Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Joaquina Carreras - the first female tango estribillista?

Joaquina Carreras sings. A frame of Ariel's audiovisual recording
A discussion at the T.I.A. (Tango Investigation Agency group) led me to a discovery of the voice of Joaquina Carreras, who sang with the tango orchestra of "El lecherito" Guido in the late 1920s. The quality of Argentine domestic audio recordings was still quite haphazard then, and as a result, we hear only a few songs of this Old Guard period at our milongas today. But still, it stunned me that I've never come across this awesome voice in my decade of researching tango music and DJing. It stunned me even more that I couldn't find a word about her at Todotango website. Not a year of birth. Not a picture. Not even a mention of her name in the articles about Guido's orchestra.

The parallels with the suppressed story of Lita Morales were uncanny, and left no doubt that, like Lita, Joaquina Carreras must have quit the world of tango, and possibly with bad blood. So at a first spare moment, I went searching for "the real Joaquina" - but unlike the mystery case of Lita Morales, the life path of Joaquina Carreras came to light relatively quickly. She turned out to be a bit of a transient, only coming to BsAs in the second half of the 1920s, and leaving when the Great Depression decimated the artistic world of Argentina. I still don't know what pushed the Argentine tango world to forget her, but possibly it was just the fact that she was a foreign interloper - and a woman in the genre of tango-for-dancing which continued to adamantly reject women for another decade... Of many feminine voices in tango then, all without an exception sang "tango for listening", for the radio and the concert, for the daylight hours. No decent women were yet allowed at night in the sacred and obscene universe of the milongas. So let's pay tribute to the female trailblazer, Joaquina Carreras Torres!

Joaquina was born in 1892 in Seville in the family of a well-known actor Emilio Carreras López. Her father died when she was 23, and in the early news clips about Joaquina, she is invariably called "a beautiful daughter of her untimely departed father". Like her father, Joaquina Carreras acted in comedies,in the theater plays and in the movies, but she's become best known for her soprano voice and her love of folk songs.

Her first known foreign tour was to Cuba in 1921 in a large artistic troupe with her new husband Jose Encinas and their just-born first baby Joaquina Jr. The 21 Sep 1921 New York arrival record of S.S. "Buenos Aires" from Barcelona (in transit for Havana) lists Joaquina as a 20 years old resident of Madrid with blue eyes, 4 ft 11" (some later accounts describe her as a psychologically towering presence, no doubt with an element of a pun). Of course her real age was closer to 29 then, but since her actor husband was several years younger, she must have preferred a little adjustment of age. Joaquina's husband tragically died in 1923, but in the 1924 and 1925 we find her in the entertainment sections of Spanish newspapers as an actress and singer based in Madrid.

In 1929 she records 3 valses and 2 tangos with Guido, in her trademark folk-song style especially evident in their "Valsecito del Antes". The most surprising thing about these records is that she sings estribillo solamente, only the bridge, without the stanzas. This approach was introduced specifically for the dancers by the ever-experimenting Francisco Canaro only a few years earlier, in 1924 (until then, tangos for dancing were strictly instrumental, while vocal tangos for listening, initially also known as tango milongas, always used the complete text with all the stanzas). Estribillista singing is stricktly para bailar, yet no women were allowed to sing for the dancers ever before or for many years after! In the same year Joaquina Carreras takes part in an experimental audiovisual recording of the Ariel studio. Then she records a few pasodobles and fado with Carabellli. And in 1932 she participates in the first experimental TV broadcast in South America!

By 1934, Joaquina Carreras is back in Madrid, singing with the studio sextet of the Union Radio La Palabra and performing in comedies I couldn't resist adding one of the radio program clippings here, because there, in May 1936, she sings "Ojos negros - cancion popular rusa". Of course it must be the tango remix of the famous "Dark Eyes" premiered a year earlier by the spectacular Imperio Argentina (see an earlier story on this blog) As the nation is ravaged by the Civil War and Madrid is besieged, Joaquina briefly disappears from sight again, but beginning in 1940, she's back again, acting in Spanish movie comedies. She died on Nov 20, 1954 in Madrid. Interestingly, her daughter Joaquina "Jr." Encines Carreras moved to Buenos Aires after her mother's death!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Melodists: the family at the roots of Polish jazz and tango

As you may know, I am very fond of the twisted, tragic, and largely forgotten stories of the pre-WWII tango in Eastern Europe. And one of my favorite heroes of this amazing and lost era is Jerzy Petersburski, the musical soul of the boisterous cabaret culture of Warsaw, and the composer of such global tango hits as"Donna Clara" (originally "Tango Milonga", 1928) and "Ostatnia niedziela" ("Last Sunday", 1936, which took Russia by storm under a Russian title, "The tired Sun"), as well as Poland and Russia's most beloved waltz,"Blekitna Chusteczka" ("Blue Handkerchief"), a song which came to epitomize the heartbreak of the War. Unlike many of his colleagues, Jerzy was spared of both Nazi death camps and Stalin's Gulag. After the fall of Poland he joined the Belorussian State Jazz, an amazing project worth its own story, and eventually escaped the Soviet Union with the  Polish Corps of General Anders, playing for the military audiences in Persia, Palestine and Egypt, and rebuilding a new musical career for himself in faraway Buenos Aires
I knew that Jerzy Petersburski belonged to the storied clan of Jewish musicians whose surname, the Melodists, speaks for itself. I also understood that the famous Gold-Petersburski band included Jerzy's brother and several cousins, and somehow I assumed that Petersburski was just a scenic name, a capital-city calling card adopted for publicity (just like another trailblazer of Polish jazz and tango was a Warszawski after Poland's illustrious capital). But a chance conversation about (extremely rare) Jewish surnames derived from the cities in Russia's hinterland - such as St. Petersburg - made me revisit the family story of the Peterburskis and the Melodists, and discover the pivotal role the family ties played in birth of Polish jazz and tango. Oh, and yes, the surname "Petersburski" turned out to be a real family name, not a marketing invention at all!
Jakub-Lejzer Melodysta's
forgotten, broken
gravestone in Warsaw
OK, maybe "just a little bit of a marketing invention", and the one made by Jerzy's father Jakub, a jeweler who probably wanted his original family name, "Peterburg" (which stands for St. Petersburg, but in Russian) to sound more authentically Polish.
Eleonora Melodist, a
Soviet opera star, was the
most famous of
Jakub-Lejzer's children
Jakub Petersburski married Paulina (Pesse) Melodysta, a piano player from the branch of the Melodist musician dynasty which stayed in their ancestral town of Radom. It probably wasn't an old-time dynasty as the Jews of Poland only started taking government-mandated surnames in the 1820s, after the Napoleonic wars. The first Melodist on record was Paulina grandfather Chaskiel, a fiddler born in 1802.
Three of Paulina's brothers were musicians in Radom, but for our story it's more important to know that Paulina's uncle, Jakub-Lejzer Melodysta, a violinist, moved to Warsaw. Later on, Paulina's husband bought a bronze wares factory in Warsaw and moved there too. So the Petersburski kids became closely associated with Jakub-Lejzer's musician children and grandchildren in Warsaw.And what a constellation of talents it was! Jakub's sons Panfyl played alt in the Philharmonic and Ignacy lead bands, and daughters Maria and Eleonora starred in the opera. And Jakub's son-in-law Michel Gold played flute in the Warsaw Opera.
The 1922 ads for Danzig's Ermitage restaurant featured "first class jazzband trio of Karasinski"
in German, or "Karasinski-Melodyst-Petersburski trio" in Polish
Fred Melodyst (banjo) with his 1927 jazz band at a
Polish mountain resort of Zakopane
Jerzy Petersburski was the 5th child on his family, born Israel Petersburski in 1895. By the time Jerzy graduated from Warsaw Conservatory, the city has been overrun by the advancing German troops. As the young pianist continued his studies in Vienna, The WWI ended with the surrender of Germany and Austro-Hungary, Poland has won independence, and the Austrian Empire shattered. Jerzy went home, and his first gig in Poland was with his 2nd cousin, cellist Alfred Melodist (Panfyl's son), and an even younger and crazier violinist Zygmunt Karasiński who has just returned to Poland from Berlin where he played in a real American-inspired jazz band. The Jazz trio of Karasiński - Melodysta - Petersburski debuted in 1922 in the Free City of Danzig (Gdansk). The jazz craze didn't quite take over the Free City, but within a year, our jazz trailblazers made it to Warsaw where the cabaret and jazz scene really took off. Karasiński will later, after the dismemberment of Poland in 1939, invite his old pals to join the Belorussian State Jazz in Belostok; he ended up in Warsaw Ghetto during the war, but the music fans helped him escaped and hide in Lwow. Fred Melodist escaped both the Nazis and Soviets together with Jerzy Petersburski; they played together with their cousin Henryk Gold in Palestine and Egypt before Fred settled in liberated France and, eventually, in Israel.
OK, now it's time to tell more about the Golds (sons of Helena (Chaske) Melodysta and Michel Gold).

Henryk Gold was the mastermind and his brother Artur Gold (violin) and Jerzy Petersburski, the top talents of the Gold-Petersburski band which recorded so many tango hits; Stanislaw Petersburski (piano) played there as well. Their names were so synonymous with the music of the Warsaw nightlife that they even had a special song recorded about them:

Gdy Petersburski razem z Goldem gra
Muzyka: Artur Gold
Slowa: Andrzej Włast

Strajkuje ten i ów
Podskoczył dolar znów
A pan Zdziechowski miał w komisji
Kilka nowych mów

Nie przejmuj tem się nic
Uważaj to za witz
I słuchaj sobie w „Qui Pro Quo”
Z pogodą lic

Jak Petersburski razem z Goldem gra
Z jazzbandu te Ajaksy dwa
Sam pan Świejkowski
W humor wpada boski
I przy małżonce swej
Szalejmy, krzyknie, hej

Gdy Petersburski razem z Goldem gra
Nie zaśniesz w nocy, aż do dnia
I podczas tańca będziesz myślał
Że minęła chwila zła
Gdy Petersburski z Goldem gra

Mąż pewien w nocy raz
Do sal Oazy wlazł
A widząc żonę z gachem
Krzykną: Ach! Złapałem was!

Rewolwer wyjął i
Ponuro zmarszczył brwi
Lecz nagle zaczął śmiać się
Mówiąc: przebacz mi

Where Petersburski and Gold play together
Music by Artur Gold
Lyrics by Andrzej Włast (Gustaw Baumritter)

Strikes here and there,
The dollar jumped again,
And the Treasury Secretary Zdziechowski
Said so many new words about it

Don't you worry about anything
Take it all as a joke
And enjoy listening at "Qui Pro Quo"
With the most serene faces

How Petersburski plays with Gold,
The jazzband's two Ajaxes.
Even Mr. Świejkowski the mortician
Falls into a  jolly mood
And in the presence of his wife
Yells "Hey!" like a madman

When Petersburski plays with Gold
You won't fall asleep at night until daylight
And while you are dancing you will think
That the evil moments have passed
When Petersburski and Gold play

One night, a certain husband
Entered the halls of the Oasis
And, seeing his wife with a lover.
Shouted: "Aha! Gotcha!"

He pulled out a handgun and
Frowned dejectedly,
But suddenly burst into laughing
Saying: forgive me

Eddie Rosner with the State Jazz of Belorussia, 1941
The two Ajaxes of Homer's "Iliad" met their tragic ends but our two cousins, Jerzy Petersburski and Henryk Gold, lived to their old age despite the annihilation of the war. They fled Warsaw under the German bombs and made as far East as Białystok, which was soon occupied by the Red Army and annexed to Belarus. There, Zygmunt Karasiński hatched a brilliant and crazy idea, to rebrand the Warsaw Jazz as the First State Jazz Ensemble of Belorussia. Soon, jazz trombonist Eddie Rosner, "the Armstrong of Eastern Europe", took it over. Born in Berlin, he cut his "Jazz teeth" there, before fleeing the Nazis. As a stateless Jew stripped of his German citizenship by the Reich, Eddie Rosner wasn't allowed to join the Polish Liberation Army together with his fellow Warsaw jazzmen, and ended up marooned in Russia. My most beloved Russian tango, "Zachem", belongs to Rosner's wartime band. But after the war he ended up in the Gulag labor camps, and, upon return, suffered from blacklisting. Only right before Eddie's death, the Soviet government finally allowed him to leave to join his family in Western Berlin...Of the Melodist jazz clan, Henryk Gold's brother Artur remained in the Warsaw Ghetto, and was killed in Treblinka death camp (but not before being forced to entertain the Nazi camp command while dressed as a clown!). Jerzy Petersburski's brother Stanislaw settled in New York City.

A concert program in the Polish Library of Buenos Aires
featured the compositions of Jorge Petersburski...
While traveling across the Middle East with the Polish Corps, Jerzy got himself a Palestinian passport in Tel Aviv and a Brazilian entry visa in Cairo. And in March 1947 he disembarked in Rio de Janeiro and took a job at Boite Picadilli. A stint at Radio El Mundo in Buenos Aires followed (Jerzy composed a jingle for this station!) and then directing the orchestra of Teatro Nacional. But no tango anymore. 20 years later, after his wife was killed in a catastrophic Argentinian earthquake of 1967, Petersburski decided to return home to Warsaw. He was 74 when he met a 40 years old opera singer Sylwia Klejdysz (in the clip below, Sylwia sings the Blue Handkerchief, the most famous hit from her husband's stint at the Belorussian State Jazz). Their only son, Jerzy Jr., also a pianist and a composer whose Masters Thesis was on his father's life and music, is maintaining a virtual museum of the Petersburskis now. We got in touch when I was just starting to figure out how all the Melodists were related to one another.

Black and White Ball of 1966, the high mark of New York
opulence (from the Plaza hotel website)

The Golds' US immigration record
After their travels across the Middle East, Henryk Gold remained in Palestine after the war, and composed a few Hebrew hits, then tried his luck in Brazil and in France, but in 1953 he moved to America as well, winning a bandleader job in New York's iconic Plaza Hotel, then the site of the legendary Black and White Ball (and now most often remembered as the obscenely posh hotel in Home Alone 2 with a 10-second appearance of the hotel's then-owner Donald Trump, who bankrupted the property almost as soon as he bought it)

But the most improbable escape from the claws of death was pulled by the family of another Polish jazz and tango pioneer Henryk Wars (Warszawski), the creator of a 1928 hit, "Zatańczmy tango" ("Let's Dance Tango!"). Henryk was called up to the Polish Army at the start of WWII, and taken prisoner by the Nazis, but escaped and reached Russian-controlled areas. But his wife and two kids remained trapped in Warsaw ghetto. Luckily, Henryk Wars was based in Lwow early in his jazz career, and composed some of the city most beloved songs, including its unofficial anthem, "Tylko we Lwowie" ("Only in Lvov").

Henry Wars's marching band in Tehran (from USC archive)
So instead of joining the Belarussian State Jazz like most of the Warsowians, he managed to create a band of his own in Lvov, and to remix his hits in Russian! His outfit was called the Lvov Tea-Jazz, with "Tea" standing for "Theater" rather than for a drink :)  Having thus become a respected Soviet manager, Henryk Wars  succeeded in getting an official request from the Soviet Government to have his family released from the Ghetto! They arrived to Lwow just days before the hostilities broke up between the erstwhile allies, the Reich and the USSR. Henryk was out of town, but his wife and kids managed to escape the Nazi advance by the breadth of a hair. They toured the USSR for several more moths, before leaving to the Middle East (and famously entertaining the Shah of Persia) and Italy with the Polish Liberation Army. 
Diana Mitchell and Robert Vars talk about the life of their father at a
memorial concert featuring his music at the LAMOTH in 2017
Henry Warszawski arrived to New York from Naples in February 1947, penniless and stateless, on a transit visa to San Domingo with a ticket paid by the Jewish refugee agency HIAS. But only a few months later, the Warszawskis were processed for permanent residence in Los Angeles, and a long Hollywood streak of Wars's career got underway, under a changed name of Henry Vars. He ascended through the Hollywood ranks, from being an anonymous arranger to, most famously, the fully credited soundtrack of the "Flipper". His Polish waltz famously made it to the soundtrack of Schindler's List!
In the late 1960s Vars returned to Poland, almost at the same time as Jerzy Petersburski. But it was more like a celebrity tour, recording and conducting before coming back to Hollywood. Henry Vars's children Diana (Danuta) Mitchell and Robert Vars and grandson Dennis Mitchell are still in Los Angeles, and keep Henry's memory alive (although the family business is law rather than the music now). They are even working on getting Henry's unknown symphonic compositions to the public!

Still, nothing of their bygone epoch captures contemporary Poland's imagination better than Gold-Petersburski tangos, and especially "The last Sunday" wits its incredible variety of modern covers in all genres from hard rock to techno :) The spirit of the Melodists lives on!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The inherent contradictions of following...

Another pearl of wisdom from Igor Zabuta's blog - but this one is penned by his partner, Emma Kologrivova. She writes about all the cool things which draw women into tango, including "a desire to be lead, to relax, to immerse into the dance, the body and the music" ... and then continues (translation is mine):

Maybe for my lack of imagination, I reused an image
from my other "translated wisdom" blog post about
the art of active following.
Truth be said, with the experience comes an understanding that following is a complicated skill. It requires a sense of one's own axis and boundaries. An ability to let the partner's energy in - but not to dissolve in it. An ability to follow the suggestions - but not to guess, hurriedly. To listen to the leader - but also to sense one's own desires. To be whole, letting every signal to pass through the body, but also to have an inspiration to add your own personality to the moves. To be lead, but never to be forced.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Unusual and experimental tandas

Back in January, I wrote that I have already introduced all the important musicians in tango's history in the comments to my playlists on this blog, and it's a good enough reason to stop publishing playlists altogether (not to mention the obvious fact that most of the new tandas look very familiar after so many years of DJing :) ) Still, occasionally I find a thread of history worth writing about, or try a new orchestra or an unusual era of a better-known orchestra, or start "reinventing the bicycle" of the tandas which feel far too familiar. Here I'm going through the 10 playlists I added since the decision to stop set-blogging, to pick the few tandas worth writing about.
Julio Sosa with his DKW-Sissore, a German-designed
sports car with an Italian body manufactured at a
short-lived small car factory in the Argentinian province
of Santa Fe in the 1960s. The singer didn't survive a
crash of this beauty. He was 38. 

For Julio Sosas's February birthday, I went through tons of his recording and ended up building just one mixed tanda with a lone Sosa track for the Junando practica. We don't hear much Julio Sosa at our milongas, obviously, but it could have been very different, had El Varon del Tango not died so early, at 38! Julio Sosa was born on February 2, 1926, in the poverty-stricken outskirts of Montevideo in Uruguay. One of his many early jobs was with a provincial orchestras there, but it paid too little to make ends meet, and at 23, Julio quit it to sing in the cafes of BsAs. Soon, he was noticed, and got a succession of jobs with the 2nd tier tango bands, and finally, in 1960, convened his own orchestra. By all accounts, it was a wrong time to start a tango band. The government support for the national music of tango disappeared with the violent overthrow of Peron's populist regime, and the new happy-and-patronizing music of La Nueva Ola was all the rage. Even the master records of the Golden Age tango orchestras ended up destroyed to make room for more Nueva Ola studios! I wrote about the Dark Ages of Tango on this blog before, but I failed to mention that for a while, Julio Sosa held the lines against the onslaught of the new commercial music. Tall, masculine, young and charismatic, Sosa continued to attract the youth to tango - and not just to listen, but also to dance like himself. His disc sales rivaled those of La Nueva Ola! It all ended on November 26, 1964, when Julio crashed his Argentine-built sports car into a traffic light, the third speed car he totaled in quick succession, only this time it was fatal. With the death of its last iconic singer, tango never stood a chance...
The verdict: it is a passable vals tanda, good for a charged crowd later at night. But only Angelica really stands out...
Francini-Pontier - Alberto Podestá y Julio Sosa "El Hijo Triste" 1949 3:49
Alfredo de Angelis - Juan Carlos Godoy  "Angélica" 1961 2:41
Héctor Varela - Argentino Ledesma y Rodolfo Lesica "Igual Que Dos Palomas" 1953 2:36

The most legendary tango dancer of the pre-Golden Age fame, Ovidio José "Benito" Bianquet, better known as El Cachafaz ("The Troublesome" / "The Outrageous" as the lunfardo word may be translated) was born Feb 14, 1885). El Cachafaz is celebrated in the lyrics of "Adiós, Arrabal", and that's why I decided to play the following relatively standard D'Agostino tanda during the same practica. Follow El Cachafaz label to read more about this awesome dancer who conquered the affections of the Parisians and triumphantly returned hone, only to lose it all in the post-Great Depression chaos. Who then rebuilt a show dancer's career from scratch when tango started to return to life, but died at 56 without witnessing the full bloom of tango's Golden Age.

Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ahora No Me Conocés" 1940 2:35
Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Adios Arrabal" 1941 3:08
Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Ninguna" 1942 2:59

In March, I tried a really experimental - and not really recommended - tanda of super-late Calo instrumentals which are all the rage in Europe (it went OK really late at night though):
Miguel Caló - Instrumental  "Luna del viejo castillo" 1964 2:37
Miguel Caló - Instrumental  "Elegante papirusa" 1966
Miguel Caló - Instrumental  "Para Osmar Maderna" 1963

You may know that I am not a big Troilo fan, and I usually stick to the few most reliable tracks of his, but in April I wasin the mood to experiment:
Anibal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino  "Pa Que Bailen Los Muchachos" 1942 2:49
Anibal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino  "No Le Digas Que La Quiero" 1941 2:51
Anibal Troilo - Francisco Fiorentino  "Una Carta" 1941 2:48

The month of May is always a good reason to play more, and more varied, Fresedo than usual, since Osvaldo Fresedo was born on May 5, 1887. A son of a wealthy family, Fresedo created elegant music for the upper crust throughout his 60+ years-long tango career. In 1920, Fresedo has become the first tango bandoneonist ever to record in the United States when RCA Victor sent him to New York (they didn't yet have an up-to-date recording studio in South America then; the US-made record's, in Victor's typical anonymous house band fashion, went for sale in Latin America as "Orquesta Tipica Select"). Before the Great Depression, Fresedo's success was so great that he simultaneously maintained 5 "Fresedo orchestras" in Buenos Aires! One of these bands was directed by 24 years old Carlos Di Sarli, an admitted disciple of Osvaldo Fresedo who, in time, far surpassed his teacher. The economic collapse in Argentina put a stop to this exuberance, but Fresedo kept on playing, largely for the upper-class functions. He wouldn't play live for the dancers again, missing the tango dancing boom of the Golden Era, and he remains kind of shunned by the BsAs tangueros for this reason, although he recorded tangos through the 1980s. But nothing could be more mellifluous than Fresedo's 1930s and the early 1940s! This May, one of my Fresedo tandas was with the voice of Ruiz rather than with the "usual" Roberto Ray
Osvaldo Fresedo - Ricardo Ruiz  "Y no puede ser" 1939 2:26
Osvaldo Fresedo - Ricardo Ruiz  "Plegaria" 1940 2:24
Osvaldo Fresedo - Ricardo Ruiz  "Buscándote" 1941 2:49

In June at Junando practica, it was time to return to De Angelis's Angelica which I already mentioned on this page:
Rodolfo Biagi - Hugo Duval y Carlos Heredia "Adoracion" 1951 2:52
Francisco Rotundo - Enrique Campos y Floreal Ruiz "El viejo vals" 1951 2:56
Alfredo De Angelis - Juan Carlos Godoy "Angélica (Vals)" 1961 2:43

There, I also put to test a fiery vals tanda with the voice of Alberto Castillo:
1. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "La Serenata (Mi Amor)" 1941 2:29
2. Alberto Castillo  "Idilio Trunco" 1946 2:08
3. Alberto Castillo  "Violetas" 1948 2:38
(3 total)

To start the playlists of September, I tried a more or less regular tanda but in an unusual place - as an opening tanda of Milonga sin nombre:
1. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) - Alberto Gomez "Ventarron" 1933 3:03
2. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) - Instrumental  "Nino bien" 1928 2:43
3. Orquesta Tipica Victor (dir. A. Carabelli) - Instrumental "El chamuyo" 1930 2:46

September is a good time to remember the great singer Alberto Podesta (b. Sep. 22, 1924), who contributed so much to the success of the orchestras of Di Sarli, Calo, and Laurenz. And what would be a better fit to the themes of Podesta and September than his "Roses of Autumn"? Alas, I always had a hard time building a good tanda of Di Sarli's valses with this great hit. Trying to fix it now with a mixed-ochestra set:
1. Angel D'Agostino - Angel Vargas "Que Me Pasara" 1941 2:30
2. Manuel Buzon - Osvaldo Moreno "Pichon enamorado" 1942 2:18
3. Carlos Di Sarli - Alberto Podesta "Rosas De Otono" 1942 2:17

I also returned to the valses with the vocals of Castillo, then an ObGyn by day but a veritable mob lord voice by night.
1. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Marisabel" 1942 2:23
2. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Recuerdo" 1942 2:22
3. Ricardo Tanturi - Alberto Castillo "Mi Romance" 1941 2:16

Racciatti's tracks with the voice of Nina Miranda are a kind of a flashback to me. I first danced to Racciatti's when a Japanese DJ played a tanda with Nina Miranda's vocals, fell in love with her "Gloria" and "Tu corazon", and played them myself - good 5 years ago. But the quality of these 1952-1953 records in my hands then was substandard, and I started playing later-years Racciatti's tango with the voice of Olga Delgrossi instead. With a better recordings now, I return to Nina Miranda's hits. And what a pianist they had, by the way!
1. Donato Racciatti - Nina Miranda "Tu corazón" 1953 2:32
2. Donato Racciatti - Nina Miranda "Vencida" 1953 2:47
3. Donato Racciatti - Nina Miranda "No quiero ni acordarme" 1953 2:25

Then at Mestizos I returned to the valses of D'Agostino - one of which I tried a few days earlier in a mixed tanda above - and also to mid-paced Canaro's.
1. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama "El Vals Del Estudiante"1939  3:01
2. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama y Mirna Mores "Tormenta En El Alma" 1940 2:33
3. Francisco Canaro - Ernesto Fama "Noche De Estrellas" 1939 2:29

1. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas "Que Me Pasara" 1941 2:30
2. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas  "Tristeza criolla" 1945 2:27
3. Ángel D'Agostino - Ángel Vargas  "El Espejo De Tus Ojos" 1944 2:49

And lastly, at Two Flames practica, I asked tangueros for suggestions, and one of them was for the OTV valses. The challenge is that only want to play the same three beloved valses of Victor (Noches de invierno, Sin rumbo fijo, and Temo) and I already played it a bit too often :) So I set out to build mixed-orchestra tandas with OTV - and ended up playing not just one tanda but two:
1. Francisco Lomuto - Fernando Diaz  "Cuando estaba enamorado" 1940 2:19
2. Enrique Rodriguez - Roberto Flores  "Salud, Dinero Y Amor" 1939 2:39
3. Orquesta Típica Víctor - Ángel Vargas "Sin Rumbo Fijo" 1938 2:18

1. Cuarteto Roberto Firpo - Instrumental "El Aeroplano" 1936 2:14
2. Enrique Rodriguez - Armando Moreno "En el Volga yo te espero" 1943 2:40
3. Orquesta Tipica Victor - Mario Pomar  "Temo" 1940 2:55

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

TTVTTM and the flow of the final tandas

We the tango DJs don't have any doubts about beginning a milonga with back-to-back tango tandas, the initial two T's of the obligatory TTVTTM tanda sequence of the genres. And why doubt, why overthink the thing, if there are usually too few dancers on the floor at the beginning of a night anyway. The early birds of tango are a special minority in any case, and a DJ is supposed to build the energy flow which works for the majority.

But what about the ending of a milonga, the crescendo of the Cumparsita, the dimmed lights and the overpowering emotions of love and sadness? If you keep repeating TTVTTMs, wouldn't the randomness of added track times mean that sometimes, the scheduled end-time comes with a boisterous laughter of a milonga instead of some poignant tango? Nah, of course we wouldn't do THAT to our beloved dancers :) A DJ may do something, perhaps scrapping the out-of-place milonga tanda, or adding more tangos after it, that's more or less clear. The question is, what is it exactly that you do?

The reason why I started musing about it was very mathematical. I spotted an arithmetic error of sorts in my statistical/fun analysis of the BsAs set-lists. Back then, I calculated that an average milonga had 13 tango tandas and 2.6 milonga tandas, and I was like, hmm, the number of the milonga tandas is less that 13/4, so their flow is probably not a perfect TTVTTM ... they must be skipping or replacing a milonga tanda here and there.

Sheesh. Now I saw the numbers in a different light. 2.6 milonga tandas (or 2.7 vals tandas), on average, would mean that approximately 10.5 tango tandas took place in the regular TTVTTM groupings. To add up to 13 average tango tandas, one would need to add, on average, 2.5 more tandas of tango. And it occurred to me that it's exactly what's happening ... at the end of a night!

Melina Sedo, the Encuentro warrior and DJ
Is it "in the books" or just a commonsense thing? My first thought was, I couldn't have invented it, I must have read about the "best ways to end a tango night" somewhere. But the only "DJing manual" detailing proper selection of the last tandas I found was a super-micromanaging article by Melina Sedo (and I definitely haven't read it before!)

Melina writes: "The 2 or 3 last tandas are those especially determining the emotional state people leave the milonga in. The final tanda should be tango, not vals and never milonga." (Big-name DJs occasionally - rarely - do play valses at the end, and perhaps a slow and dreamy milonga campera may fit occasionally, when the mood is right).

Since I have a good collection of published playlists, I couldn't resist quantifying what *I* do.

It turned that my pre-Cumparsita tanda is always a tango. And in the majority of my playlists, at least 3 final tandas are tango (but I often play danceable music after the Cumparsita ... often energetic and upbeat music, since I picked the habit from Momo Smitt who explained that it was the  "furniture-moving music"). The numbers average at 2.5 final tango sets, perfectly paralleling the prediction from the BsAs statistics.

How many tango tandas before the Cumparsita?
I also tallied the orchestras I select for the final two tandas. I knew that Pugliese would be a winner, since his orchestra is so perfect for the crescendo build-up. And surely it was:

Pugliese 64 tandas (!) (and most of the lists without Pugliese in the final tandas had a Pugliese tanda right before them)
De Angelis 22 (mostly late instrumentals)
D'Arienzo 9 (mostly late instrumentals)
Racciatti 9 (mostly female vocals)
Donato 8 (mostly lyrical)
Laurenz 6
Demare, Canaro 5 tandas ea
Di Sarli 4
Calo, Rodriguez, Salamanca 2
Troilo, D'Agostino, Malerba, OTV, Biagi, Tanturi, Fresedo, Varela 1 tanda ea
Mixed ultimate and penultimate tandas - 11 incl Sassone, Firpo, late-era bands including Color Tango, Ojos de Tango, Fervor de BsAs,  Krebsian Orchestra, Nuevo Quinteto Real, as well as some of the above orchestras (this clearly defies Melina's advice to play only true-and-tried classic sets in the end...)

I can clearly see that I am biased against Di Sarli for the crescendo-building sets, and it's probably explained by my overexposure to late, dramatic Di Sarli's in my beginner classes. It's just hard to overcome the kryptonite "I'm a beginner all over again" vibe of this uncommonly elegant music. But as a cancer professional, I also find it hard not to see the specter of cancer in Di Sarli's perfect, late-period pieces. The Senior of Tango must have known that his pancreatic tumor doesn't leave him much time, and he was in a race against time to bring the rough, crude hits of his youth to an elegant perfection - an almost morbid perfection. Have you read Pushkin's "Exegi Monumentum"? "The monument I’ve built is not in chiseled stone"? For someone on the oncology field, it may be painful to sense. Forgive me.