Pugliese and Roberto Chanel

Here’s a young Osvaldo Pugliese with his most classic singer, Roberto Chanel.

When I first started to listen to Pugliese (the first tango music I liked), I spent hours exploring his later music with very dramatic voices like Jorge Maciel, Miguel Montero, and later Alberto Morán. I knew about the work with Chanel, but I strongly disliked his nasal voice, and avoided it: I simply did not listen to that music.

But, as the years go by, and as our tango tastes develop and evolve into unforeseen directions, my somewhat chaotic preference for dramatic music changed into a more structured, mature one for the best (dance) music of the Golden Age, and one day I came to appreciate (because that’s often how it works) the superior quality of the early recordings with Chanel, where the orchestra and singer are in utterly beautiful harmony, making him seem like a natural instrument inside an already restraint orchestra, and even apart from that, I consider that although Chanel himself has a somewhat strange voice (that’s very personal…) yet at the same time he is a truly masterful singer, with a kind of depth, consistency and skill unrivaled by those who came after him.

Let’s celebrate this great partnership with this picture below, where Pugliese is holding a shellac. And indeed, tango dancers are very fortunate with the solid amount of recordings he made with Chanel, and I am always glad when I can play them in a milonga.

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Caló on bandoneon, with Raúl Iriarte

Here is a picture of Miguel Caló presumably practising a song with one of his two most important Golden Age singers, Raúl Iriarte, famous for fantastic dance songs like Marión, Nada and Mañana iré temprano, and this distinctive music is still one of the (several) keystones for tango DJs nowadays.

This duo below left us an ample number of highly danceable recordings in 1943 and 1944, when the Golden Age was still going strong and the genre went into a more romantic, dramatic direction. Like in the rival Troilo orchestra, you can hear this gradual change, transition in the recordings: a song like this, Es en vano llorar (No need to cry) from 1943, has a relatively light tone, like several other tracks (not all) from that year, and a relatively clear energy. Just a few years later, the tone has become much darker, and the music is slower and more focused around the singer, like in Fruta amarga (Bitter fruit) from 1945.

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Tanturi, Castillo & the orchestra

For me, Ricardo Tanturi and Alberto Castillo together form one of the true pillars of the Golden Age of tango: it is a sound perfectly suited for the dance floor and it is music of a wonderful artistic quality. Here you can see these gentlemen (to the left of the microphone) with the rest of the orchestra, in-between playing some of the famous songs we still dance today, or perhaps some that were never recorded…

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Carlos di Sarli, a benefactor of children

According to the story below, in 1942 the succesful orchestra director Carlos Di Sarli began to give away a part of his yearly income to charity. To be precise: he chose a foundation in Buenos Aires, Patronato de la Infancia, that (according to internet sources:) was taking care of a wide range of children in need of support, varying from orphans to street children to children of European war refugees etc. The caption explains that Di Sarli would donate his royalties of every last four months of the year to this institute, apparently quite a large sum of money. And he even hid his mysterious sunglasses for a change! (third picture)

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D’Agostino with his orchestra and Vargas

Usually, photos of tango artists on the internet are portraits that look very posed and not quite natural. Both in music and especially the movie industry, there is a tendency for popular artists to ”show off” with an arrogant look, a studied pose, an ”attractive” or ”sexy” attitude, perhaps as a way to cater to their fans and admirers.

However, some photos do show artists in a more natural way, even though they are still posing for a camera, but perhaps just not for a posh portrait. Below, you can appreciate the orchestra of Ángel D’Agostino, who himself is seen sitting at the piano, with a smiling face. Next to him, in a light suit, we can discern his great companion Ángel Vargas, with a friendly, relaxed look, unlike some other pictures.

I enjoy the relative naturalness of this scene below, which seems very appropriate for an orchestra that made humble, restraint, understated music, yet at the same time very solid, sensitive, nostalgic and danceable too.

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D’Arienzo with Mauré and JC Lamas

In the early 1940s, after being abandoned by his entire orchestra, Juan D’Arienzo had to start all over and define a new ‘sound’ with a completely different group of musicians. Comparing recordings from 1940 and earlier, one cannot help but notice that D’Arienzo is now leading a different orchestra, of course still a very rhythmical one, but the musical style is not quite the same, it’s actually something new, fresh.

However, I do think D’Arienzo struggled to replace Alberto Echagüe, his most prominent singer. The first singers of this 40s era were Alberto Reynal and Carlos Casares, who, I suspect, were trying to impersonate Echagüe’s voice, adapting a very similar ”macho”, ”tough guy” style. It’s hard to say whether they did that on purpose to get hired, or that perhaps D’Arienzo himself wanted them to do so. In any case, in 1944, the maestro was quick to reaccept Echagüe into his orchestra, despite the earlier betrayal, and, metaphorically speaking, they lived happily ever after.

As a strange exception in this pattern, Hector Mauré (on the left, photo below), his most recognizable singer of the early 40s, had both an entirely different, high voice and a much sweeter singing style. However, this should be put in the context of the simultaneous presence of singers like Reynal and Casares, who seem less important to tango dancers today, but figured in a nice output of recordings too. After the departure of Reynal, in 1942 and 1943 the macho spirit continues with the equally deep and strong voice of Juan Carlos Lamas, who again reminds me strongly of Echagüe’s tough, ”cool” sound in classic 1930s tracks like Nada más and La bruja. Doesn’t this prove my point of D’Arienzo’s ”ex issues”? (joking tone)

Yet, there is something quite special about JC Lamas. Sure, I just highlighted a solid continuity with his rough-sounding predecessors in D’Arienzo’s rhythm gangster club. But as far as I am concerned, Lamas has more emotional depth than whatever other singer D’Arienzo ever came up with (although Jorge Valdez is, for me, a close second). There’s something sensitive and heartfelt in his voice I have always admired, and his recordings are also somehow different than your usual D’Arienzo track. Lamas eventually quit the orchestra because he wanted to travel around and became an actor later. He was neither famous nor prolific as a tango singer, but at least we can remember him with a number of recordings and with this photo below, showing him (on the right) with his two famous colleagues.

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Canaro with orchestra and Roberto Maida

Here is a photo of Francisco Canaro with his orchestra and iconic singer Roberto Maida. This combination is responsible for arguably some of the best tango dance songs out there, right from the heart of the Golden Age of tango, although some stubborn folks may tell you otherwise.

Readers are welcome to help identify musicians on this picture. The smiling man with a dark suit near the microphone is Roberto Maida, and the un-Argentinely tall, next person to the right is Minotto di Cicco, a bandoneonist who once led his own orchestra (song example) but later joined Canaro. The maestro Francisco himself is the second person from the left of the microphone, with a bow tie.

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