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!)

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