It has been my intention so far to cast some light on barely-known musicians or songs in tango history. Today, let’s zoom in on the virtually unknown musician featured below, Adolfo Muzzi, born in distant times when Adolf was still a boy’s name like any other (sorry, Adolfo, you can’t help it either). Born in Rome in 1897, Muzzi was one of the many tango figures who were born in Italy and moved with their families to the then very “promising” Argentina, at a very young age. One can only imagine the influence of Italian (musical) culture these musicians or singers brought along with them, captivated by a new and sophisticated music genre that was just as exciting as their young and thriving new homeland.
Casting these nostalgic musings aside and returning to the topic at hand, what we can find about Muzzi is that he was the first violinist of Osvaldo Fresedo’s orchestra during at least twenty years. This meant he played an important role in how the orchestra’s musical style generally sounded ánd evolved with time, and probably also how individual arrangements were made. There is some element of speculation in that, but one thing we can say more for certain is that we can link Muzzi’s name to violin solos heard in recordings of this important orchestra. These solos can either mean the (multiple) violins coming to the foreground in a certain song, or simply one violin, which very likely was played by Muzzi due to his role as first violinist. And this blog wouldn’t be this blog if I didn’t proceed to invite you to listen to some of those violin parts in Fresedo’s music.
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However, before we continue, let’s talk a bit more about Muzzi and why he made an interesting pick for our blog. I generally prefer to discuss the music of the Golden Age, but we shouldn’t forget that other than the singers, who were generally young guys, many of the “veteran” musicians in the Golden Age were born around the turn of the century, or even before, and thus were a part of the music’s obscure beginnings as well. Muzzi actually played in Firpo’s pioneer orchestra from 1916 onwards, until he joined Fresedo in 1923. And before joining Firpo, young Muzzi had been playing in a local orchestra in the famous barrio of La Boca, at the time a hot spot of Italian immigration.
In other words, this man witnessed ánd contributed to the evolution of our beloved tango music throughout more than three decades. And yet… that’s all we can say! There’s no more info about him, the rest of his career or about when he died… and there are only a few, pretty early compositions on his name, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that list is incomplete. Another “unknown soldier” for sure! However, now that our scarce “intel” is sadly depleted, let’s turn to the actually available music to actually link Muzzi with something we can listen to. I shall discuss with you four songs from several stages of Fresedo’s career until Muzzi’s role in it seems to have ended, and our sweet sugary diabetes man continued without him for easily another three decades (or with him…. info is really scarce!).
Let’s begin with Alma en pena from 1928. In this era, tango music was still relatively simple and it’s harder to find particularly pronounced solos like the violin one we are searching for. However, after Ernesto Famá’s refrain ends at 2:30, it’s immediately followed by a violin solo that lasts until the end of the song. It’s not particularly spectacular, but try to recognize how this violin (or should we call it Muzzi?) tells its own story, perhaps as a response to what had just been sung, and perhaps to replace a part of the lyric that has remained unsung.
In a similar vein, let’s listen to Volvé (1932), just when the the orchestra started to evolve into its full Golden Age splendor. If you listen to the singing that starts around 1:35 (“Come back, look, please just come back! Keep cheating on me if you want, I won’t bother you with my jealousy…”), you can notice that the singer is actually accompanied by a violin solo that, in my view, really adds some extra sense of sorrow to the story being told in human words. I can assure you that, once you begin to consciously hear all the musical tricks that are being pulled off in tango, your listening enjoyment will increase even further! By the way, if you can, also try to hear how the violin comes and goes intermittently in the rest of the song.
Now, let’s move on to the kind of music most of you find more interesting, the Golden Age! Fresedo offers us a very exciting repertoire of recordings with Roberto Ray, and it’s hard to make a decision, but let’s single out a very popular song from 1939 (just before Fresedo and Ray parted ways) called Vuelves, not only because it’s an absolute dream to listen to, but also because perhaps the most beautiful element in that dream is … sí señor(a), the violin! Let’s start listening to Rays singing and specifically focus on what comes after 1:48 and at 2:08, namely the silky smooth violins that add so much emotion to Rays voice! An absolute delight to listen to, some of the best pieces of musical art ever produced in the history of tango. And now, after so many years of adoring this song and this style, we at least know a little bit of who was in charge of these violins…
You like Fresedo with Ray? I bet you do! Well, you’re lucky, because our next article will specifically focus on something that has to do with those years. It’s actually been in the works for a while, but once I get rid of my writer’s block, you can expect something quite interesting!
Finally, less popular among dancers but still very great, and more up-beat dance music, we shouldn’t forget Fresedo with Ricardo Ruiz in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The typical “sound” of these years probably involves the violin even more, and we can hear that in one of my personal favorites, Sólo tú (1941). In this song, actually similar to our previous ones, the violins get the role of accompanying the singer, almost like a duet but not with human words. Around 1:00, the violin introduces the singer instead of the other way around, and its solo role lasts until around 1:30, after which you can also hear bandoneon, piano and even harp clearly ”singing” along in the musical story. In any case, we could theoretically keep analysing Fresedo’s music this way until the end of time, but at least we now know a little bit about a person who was an important force behind all this splendid musical creativity.