Friday, May 9, 2008

Cantor de Barrio

Orquesta Ricardo Tanturi

I've been hearing a lot of Tanturi lately, at home and elsewhere. Last Wednesday at Elizabeth's practica we heard no less than TWO tandas of Tanturi (the first with Campos, and the second with Castillo AND Campos - although personally I wouldn't mix tracks with the two singers together in the same tanda because they have entirely different "feels" to them even though the orchestra remains the same) even though the practica lasts only two hours. Elizabeth's practica was really crowded, the levels were very mixed, people were doing "whatever" (but I have to say, the people at her practica are a lot calmer than they used to be a year ago) and collision opportunities were high, but we were still able to lose ourselves in one or two tracks of Tanturi. It's the kind of music that is so "tango-tango" that sometimes the whole world can fall away.

I feel like dancing to some Tanturi with Campos this Saturday for our "practica" - what I want to do this week is to create a playlist that complements and expands on the themes set out in the the Tanturi tanda. The following is the tracks I've selected and my commentary:

Ricardo Tanturi with Enrique Campos
Cantor de Barrio
Calor de Hogar
Discos de Gardel
Jiron de Suburbio

I don't know why, but every recording I have of Tanturi with Campos has a little bit of reverberation - making the music sound like it was being played in a very echo-y tunnel somewhere. Strange as it seems, it's a very suitable sound for the theme in this music - nostalgia - and Enrique Campos' voice is like a voice from the past recalling an even more distant past.

All of this music has lyrics that recall the life of the common folk - the streetscapes, sitting in a cafe or by a vitrola listening to a tango singer or recordings by Gardel, the "guys" and "girls" from the barrio, coming home from work to your humble abode - Campos is saying, in his very plain, commonplace recitative singing, "all these ordinary things, with our memories of them, interwoven with the emotion of music - this is Tango."

I have placed "Cantor de Barrio" and "Jiron de Surburbio" at the beginning and end of this tanda as they both have a very strong melancholic sound that makes you want to dance and makes you lose yourself on the dance floor. "Calor de Hogar" has a similar sound, but because has a more joyful turn, it is a little weaker than the other tracks. "Discos de Gardel" has this quality makes it immediately familiar, even if you have never heard it before.

Imagine you have stopped dancing tango. Ten years, twenty years may pass, but if you find yourself standing outside a milonga with Tanturi music playing and the voice of Campos evoking the past - all your memories of tango and everything you have ever felt about tango will come flooding back.

Rick McGarrey has a very informative and interesting analysis of Tanturi and Campos here.

Anibal Troilo with Francisco Fiorentino

Los Mareados
De Barro
Por Las Calles de la Vida

I just love this version of "Los Mareados" - it has a melody that is both epic and intimate, and has a lot of the elements that I like about Troilo - the muscular sound of the bandoneons, always balanced with the grandeur of the sound of the rest of the orchestra, and the smooth, refined voice of Francisco Fiorentino. I find that Fior's voice doesn't seem to have a lot of emotional range - he manages to convey the same feeling in a lot of tangos no matter what the lyrics - but with the right track, he is perfect.

This tanda of Troilo complements the Tanturi in sound - a little reverb, anyone? - and it also develops on the theme of the commonplace, except that instead of talking about the commonplace as commonplace, the tangos lift what is common to the realm of the dramatic. The sad stories of the barrio are here - of "guy loses girl", or "loss of innocence" - but Fior inhabits the characters and their dramas are re-enacted and blown up bigger than real life on the stage of tango.

Once again, I have used the same structure in this tanda as I have used in the tanda of Tanturi - strong beginning, strong ending, with similar sounding tracks in between.

Vals - Rodolfo Biagi with Andre Falgas
El Ultimo Adios
Dichas que Vivi
Dejame amarte aunque sea un dia

All those orchestras that are sometimes perceived as playing "simplistic" or "primitive" rhythms - D'Arienzo, Donato, Canaro, and of course Biagi - REALLY knew their vals compas. The more "orchestral" orchestras sometimes have a lovelier sound, but they can lose track of what a vals is, making their vals less of a pleasure to dance to.

This tanda may not be the most beautiful, flowery and lyrical valses you have ever heard, but they are really catchy and if you can catch the compas, you will FLY.

Carlos Di Sarli with Oscar Serpa
Sin Ella
Por que se llaman amor
Tus palabras y la noche

Since I don't anticipate anyone showing up for the practica tonight (just Man Yung and me!), I decided to put in some really challenging music to practice to after the "break" we have with the vals.

These are all Di Sarli tracks from the 50's - thank the heavens for Di Sarli who was so strict he kept his music danceable even after the golden age. I started this tanda with the very popular and recognizable "Verdemar" just to keep us in the dancing mood. The rest are less well known tracks, but with beautiful melodies - as Man Yung says, "Di Sarli keeps it pretty consistent - almost all his tangos are really danceable." I chose these tracks more because of Di Sarli's lush sound - the voice of Oscar Serpa is not the big draw here. Serpa used to sing with Osvaldo Fresedo's orchestra, and even here he sounds like he is singing for the rich young playboys of Recoleta - superficially dramatic, but never over the top and never too emotional, pleasant enough so not to upset any "copas de champagne". Luckily, it's a voice that doesn't interfere with Di Sarli's sound - which makes this tanda great for practicing tango salon.

Osvaldo Pugliese - Instrumentals
Marron y Azul
Don Agustin Bardi

All of these tracks are very strong - late to very late Pugliese. "Marron y Azul" is slightly more toned down to ease the transition from Di Sarli to Pugliese, but it still has that wonderful drama and heavy compas. "Bordona", composed by Emilio Balcarce (he also composed "Si Sos Brujo" which I used in the last practica) keeps up the drama - this tango sounds a bit like he was trying to stuff "War and Peace" into a 3 minute tango! I like the way that Michael of Mad for Tango used this track when he plays Pugliese - unexpected, but it just sounds right.

I really love "Don Agustin Bardi", ever since I saw Carlos Gavito demonstrate to it with Marcela Duran in his video "Un Tal Gavito". I'm not a big fan of Gavito, but the way he shows the pauses and silences of the music and Marcela Duran's strong and emotional footwork (just look at the way she caresses the floor folks!) really impressed this tango in my mind.

I ended this tanda with a version of "Recuerdo" from the eighties! I don't like the older version that you can get on the CDs "Auscencia" or "Instrumentales Inolvidables Vol. 1" - maybe I keep expecting something with better fidelity after having watched Juan Carlos Copes dance to the version by Lalo Schifrin in "Tango" the movie, oh, about a hundred times ;) Well, this version has all the fidelity, all the drama - and it's really difficult to dance to! I would never play this at a milonga in Toronto - I have had veteran dancers tell me they "can't find the beat" to "A Evaristo Carriego", how the hell would they be able to dance to this track!

Pugliese and "Recuerdo" also ties up the story I have started with Tanturi and Campos. This playlist is all about nostalgia and memories, and "Recuerdo" has all the elements of that. Pugliese's music is so dramatic, it always seems to me that it is an emotional scream for the past - a scream of the dying so that tango will not die. Listen to late Pugliese late at night and you will see what I mean.

Meanwhile, here's a video of a performance by Pugliese and his orchestra of "Recuerdo" in 1985. The version is very close to the version I am using on the playlist:

Milonga - Francisco Canaro

La milonga de mis tiempos
Historia Sentimental
Reliquias Portenas

A nice tanda of milongas - you can never be disappointed with Canaro in this regard. Just make sure you choose tracks with the same fidelity, and similar tempo - instant danceability.

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