Pedro Maffia (1899-1967) played in the orchestras of Roberto Firpo, Francisco Lomuto, Juan Carlos Cobián and Julio De Caro. Perhaps his most important legacy, however, was as a composer of some of the greatest tangos of all time. This tanda features four of those masterpieces (‘Amurado’ was co-written by Maffia and Laurenz).
This is an experimental tanda, which I included in my recent DJ set for Twilight Milonga @ Studio 1924 (an excellent milonga in Oakland, CA). I absolutely love Charlo’s version of ‘El viejo vals’, and thought I might be able to play it if I managed to build a tanda around it. The goal was to find two other valses from the 1950s with a lead singer accompanied by guitars only. After a long search, I settled on Jorge Vidal’s ‘La vieja serenata’ and Alberto Marino’s ‘Un cielo para los dos’. Neither recording is quite up to the level of Charlo’s, but they are, I think, strong enough to be played together in the same tanda. I was somewhat nervous during the milonga because I didn’t know how the crowd would react to it. The dancers did seem a bit surprised at first, but after a few minutes they eased off, and when the final track was played, everyone liked it. Afterwards, a few people came over and told me that they had really enjoyed the tanda. So overall I think it was a success, and will probably play it again at some point in the future.
A while ago, my friend Alia—a superb dancer and DJ—left me the following message on Facebook: “Have you already composed a tanda with this beautiful tango?” The message included a link to Francisco Pracánico’s “Los muñequitos”, as recorded by Di Sarli’s orchestra. I found her question intriguing, since no less than two other friends of mine had recently written me about that same tango. Given the apparent interest in this overlooked gem, I thought I should take Alia’s implicit suggestion and build a tanda around it. But to have fun, I invited her to create a tanda as well, so that we could afterwards compare what each of us had come up with. She agreed, and a few hours later, we were ready to disclose our respective creations. What a surprise awaited us! Upon sharing the list of tangos with each other, we found out that we had chosen exactly the same songs! (The probability that something like this would happen by chance is extremely small. Even restricting the options to Di Sarli/Rufino recordings, the odds are in the order of 1 in 5,000!)
What follows is the list of songs arranged in the order that I believe suits them best (the original exercise involved listing the tangos in no particular order).
Almost every dancer is familiar with Alfredo De Angelis’ version of ‘Pobre flor’, but few know that the vals was also recorded by Juan Maglio in 1932. A year before, Pacho recorded another vals, sung by Carlos Viván, the lyrics of which include the line “Pobre flor que ayer lucía…” The two valses thus seem to be made for each other, and may be combined with the instrumental ‘Princesa’, also from 1931, as I do in this tanda.
With thanks to Ton and those who commented on his post at the Facebook group ‘Today’s tango’, for inspiration.
Another moving Di Sarli tanda from the 1940s, although in a more subtle, intimate way than the one previously featured on this blog. ‘Cuando el amor muere’ is the only recording that Carlos Acuña made with Di Sarli’s orchestra, and is as such rarely played at milongas by DJs who adhere strictly–and, one may say, blindly–to traditional rules of tanda composition. I find this unfortunate and unwarranted, especially in a tango of such haunting beauty, given the similarities in both mood and sound to other Di Sarli/Rufino recordings with which it can be combined, as I do in this tanda.
Pedro Laurenz was not only a first-class composer and conductor, but an extraordinary bandoneón player who influenced an entire generation of musicians. His impressive technical skills are, I believe, best displayed when he executes his own brilliantly crafted variaciones for that instrument. For this post I have excerpted my favorite 10 variations from the original tangos in which they appear. Click on the individual titles below or, if you can withstand five minutes of breathtaking intensity, play the video to listen to them all in one go.
My choice for this week is ‘La mulateada’ (Carlos Di Sarli, 1941). I reviewed 15 performances. (I was disappointed to see so many couples dancing to the Sexteto Milonguero version, which is of incomparably lower artistic quality.)
The star of this dramatic mixed tanda is vocalist Alfredo Del Río. As Abel Palermo notes in his biographical sketch, Del Río’s “great vocal facility, his special sense for interpretation, and his discipline and responsibility about taking care of his voice made him become a great professional.” The quality of the two Laurenz numbers–rarely heard at milongas–is not very good, but I’m not aware of any better transfers.
Update: I had assumed that combining Gobbi and Laurenz in the same tanda was uncommon, but in this recent interview renowned DJ Félix Picherna notes that he used to mix these two orchestras when DJing in Europe.