OTV, one may consider them to be different orchestras altogether, but...
77. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Angel Vargas "Adios Buenos Aires" 2:36
78. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Alberto Gomez "Carillon de La Merced" 1931 3:16
79. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Ortega del Cerro "Una Vez" 1943 3:22
20. "Lady Be Good - Sol Hoopii Trio" 0:23
25. Osváldo Pugliese "Recuerdo" 1944 2:39
26. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Farol" 1943 3:22
27. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Rondando Tu Esquina" 1945 2:49
28. Alfredo de Angelis - Instrumental "La cumparsita (Matos Rodriguez" 1961 3:33
29. Quartango "Androgyne" 1999 4:30

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Big 5 Orchestras: a statistician's quest

Which tango orchestras are the most important?

Nobody would disagree that the recordings of Carlos Di Sarli and Juan D'Arienzo, the musical antipodes of their glory days, are the backbone of the XXI century milonga playlists. (Interestingly, there is a persistent but unproven rumor that the two grandest orchestra leaders played together for a short period of time in 1934, when Di Sarli bounced between a succession of temporary jobs, with Cambareri in Rosario, with his former Sextet musicians at confitería "Novelty", with Juan Canaro, at Radio El Mundo, and maybe even with D'Arienzo?)

Ron Weigel with his wife Susana and the statue immortalizing
them in Urbana IL, where they have taught Argentine tango
since 1999. The 11-foot sculpture by Larry Young has been
installed in Urbana's Wandell Sculpture Garden in 2001
But the tango music aficionados always prefer to speak of "the Big 4" or "the Big 5", and they make a lot of fuss about who the "next 2 or 3" orchestras might be, once we place Di Sarli and D'Arienzo at the top of the list. "How did you dare to rank Troilo below his due 3rd position??" - "How could you even consider Donato among the big-five??".  In this post, we shall consider the orchestra rankings and preferences through the prism of surveys and statistics.

Enter Ron Weigel, likely the only statistician ever to have a tango monument erected in his honor. Dr. Weigel teaches biostatistics in Urbana-Champaign. During one of his visits to BsAs, in summer 2008, he decided to tally all tandas at all the milongas they attended, trying to get an authoritative answer about the Most Important Orchestras. Ron notes that the surveyed milongas were all in the downtown, all popular with the experienced milongueros, so the results ought to be biased in favor of the subjective tastes there (and indeed, Biagi ranked high in all genre categories, which is exactly what people remember about the Central BsAs milongueros). Still, Ron writes, his subjective experience in other BsAs venues is that they play broadly similar selections. We shall review the data shortly, but first let me set the mood by playing a video from Club Gricel, the home of 2 out of the 14 surveyed milongas:

An average milonga from Ron Weigel's dataset had 13 tango tandas, including approximaely two each of D'Arienzo and Di Sarli, and one of Troilo. None of the other orchestras ranked as a must-play:

As a fellow statistician, I must warn against literal acceptance of these rankings. There clearly is a good deal of variation in milonga setlists, and if one keep observing milongas, then this variability must result in slightly fluctuating tallies each time. In fact we can use the toolkit of statistics to check if the differences between, say, 11 Puglieses vs. 13 Tanturi in this dataset are "statistically significant" (as opposed to falling within the expected range of the random fluctuation).

One-tailed Fisher's test performed on Ron's tallies confirms that Troilo was not significantly preferred over Biagi or Tanturi ( p-value = 0.423086) or Pugliese or D'Agostino ( p-value = 0.273212) or Calo or even Rodriguez ( p-value = 0.147721). Only Di Sarli and D'Arienzo were significantly favored over the runners-up.

So after all the data-collection and analysis, we are left exactly where we started: the study confirmed that Di Sarli and D'Arienzo are The Big Two, but couldn't tell with statistical confidence who the "other 2 or 3" core orchestras ought to be. It doesn't mean that there is no objective orchestra ranking - it just means that it will take many more observations before one can confidently rank them.

And even then we'd be left with selection biases to ponder. Like, are salon milongas different? Are differences cropping up from year to year, both because the availability of the recordings changes and because the fashions and trends shift? Could there be differences between earlier-evening and late-night milonga styles? Between the more youthful and more old-dancer communities? Even between the steamy BsAs summer and its gloomy winter?

There turns out to be a much bigger survey which attempts to parse out some of these influences. But before we move on to it, let me mention some of the other results of Ron Weigel's study.

1. Milongas. There were, on average, 2.6 milonga tandas per event (fewer then expected 3.2 tandas if TTVTTM tanda flow was the rule). Almost all milonga tandas were of Canaro, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, and Donato, (plus a sole Biagi tanda and a sole Tanturi tanda), with 25% milonga tandas being mixed ( which also included Caceres (Tango negro), Calo, Color Tango (La luciernaga), Laurenz, Tanturi, Troilo, and Villasboas). The numbers are too small for meaningful statistical comparisons, but mixed milonga tandas seem to be a widely accepted norm

2. Valses. There were, on average, 2.7 vals tandas per milonga, again fewer than expected under the TTVTTM rule. Fully one third vals tandas were D'Arienzo's (!), and nearly as many tandas were mixed (including Biagi, Calo, De Angelis, Demare, Di Sarli, Firpo (tipica), Laurenz, Tanturi, and Troilo). Biagi and Troilo were distant 2nd and 3rd behind D'Arienzo's, and all other orchestras were represented by just a tanda or two ( De Angelis, Calo, Quinteto Pirincho, D’agostino, Donato, and Tanturi).
Felipe Martinez DJing in Canada

3. Other genres. An average milonga had 2 to 4 tandas of non-tango music ( Chacarera, Cumbia, Merengue, Jazz, Pasodoble, Rock & Roll, Salsa), which may partly explain why there were fewer than expected milonga and vals sets.

While we were discussing Ron Weigel's survey (and its limitations) on facebook, Felipe Martinez pointed my attention to a much bigger annual Tango Tecnia survey which tried to measure not what DJs played, but what the dancers liked. The 2014 report is the latest one available. I took the 2015 survey to familiarize myself with its methodology, and I have to assume that it didn't change much year to year.

Tango Tecnia doesn't probe the opinions of the English-speaking tangosphere well (its North American respondents are overwhelmingly from Mexico, and its European respondents are mostly from Spain, although France and Italy contribute too), and the majority of the survey-takers are young (in their 20s and 30s) .... but it still cut impressively across the cultural and age divides with nearly 1300 responses. D'Arienzo and Di Sarli came on top here, too, with nearly 80% "approval rating":

It may be impossible to evaluate statistical significance from the 2014 survey results, because almost 30% of the respondents skipped the question about orchestras ... and it's impossible to tell if this fraction differed from Europe to the Americas. Those who did like some orchestras liked, on average, 10 of them .... but many must have picked just one or two, otherwise how could one explain the observation that nearly 1 in 5 survey-takers didn't like D'Arienzo or Di Sarli

xkcd: "Significant!" :)
Once one splits already-thin data multiple ways,
then all sorts of improbable spurious
"associations" can be "found" there
("More study recommended", deadpans
xkcd's famous mouseover)
Biases of selection and recall ought to be a huge problem, too - people may not remember unfamiliar or rare titles, and may remember better the music they heard from CDs or online videos than the tandas they loved at the actual milongas. The contemporary and the undanceable definitely gets a very strong favorable bias in the survey data, with Color Tango outpolling Laurenz and OTV, Piazzolla beating Lomuto and Malerba, and even Ojos de Tango getting 10 times the votes of Garcia, Firpo, or Carabelli. 

Popularity breakdown by region and by age looks intuitively right, although it may be impossible to tell apart significant differences from the flukes. Say, Sexteto Milonguero rules in South America and with the under-30 crowd, while Enrique Rodriguez and OTV seem to have more fans in Europe.

Of the specific record titles, the highest ranking is (yes) Poema with 18% approval rating. Many Pugliese records, Bajofondo and Otros Aires, Esteban Morgado, Caceres and Salgan complete the top-20 list of the most poplar record titles, Regional and age differences look mind-boggling sometimes - like, apparently Otros's "Lo Vino" is especially loved ... in Mexico, and Hotel Victoria is preferred by the 60+ age group? - but one can't tell if it is a mere fluke. 

Sometimes it's just so disappointing to look at the world through the statistician's eyes :) :) ... a picture which sort of made good intuitive sense no longer looks trustworthy once you go into the gory details, and start seeing meaningless coincidences and confounds where you used to see patterns.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Practica del Centro with QTANGO, June 2015

Erskine Maytorena, Olga Tikhovidova, and Natalia Tikhovidova of QTANGO Orchestra may not need an introduction to the Salt Lake Tango community, they are our old friends. On their June road tour, QTANGO planned a 4-night stay in Utah before continuing to Idaho, Montana, Alberta CA, and Colorado. I was to provide recorded music support on the 2nd night of the workshop, in the loft of Squatters Pub where we scheduled a musicality class and a practica with a long live music segment.

For a pre-class warm-up, Erskine asked me to play a set of different orchestras with strong contrasts, and oh, how about starting it with El Recodo? I had to think real quick and I probably had a deeply puzzled look of my face - well, how do you get contrast and continuity at the same time?? - before picking Di Sarli's 1951 "El recodo", D'Arienzo's 1970s "La torcacita", and 1942 "Trasnochando" of Miguel Caló with Raúl Berón.

The class was themed "How each orchestra can change your dance", and Olga and Natalia wonderfully conjured up the spirits of the steady-matching Canaro, the fiery rhythmic D'Arienzo coming to the rescue of the moribund pre-Golden Age tango scene and evolving over the years, and the dramatic, accelerating and slowing, passionate Pugliese. Actually, the topics of the class ranged even farther, with an intro on the tango instruments and their staccato and melodic abilities and roles - piano vs violin and bass, the voice of the bandoneon and the human voice - and with segments about stimulating female musicality, even in such traditionally lead-dominated contexts as the song endings ("the poses of the cha-chan") !
Focusing on piano...
... and on violin!
Then it's time for the musicians to take a short break, and for me, to play a few tandas which, I assume, will keep the energy strong without an overlap with QTango's repertoire and style.

01. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "Derecho viejo" 1939 2:24
02. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "Joaquina" 1935 3:01
03. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "Champagne tango" 1938 2:26
04. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos "A media luz" 1941 2:31
05. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos y Romeo Gavioli "Amando en silencio" 1941 2:52
06. Edgardo Donato - Horacio Lagos "Lagrimas" 1939 2:50
07. Quinteto Pirincho - Instrumental "El torito" 1950 2:20
08. Quinteto Pirincho - Instrumental "Orillera" 1960 2:24
09. Quinteto Pirincho - Refran "El esquinazo" 1951 2:28
10. Carlos di Sarli - Alberto Podestá "Nido gaucho" 1942 3:22
11. Carlos di Sarli - Alberto Podestá "Tu el cielo y tu" 1944 2:59
12. Carlos di Sarli - Alberto Podestá "Lloran las campanas" 1944 2:58
13. Enrique Rodríguez - Armando Moreno "Tango argentino" 1942 2:37

QTango start super-rhythmically and the floor literally bursts with energy with the opening bars of their signature Felicia. And then the second tanda pumps pure unadulterated Old Guard drive with the trio of El Garron, 9 de julio, & El choclo. This is a practica after a class about orchestras and styles, and Erskin often precedes the songs with a short talk-through about what's special about these pieces, and this format works great with the dancing crowd.

The cooldown tanda starts from a supposedly slow-and-steady vals, Adios juventud, and ends with an officially slow one (subtitled "vals lento"), Piazzolla's Chiquilin de Bachin - buy you gotta listen to these arrangements, they breath fire over the facade of slow steadiness. An hour later comes another amazing lyrical and sad cooldown tanda, a QTango's trademark set of Adios Nonino and Milonga triste. And in the final set, a timeless favorite, El pañuelito. But no Cumparsita even though the time is 10 pm and the practica is supposed to be over. So I keep on playing with a transition tanda, a Pugliese crowning tanda, and the final "exclamation mark and ellipses" for this great night.

14. Enrique Rodríguez - Armando Moreno "Como se pianta la vida" 1940 2:25
15. Enrique Rodríguez - Armando Moreno "Como has cambiado pebeta" 1942 2:37
16. Enrique Rodríguez - Armando Moreno "Danza Maligna" 1940 2:27
17. Osváldo Pugliese - Jorge Maciel "Remembranza" 1956 3:41
18. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Rondando Tu Esquina" 1945 2:49
19. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Farol" 1943 3:22
20. Pedro Láurenz - Pedro Mafia "La cumparsita" 1926 3:01
21. Damour Vocal Band "SWAY" 3:49

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Notes from Varo Biagi's DJ workshop, June 2015

Varo has been DJig festival milongas for over 5 years, and he came to the LAX marathon to share his experience with the aspiring DJs and all the dancers interested in the ways the DJs make the milonga crowds roll. His 2-hour seminar covered the orchestras, tanda making, flow connection, cortinas as a "personal touch of a DJ" :), nontrad music, DJ resources, must-do's and don't's ... complete with quizzes and classwork.

Varo's DJing touched me in the personal ways, both through the unusual exciting tandas he spun and through his old blog posts about tango music and poetry, and I was really excited to join the workshop. My notes are understandably personal, more detailed where I sensed a different viewpoint or a unexplored idea or an echo of a broader conflict. But I hope that I captured the broader interest topics too.

Orchestras: The "big 5" is a great concept but rather than considering it an absolute, treat it as a regional, cultural, temporal, and personal fave-list. Yes, we always hear that "Di Sarli, D'Arienzo, Troilo, Pugliese, and Francisco Canaro records are expected at every milonga" but Varo's personal "indisensable 5" is a slightly different list ... instead of Troilo and Pugliese - Donato (here comes the culture war!) & Biagi. The concept of "personal big five :) ". And D'Agostino is #6 .... or maybe even 5 with the Vargas classics. "A whole BsAs milonga comes to the floor with these D'Agostinos". (DP: I plan to do more reporting from the frontlines of the Great Tango Music Culture War where I belong in the Troilo-sceptic camp too ... but as a preview of the opponents' point of view, here is a quote from DJ Antti from the influential TOTW blog: "There's nothing wrong with the occasional special selection and the Donatos and Lomutos etc. But many DJ's go so far into centering their set around the likes of Canaro, Donato, Rodriguez and some Guardia Vieja that the set feels out of balance and the occasional Troilo will not save the set for me." Yes, you read it right. They are talking about "Canaro, Donato, Rodriguez and their ilk")

"You hear lots of Troilo-Marino in BsAs ... the music may sound unexciting for us visitors, and I may have skipped such a tanda in a different place, but the goodness of the BsAs embraces compensates for everything :) "

Some "not to overuse specials": Garcia, Rafael Canaro, Pirinchos, Lacava, Salgan

Unusual times, unusual vocalists: an example of Ricardo  Ruiz - late D'Agostino the 1950s. "The other Cascabelito" (DP: peculiarly, my library has a sole track of theirs, and it is ... Cascabelito. Gotta do some homework :) )

Structuring tandas

"3 or 4" issue. It is an question which brings strong opinions, but not as hot as to become another culture war. Varo sides with 4 T's / 3 V's or M's ("better chance to get into tune with each other in a pair", "what if someone doesn't start from the 1st song") but he also explains reasons to go with three ("need more social mixing", "too short a milonga", "very long milonga where the flow of the mood calls for three tango tandas in a row", "alternative tracks which are longer than 3 minutes", and yes, "organizers' choice"). Super-masters of DJing, such as Xavier Rodriguez with his 25 years of experience and his crazy talent, can and do break conventions, and get their tandas of all sizes fly in one breath - Varo remembered his tanda of 7 milongas which was pretty amazing ... except it made people too tired to keep on dancing afterwards :)

We briefly discussed 5-tango tandas which make even very experienced dancers risk-averse ... I guess the more confidence one has in self and others, the more one likes longer tandas? When you take risks choosing partners, it helps to limit the potential downside by making the tandas shorter?

Sabakh does 4 valses BTW (of course we couldn't resist counting it tonight ... hi Alexandra!).

Strength of different songs (1st and last stronger .... unless it is a cooldown tanda starting with lower energy). Energy is directional - ratcheting up or down. Varo usually ups the ante from V to M, then lowers and starts rising.
The middle isn't the place for the strongest song ... except in some special situations as a conscious choice. "Never put Biagi's Lagrimas y Sonrisas in the middle. Or Corazon of di Sarli" (DP: of course I couldn't resist checking my setlists LOL ... I found the super-vals several times in the first tanda position, and once, at the closing position. Di Sarli - Rufino's Corazon was used only as a tanda opener. So I guess I rely on slightly different intuitive strength quotients for the opening and the closing tracks ... my first track picks are for an urgent, irresistible quality, a must-dance from the opening bars, while the last one must be strong but in a more steady, sustaining way, culminating in a powerful finish)

Re-listening to the endings of songs and the beginnings of the ones which follow can help you pick the best transitions.

DP: Power of a song is a subjective criterion and we clearly saw this subjectivity in the class exercises when we were asked to sort 4 Di Sarli - Rufinos into a tanda. One can even confuse tempo or mood for power ... but one better be more cautious with variations of moods and BPM's within a set.

Mixed tandas? The #1 posibility is to mix a singer with an instrumental from the same era / same energy (Argentina may be less attached to vocals than us - Varo's norm is 70% vocal and it's "high")
or two singers (Caution! Castillo + Campos  or Rufino + Podesta or Echague + Maure may earn you a red card - "too big, too different to mix" ... but Florio + Pomar Di Sarli sounds passable) ... or throw an instrumental divider between two big singers.

An example of mixing in vocals to an instrumental: "Comparsa criolla" with slower Castillos??? No, but "La vida es corta" or "Pocas palabras" - possible.

Mixing different orchestras: only "tastefully" and "uncommonly" (DP: by all accounts, mixing orchestras is more common in vals and especially milonga tandas, even in BsAs. In my experience, mixing orchestras is only a reasonable option when the tanda builds around unique special records which defy standard-recipe techniques ... but I also know that extreme talent knows no bounds)

Energy flow notes:
Late in the milongas: all Tango tandas OK to avoid finishing on milonga or vals tandas.

Early in the milongas: "spare the hits for later" - sometimes it works - play chill / flowing music but not energizing D'Arienzo or something. But Varo sticks with TTVTTM even early - although Seemantha suggested TTT's. (DP note; I often notice disappointingly de-energizing stretches of music early in long festival milongas, and can't help thinking if there wasn't more exciting music to choose even after sparing the strongest hits and the complexity and the drama for the later part of the night; in fact Varo's closing milonga of the marathon felt that way. But perhaps my perception puts me in the minority of the tangueros? In tango, I certainly value intensity over effortless chill, and more than one cooldown tanda at a time just isn't how I like it... )

Structure of the list. Of course TTVTTM. For a short night maybe even fewer T's. Long time, more T's give you more room to play with temperatures - but 3 song sets then?

"Reasonable tanda-to-tanda contrasts": Too many sharp contrasts between too many consecutive tandas? Not safe, as are uniform too-similar tandas.

First tanda suggestions: 30-32 instrumental Canaros, El Flete, Joaquina, Hotel Victoria; D'Arienzo 35-36 instrumentals (Champagne). Di Sarli 50s occasionally. Canaro/Fama? But don't start too low. (DP: may first-tanda regulars are also instrumental 1930's Fresedos, and Quinteto Don Pancho of Canaro's)

Peak prime time - D'Arienzo's Echague. (after performances and break rhythmic Donato before D'Arienzo as a pre-warm up). Also Biagi/Falgas, Troilo-Fiorentino, Donato of course. Ca. 1941 rhythmic Di Sarlis.

Late tandas: Late Di Sarli's - Florio's, Pomar's. Pugliese. Varela. Canaro-Maida aka Poema. Tanturi instrumentals if it is a day milonga - ending with a speedy bang. Very late D'Arienzos around Mi Dolor maybe? No stunning surprises for the final tanda, please!!

Cortinology: start w/o silence!! Prepare for energy change of the next tanda. Showcase the theme of the milonga. Generally 32-25" but between 20 and 50 secs. Later in night - longer ones. Dark floor - longer ones. Varo's using wavosaur (free online) to cut-n-fade. Xilisoft for mp3 conversion. Only fadeout, no "in". A silent 2 sec or so after a particularly sweet embracey tanda (as long as 4 sec).

More uses for the "Silent track". Sometimes songs are overcut in the first place. Silence is also a safety feature for between-performances - if the computer is still running, it won't abruptly start the next track.

Equalizer: old records - usually bell-shaped. Post-1990 all pre-eq'd.

"The other music" - Nuevo is meant to be tango, it is related (sometimes it is very close to trad, like Sexteto Miloguero, some quite far like Bajofondo or Otros). Alternative wasn't meant to be tango, but it came out related. "If you can ocho cortado to it, it is it". But mixing is hard. Imitate the classic structure of TTVTTM and waves of energy as much as possible. An example: "Como dos extranos" by Mercedes Sosa is a quasi vals.

Resources: todotango, eltangoysusinvitados, tango,info
Lavocah's book a great resource.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Florian Hermann's time and place

Just a few days ago I was obsessively researching the cryptic life of Florian Hermann (Russ. Флориан Герман), whose "Valse Hommage" has been remixed into the 1884 Russian Gypsy romance hit "Dark Eyes" ("Черные глаза"), a timeless tune which in turn inspired several Russian and Argentine tangos such as Francisco Canaro's "Ojos negros que fascinan" and Florindo Sassone's "Ojos negros". The music history sites are full of wild legends about who Hermann was, or where and when he lived.
With the titles, themes, dedications, and lyrics sources of Florian Hermann's compositions, it didn't take me long to realize that he lived and taught in and around Vilnius, Lithuania (then Wilno, Poland). But for some reason I didn't make the next logical step - to triangulate between historic events in his composition titles, and dates of publications, to pinpoint the years of his career.
Fixing this omission now.
St. Petersbourg chez A. Büttner, Plate 1507 (pdf)
From "Starinnye Noty" website

The complete listing of Florian Hermann's hundred-odd works, from the catalogs of Gutheil, a leading Russian music publisher, is available oline, e.g. here  but the earliest listing of Hermann's compositions can be found in a St. Petersburg catalog of A. Büttner published jointly with D. Rahter of Hamburg between 1879 and 1881 (the two music publishers merged in 1879, and select works of Hermann's begin to appear on other catalogs digitized in Google Books beginning in 1881). Some subjects are easy to put a date on: Hermann's op 37 and 39 are marches "Beyond the Balkans" and "Totleben" ((Забалканскiй Маршъ & Тодлебенъ-Маршъ), which refer to the events of the 1877-1878 when General Totleben lead the famous defense of Plevna and then the whole Russian Balkan campaign against Turkey. A later-period "date-able" composition is a march on the occasion of coronation of Nicholas II (1896) (doesn't have an op. number). Post-1900 catalogs do no add any new titles, therefore we can conclude that the composer's career of Florian Hermann lasted from the 1870s to the 1890s. Valse Hommage is op. 21. So, while we can't pinpoint the exact data of composition of "Valse Hommage", it ought to date to the early-to-mid 1870s

And this how it would sound a hundred years later. Vladimir Vystotsky, 1975:

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Denver Tango Festival Spillover Milonga playlist, May 2015

Denver Festival lives!

The History
The Alternative Music
The Playlist

The historic festival is alive!

Denver Tango Festival has already been a legend when we were tango newbies - actually, I am on record saying that my birth as a tanguero happened right there, a dozen festivals ago. In fact, Tom Stermitz's organizer's prowess left its mark not just in his hometown, but continents and oceans away, from Russia (where the nation's oldest and strongest festival, Moscow Milonguero Nights, has been godfathered by Tom) to San Diego with its famous New Year's festival, originally Tom's brainchild as well.
My rookie's milonga many,
many years ago. And I still
consider a year without dancing
in the slanted rays of Sun at
Cheesman, a year not fully lived

But it's also true that the tango festival organizers' world had changed dramatically in the past two decades. There are myriad festival-goers' options now, and the tangueros know almost in real time who's heading where, what's hot, what's not. For, ultimately, it is the guest list which makes the festival. And to stay hot and to attract the cool guests, one must constantly innovate, be generous and personable, always ratchet things up, always keep abreast with the trends - or better yet, set the trends, and never let the fickle Fortune look at you dismissively. In hindsight, Denver Tango Festival already showed signs of slow decay and of the organizers' inattention even when we first visited it 7 years ago. The oldtimers would already tell you that it used to bigger, that it used to be a trend-setting novelty, but by the late 2000's it's become a dependable, solid but kind of stolid thing. Frictions within the community didn't help things either, and by fall 2014, the grand old fest was at the edge of the abyss.

The power of the locals, DEN 2015:
John Miller and Nick Jones introduce a miraculously restored Victrola;
Jesica Cutler crafts the festival banner, as Pugliese watched approvingly;
Martin Rybczynski outshone all of the DJs in my personal perception
We are so happy to see that the community bandied back together to return the West's flagship tango event to life! Great, great thanks to John Miller and Jesica Cutler for selflessly helping to turn around the fortunes of this historic Festival, to its visionary founders Tom Stermitz and Amy Beaudet, to the DJ's, musicians, instructors, and volunteers. And my special warmest gratitude to Halina Morgucz Palmer for the invitation to DJ in my beloved Avalon, for her wonderful hospitality, and for pushing me to include lots of alternative tandas, and to Grisha Nisnevich for his great friendship and his very timely sage DJ advice.

The alternative conundrum

Defamiliarization :) :
Victor Shklovsky, who coined the word,
with his wife Serafima. The 1950s.
Broadly defined, the alternative tango music is (doh!) not a classical milonga music but a variety of passionate dance music with an ample room for our tango vocabulary, tango musicality, and tango social conventions and skills. Alternative music serves two very different primary purposes - to put the experienced tango dancers "outside of the box" to stimulate their creativity and to enrich their music interpretation skills, AND to reconnect the tango dancers with the more familiar musical cultures and styles to which they may have been attached even before embarking on their tango journeys. In other words, to expose the dancers to The Strange and to give them footing in The Familiar. Actually, there may be less contradiction between these two goals than it seems at first. "Defamiliarization" through the juxtaposition of the familiar and the strange is at least a century-old creative arts method (the word itself has been first coined by the Russian avant-guarde in the 1910s) and it works just as intended, destroying stereotypes and automatic behaviors and fostering creativity.

"It's not a mere matter of taste": Cultural warfare
Pure bodies, pure blood, pure food, pure music ....
it's ageless
The classics-only school of thought assigns to the Golden Age tango music a strong ritual-purity quality, harnessing the millennia of the human beliefs in the pure, righteous Self and the dangerous, contaminated Other. This gives a truly primal quality to the cultural wars over the choices of the music. Sometimes it even pushes bona fide classic orchestras such as Donato or Rodriguez to the "other" side. 

I am no stranger to partisanship in the culture wars myself. But DJing requires a different state of mind. It takes giving up one's ambition and one's lofty ideals for the higher-yet ideal of serving the dancing public. This blog is named "humilitan" for the same reason - to remind me that I may be free to pick sides as a private person, but that as DJ, I should bow to the community needs. Only it's still very hard to serve the community where different key opinion leaders call for addition or deletion of alternative tandas - not even because of the sets' artistic and functional merits, but because these people want to make radical statements!

But these two cool goals don't come without a major liability. For great many tangueros, one of the best things about the milonga culture is exactly this Great Wall of the cultural divide separating the tango universe from the popular and contemporary cultural influences and from the music forms from outside Argentina, and they love being safe and predictable in the beautiful bubble of the Golden Age. They don't volunteer into the surprising discoveries of, eh, defamiliarization. They may or may not join a fully alternative milongas, as a matter of an informed conscious choice ... but the "mostly classic / part alternative" format has worse pitfalls. The guests generally don't know if an alt tanda is coming, and if they are prepared to dance but choose to sit it out, then it may drain some of the energy. Moreover, I try hard to select the moods, the rhythms, and the textures of the consecutive tandas to generate a good flowing wave of energy, a predictably accelerating and decelerating but unstoppable momentum. But it is a lot harder to create a parallel wave experience for those dancers who skip all alternatives, so they may be shortchanged in this respect, too.

The relative unpredictability and the sheer variety of the alternative tango music lead to one more inseparable yin-yang pair of a pro and a con. Generally it makes little sense to weigh the opening bars of an alt tanda to decide who exactly is the perfect partner for this music. You know the drill, "X is a superb Di Sarli - Podesta tango follower, or Y is just right for a fiery vals of Biagi's". It is a cliche, and IMHO it is largely a fallacy, yet another automaton stereotype which detracts from our creativity. Sure thing this "Y" could be great for this specific flavor of music, but if it's all you ever dance with him, without variation, then you are probably missing out. Anyway, with an alternative tanda, you better "expect the unexpected" & throw most of these prejudicial who's-good-for-what ideas out of the window. The result is a better social openness, and it is a big pro in my book. But the flip side is that it's much harder to mix the alt tandas, to make sure that "the unexpected" doesn't become "the haphazard" or even "the untenable". (On the contrary, in the classic tanda mixology, a DJ needs to watch out for "the predictable" not to segway into "the unexciting" and "the contrived").

To cut the long story short, the flow-of-energy magic resulted in the final setlist being 25% non-classical - which is lower that 35% requested by the host, but still a LOT higher than anything I played to date (Interestingly, Adam's supposedly "50:50" milonga two days before also came at about 30% non-classic?).

The playlist with comments

01. Quinteto Don Pancho "El garron" 1938 2:27
02. Quinteto Don Pancho "Alma en pena" 1938 2:46
03. Quinteto Don Pancho "Champagne tango" 1938 2:30
I re-cut cortinas to various lengths between 33 and 45 seconds based on my visual memories of the floor of the Avalon Ballroom. Having played them, I can now conclude that just about 30 seconds would have been perfectly OK for this venue (and it can be as short as 20" for the earliest tandas with the lighter attendance)
The dance floor of the Avalon
fills up fast!
04. Alla Pugacheva "Million Scarlet Roses (cortina long)" 0:39
05. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Cascabelito" 1941 2:34
06. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Tristeza Marina" 1943 3:09
07. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Charlemos" 1941 2:30
08. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
I had a sheepish thought. You see, people come early to Halina's milongas. But they head straight to the dining hall, bypassing the dance floor - because they know that the best food won't last. Tonight, there is a stupendous black bean soup, fantastic quinoa, ham ... and the bread is just about to come out of the oven ... and ... (well you know where I got some inspiration for our local events ;) ). In any case, I was making a guess that nobody will dance the first three tandas because they'll go eat, and that I will get a chance to sneak in some contentious alt set and nobody will even notice :) But ... the dancers already fill the floor during the Di Sarli tanda. Therefore, they need a good classic tango warmup. Therefore, my 3rd tanda will be alternative almost in the name only. Yes, this stuff doesn't get played at the regular classic milongas. But .... I think it should be. Hats off to Alex Krebs!
09. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Largas las Penas" 2011 3:02
10. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Negrito (milonga)" 2011 1:53
11. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "Ella Es Asi" 2011 2:32
12. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
13. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ahora No Me Conocés" 1941 2:35
14. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Solo compasion" 1941 2:58
15. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ninguna" 1942 2:59
16. Lidiya Ruslanova "Valenki 5 (cortina)" 0:36
"It looks like they love it!": A DJ's myopia?

I know what to do if, G*d forbid, el gente refuses to dance to my tanda. But now I see the full floor, I see the people dancing well to the music, Nobody is making grimaces. No obscene gestures. Do I have to assume that the people like the music? What other body cues do I have to watch for? Experienced DJs out there, can you share your advice?
"Poor mice wouldn't stop eating $%$#& cactus ..."
Dave Schmitz told me not to be mislead by the sight of the masses dancing. They paid so much money to be here, he said. What you see isn't their contentment, he said. Its their avarice, their primal greed. They may be totally feh about your music, but they paid big bucks  and they'll suffer but keep on dancing just to make a good use of their money. (Actually the milonga admission was $10, and with great food and a great company it ought to be one of the best milonga deals anywhere - not that it really matters).

Of course I can't help remembering a classic Russian meme: "The mice took jabs from the spines, cried, but kept on eating cactus". It means, if one *really* hates something, then how come one would't stop doing it?
17. Soha "Mil Pasos" 2008 4:07
18. Feist and Ben Gibbard "Train Song" 3:03
19. Alacran "Reflejo De Luna" 2010 3:44
20. "Katyusha" 0:33
Should I have called these valses alternative? Of course, it is a fav BsAs orchestra, and it is the late 1930s and early 1940s ... but Enrique Rodriguez remixes old Europe's folk hits here, from a Russian gypsy romance to an Andalusian buleria. And, strictly speaking, his orchestra isn't even a tango tipica - it was officially "an orchestra of all different rhythms"! ( It is also time to celebrate the upcoming Armando "Muñeco" Moreno's birthday, May 29th. He joined the orchestra of Enrique Rodriguez at the age of 18 and kept returning there to record more hits. Alas I didn't have time for another tanda with Moreno! I love so many of his tangos, valses, and foxes!)
21. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "En el volga yo te espero" 1943 2:40
22. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Las Espigadoras (vals)" 1938 2:47
23. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores "Los Piconeros (vals)" 1939 2:47
24. Leonid Bykov "Smuglyanka" 0:33
And of course Fresedo's birthday is also in May
25. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Isla de Capri" 1935 3:16
26. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Canto de amor" 1934 3:25
27. Osvaldo Fresedo - Roberto Ray "Sollosos" 1937 3:27
28. Lidiya Ruslanova "Valenki 2 (cortina)" 0:33
I haven't played these more rhythmic Tanturi's for too long!
29. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Decile Que Vuelva" 1942 2:33
30. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Asi Se Baila El Tango" 1942 2:36
31. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "La vida es corta" 1941 2:25
32. The Red Elvises "Cosmonaut Petrov 1 (-3dB)" 1999 0:28
33. Fool's Garden "Lemon tree" 1995 3:09
34. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole "Over The Rainbow" 2001 3:32
35. Souad Massi "Ghir Enta" 2008 5:06
36. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide (long vocal cortina)" 1980 0:33
37. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "La Mulateada" 1941 2:22
38. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Zorzal" 1941 2:40
39. Carlos Di Sarli - Roberto Rufino "Pena Mulata" 1941 2:27
(A DJ's nightmarish oops here - my deepest apologies for it. A cut for flamenco, with a switch to a different computer, has been requested, but just as I switched, the dancer whispered that she wasn't ready! Hurriedly returning to my laptop and to an appropriate next tanda, I fatfingered a few seconds of the previous tanda's milonga before correcting it to a cortina. Blush.)
40. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
41. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) "Nino bien" 1928 2:43
42. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) "Che, papusa, oi" 1927 2:37
43. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. F. Scorticati) - Angel Vargas "Adios Buenos Aires" 1938 2:36
44. Alla Pugacheva "Million Scarlet Roses (cortina long)" 0:39
cut for a birthday vals followed by a flamenco demo
45. Alfredo De Angelis - Carlos Dante - Julio Martel "Sonar y Nada Mas" 3:06
46. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
and a community / waterfall dance tanda of Canaro classics:
47. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Recuerdos de Paris" 1937 3:12
Some of Florian Hermann's compositions
available from a 1900 German sheet music catalog
I wrote a little about the Russian roots of Canaro's "Ojos negros" ("Dark eyes") before, but I've found many more details since. The music and the lyrics are inspired by a timeless Russian Gypsy romance of the same name - a song with the history spanning borders of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, the way it's common with best Eastern European songs which as a rule claim several mother countries and tongues. Russian "Dark Eyes", a Gypsy romance, was put together in 1884 by Soyfer (Sergey) Gerdel, a Jewish musician from the same Ukrainian town where my grandfather was born. But Gerdel used a verse published by an Ukrainian Yevhen Hrebinka in a Russian newspaper in 1843 (it was a prophetic poem ... indeed Hrebinka died only 4 years after meeting the gaze of the Dark Eyes, aged only 36). And the music was based on a slow waltz of Florian / Feodor Hermann, a composer of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, marches, and little plays, mostly dedicated to a myriad of his Russian and Polish noblewomen students and published in Russia, Poland, and Germany. Many Russian sources claim that Hermann lived in Germany, while a popular Ukrainian legend claims that Hermann was a French military composer with the Napoleon's Army. Neither tale could be true, somebody must have been fooled by the French titles and German music catalogs. Hermann lived later in the XIX c., in fact some of his composition are dated late 1870s (and respond to the patriotic outbursts of the Russo-Turkish war of 1876). His works are Russian-, Ukrainian, and Polish-themed (and occasionally Lithuanian), and they use Russian and Polish lyrics. The place names in his titles imply a connection to the Wilna strip and specifically to Roubno (now Kirtimai) on the outskirts of Vilnius in Lithuania (but in those days, a part of Russian-governed Poland). My hunch is that Hermann was a mid-XIX c. Jewish piano teacher in then-Polish/Jewish/Russian Wilno relying on French and German languages for better marketing. I mean I'm sure I read more details on it on the Internet, but just couldn't find it now.
48. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Ojos negros que fascinan" 1935 2:51
49. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Mi noche triste" 1936 2:45
50. Victor Tsoy "Gruppa Krovi (cortina)" 0:36
Two very different pieces of Bregovic in the following tanda - in Polish with a beautiful voice of Kayah, and in English, from the soundtrack of Kusturica's failed American movie, "Arizona Dream". All three pieces are on the long side, making a nearly 15-minute tanda, and I stand by ready to cut it to just two songs if the energy comes short - but no, the whole floor is dancing.
51. Pentatonix "Say Something" 4:39
52. Goran Bregovic - Kayah "To Nie Ptak [Not a Bird]" 1999 4:40
53. Goran Bregovic - Iggy Pop "In the Deathcar" 1999 5:13
55. Juan Maglio Pacho, Jorge Cafrune "Chacarera loca de Ledesma" 0:27
56. "Chacarera del Rancho" 2:21
57. "Chacarera del violin" 2:12
58. Leonid Bykov "Smuglyanka" 0:33
59. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Ansiedad" 1938 2:38
60. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Mandria" 1939 2:26
61. Juan D'Arienzo - Alberto Echagüe "Que importa" 1939 2:17
62. "Kuznechik Cortina" 0:39
A Polish and Russian 1930s-1940s tanda. Lots of tragic stories behind it - not just the heartbreak of the lyrics which the Polish poets so perfected starting in the 1920s. It is a relatively low energy tanda but it always strikes a chord with the people with Eastern European musical affinities. We travel to Poland - then Russia - then Romania and Latvia with these songs.
Artur Gold & Jerzy Petersburski orchestra, Warsaw, ca. 1930

Jerzy Petersburski, a composer and pianist, belonged to a Polish Jewish clan with a telling surname, the Melodists. His 1928 "Tango Milonga", a dream of the faraway Argentina, has become an international hit in the West, but his best remembered tango in Poland and Russia is "To ostatnia niedziela" ("This is the Last Sunday"), a song of separation and the end of love. The 1939 military defeat of Poland sent Petersburski on an escape route East to Białystok, where he was enlisted into the Soviet Belorussian State Jazz Ensemble. There, he composed Poland's favorite waltz, "Blekitna Chusteczka" ("Blue Handkerchief") which has become even more deeply ingrained in Russian conscience with the folk lyrics as the song of the heartbreak of the War. 
Mieczysław Fogg
(from Sophisti ezine)
But Petersburski didn't stay with the Belorussian band long. His short stint with the Polish Air Force in the opening weeks of WWII earned him a right to enroll in the Polish Corps of General Anders in 1941, and thus an escape ticket from the Soviet Union. After travels across the Middle East and Latin America, Jerzy Petersburski finally made it to Buenos Aires in 1948. There, he built a career of a prominent radio and theater musician but didn't compete with the Argentines on the turf of tango again. Petersbursky's life had a happy ending of sorts - he finally returned to Warsaw in the late 1960s, remarried, and died peacefully at the age of 84.

Mieczysław Fogg's life story is amazing and inspiring - his voice helped to propel the 1928 "Tango Milonga" to world fame, and he was still touring with concerts in the post-totalitarian times right until his death in 1990! He fought with the Polish Resistance, he sang at the barricades of the Warsaw Uprising, he has become Righteous among the Nations for saving a Jewish family from the death camps, and he has been repeatedly voted the best radio singer both before WWII and during the People's Republic times.
63. Jerzy Petersburski - Mieczysław Fogg "To ostatnia niedziela" 1936 3:19
Eddie Rosner soon after his return from Gulag labor camps. Having lost his teeth to scurvy,
he had to re-learn to play trumpet with dentures. 1955.
We are just one day away from the birthday of Eddie Rosner, another titan of Polish and Russian music who has already been featured on this blog exactly a year ago. Born May 26 1910 to the Jewish parents from Poland in Berlin, Adolf Rosner has become the top German jazz trumpet player, before the rise of the Nazism forced him to reinvent himself as Eddie, a Polish jazz star. And then the war made him the leader of the Belorussian State Jazz Ensemble, really a collection of Polish Jewish musical talents who all managed to escape the advancing Wehrmacht to Białystok / Belostok just as the Soviets took the city in their short-lived land grab of "Western Belorussia". Five wartime years later, the Germans were finally being pushed back from Belorussia, and Rosner's band saw the limelight at last. They were assigned a star Russian jazz singer, Georgy Vinogradov, because all the musicians spoke too heavily accented Russian to make the authorities happy. Georgy Vinogradov already recorded Russian tango super-hits such as "Schast'ye moyo" with Efim Rosenfeld's band. Eddie and Georgy made only of handful of records together but they really enjoyed their chance encounter and its fruit. In 1946 Eddie Rosner has been jailed for an attempt to return to Poland, and spent 7 years in the dreaded Subarctic labor camps of Magadan. After Stalin's death Rosner rebuilt his jazz trumpet star career - only to be blacklisted because of his Jewish roots. He never saw Poland again. Only in the mid-1970s the authorities allowed the sick and dying musician to return to his hometown. He died in Berlin in 1976.
64. Eddie Rosner - Georgy Vinogradov "Zachem (Why)" 1944 3:11
A memorial plaque at the King of Tango's Riga home has been unveiled in 2013
"Dark Eyes" is the first and perhaps most famous tango of Oscar Strok, the future King of Russian Tango, composed in 1928 and alluding to the same classic Russian Gypsy romance as Canaro's "Ojos Negros" which I just wrote about 3 tandas earlier. Oscar Strok (1893-1975) was born to a Latgalian family of small-town Jewish Klezmer musicians, and composed popular Klezmer pieces himself, played piano in movie theaters, accompanied for visiting vocalists... A hot romance with a Frenchwoman led him to Paris in the mid-1920s, and exposed him to the music of tango. The sorrow of the end of his Parisian love flowed into the score and the lyrics of "Dark Eyes". Having returned to Latvia and to financial ruin, Strok composed his next tango ... in debtor's jail, it was called just like that, "The Debtor". But later in the 1930s, Oscar Strok won a tremendous success as a composer of 300 tangos and a band director, and earned the nickname "The King of Tango". The lightning advance of the Nazi troops led to the fall of Riga in just two weeks of war, and most of Strok's orchestra musicians couldn't escape in time, and perished in the Holocaust. By sheer luck, Oscar escaped, and composed and performed many patriotic pieces during WWII. But after the war, the "corrupt" tango was banned by Stalin's regime, and its composer, blacklisted and banished from the musician's guild. Oscar Strok has been forced to earn living as a regular piano teacher. Only at his funeral, the band dared to play his banned tangos in public.
I already mentioned that Strok's "Dark Eyes" has also been interpreted by an Argentine tango orchestra decades later (Florindo Sassone, 1968) 

Before Leschenko became famous as a singer, he
was a professional folk and exotic dancer
Piotr Leschenko (1898-1954) hailed from a completely different corner of the post-Revolution Russian cultural diaspora, from Romania, where his tango singer career began in the Northern city of Cernăuţi (now in Ukraine, and better known in America as a once-grand Jewish cultural center of Tchernovitz). Leschenko was actually born out of wedlock in a village in Ukraine, but grew up in Moldova, singing in choirs as a child, and convalesced in a military hospital there from a battlefield wound and concussion when the region became a part of expanded Romania in 1918. After WWI, Leschenko kept on singing, but his main occupation has become stage dance, first locally, then in the nation's capital, and then in Paris and across the globe. His dance partner was his ethnic Latvian wife whom he met in Paris. Piotr Leschenko had to restart his vocal career in 1930 when she became pregnant and stopped performing, and quickly reached fame as a singer of regional folk. It was his wife who introduced Leschenko to her fellow countryman, Oscar Strok, during a visit to Latvia. Strok's tangos have become the highlights of the repertoire of Piotr Leschenko almost overnight. And "Dark Eyes" - which fused together the singer's acclaim in both Gypsy Folk and Tango - was the most popular of them. The best Leschenko recording of "Dark Eyes" was actually done in Austria, with Frank Fox - born Franz Fux in today's Czech Republic, then Moravia  - who conducted an orchestra and composed music for dancing and for movies in Vienna. Piotr Leschenko's bootleg records were immensely popular - albeit technically illegal - in Russia, but he only set foot there under most tragic circumstances, as a Romanian conscript in the Nazi-allied occupation forces in WWII. Despite this stain of being a collaborationist, Leschenko was offered forgiveness and a clean slate in the Soviet Union after the end of the war. But at his farewell party, the singer confessed his love to Romania too eloquently. A snitch denounced him, and the Russians withdrew the invitation at the last moment. Instead, Leschenko has been sent to the Romanian labor camps, to the malarial swamps of lower Danube, and languished there even after Stalin's death. He died in a prison hospital, and his case remains classified even now.
65. Frank Fox Tanzorchester- Piotr Leschenko "Chernye Glaza (Dark Eyes)" 1933
66. "Katyusha" 0:33
67. Francisco Lomuto - Jorge Omar "Damisela encantadora (vals)" 1936 2:58
68. Francisco Lomuto - Instrumental "Noche de ronda (vals)" 1937 2:34
69. Francisco Lomuto - Fernando Díaz, Mercedes Simone "Lo que vieron mis ojos" 1933 2:22
70. Leonid Utesov "S Odesskogo Kichmana" 1935 0:44
71. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "Flora" 1930 2:44
72. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "La estancia" 1930 3:25
73. Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli - Ernesto Famá "Chau pinela" 1930 2:41
74. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
75. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Jamas retornaras" 1942 2:31
76. Miguel Caló - Raúl Berón "Tristezas de la Calle Corrientes" 1942 2:46
77. Miguel Calo - Raul Beron "Que te importa que te llore" 1942 2:44
78. The Blues Brothers "Theme From Rawhide (long vocal cortina)" 1980 0:33
79. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Milonga criolla" 1936 3:00
80. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Tangon (slow milonga)" 1935 3:17
81. Francisco Canaro - Roberto Maida "Milonga triste" 1937 3:33
82. Victor Tsoy "Gruppa Krovi (cortina)" 0:36
Two Argentine bands and one from Portland OR find a match in this almost-classic, high energy tanda. "Fervor", the mid-2000s phenomenon, got named after Borges's book. Their main album, "Quien sos", has several interesting dramatic danceables. "Ojos", led by a strikingly looking pianist, Analíá Goldberg, are known to play live at the milongas. Their "El adiós" is one of kind piece IMHO, a standout far surpassing most of the rest of their records.
83. Orquesta Tipica Fervor de Buenos Aires "E.G.B." 2007 2:26
84. The Alex Krebs Tango Sextet "La Yumba" 2011 2:57
85. Analíá Goldberg y Sexteto Ojos De Tango "El Adiós" 3:13 2011
86. Leonid Bykov "Smuglyanka" 0:33
87. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "Sorbos amargos" 1942 3:22
88. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "Mañana zarpa un barco" 1942 3:22
89. Lucio Demare - Juan Carlos Miranda "No te apures, Carablanca" 1942 3:29
90. Zhanna Aguzarova "Old Hotel cortina long" 0:38
91. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Rondando Tu Esquina" 1943 2:48
92. Osváldo Pugliese - Roberto Chanel "Corrientes Y Esmeralda" 1944 2:49
93. Osváldo Pugliese - Jorge Maciel "Remembranza" 1956 3:41
94. Juan D'Arienzo - Instrumental "La cumparsita" 1951 3:49
... and a whole set of the apres-dancing, last drops of wine, last-hugs and furniture-moving music. The first song, a remix of a 1947 milonga sureña classic, feels really personal for me, with a lot of stubborn defiance, a bit of sadness, and no need for silence. And the long, long roads. Es demasiado aburrido seguir y seguir la huella...
95. Paco Mendoza & DJ Vadim "Los Ejes De Mi Carreta" 2013 3:23
96. Eendo "Eshgh e Aasemaani" 2011 3:31
97. Goran Bregovic "Maki Maki" 2009 3:33
Adiós, Colorado! Los ejes de mi carreta nunca los voy a engrasar.....