This week’s tanda features Miguel Caló with Raúl Iriarte. The first two tangos are by Enrique Mario Francini; the final two, by José Dames.
A tanda featuring four tangos with brilliant bandoneón variaciones by Pedro Laurenz, culminating with “Amurado”, the all-time classic by Laurenz and Pedro Maffia.
This is a mixed vals tanda built around Osmar Maderna’s exquisite “Pequeña”. I picked Calo’s version of “Jugando, jugando” because it features Maderna as pianist and the sound of the orchestra is similar to Maderna’s. However, as DJ Mary Wu pointed out to me, Lomuto’s version of that tango (with Carlos Galarce, 1944) has a kind of bittersweet quality that is present in “Pequeña”, but absent in Calo’s version. So I suggest experimenting with both versions, as I have myself done over the past few weeks at various milongas. You may also want to try substituting ‘Una vez en la vida’ (Osvaldo Fresedo with Ricardo Ruiz, 1941) for ‘Motivo de vals’ if you find the tempo of the latter unacceptably slow (personally I find that it works at some milongas but not others, depending on the energy levels).
I still remember the first time I heard a Fresedo/Ray tanda: I had never encountered tangos of such exquisite beauty. This set includes two songs composed by Fresedo himself, one by Enrique Delfino, and one by Juan Carlos Cobián (whom Fresedo greatly admired). I like to play this tanda either early in the evening, or after the milonga has reached its climax and the night is about to come to an end.
In this tanda, Canaro’s orchestra recedes into the background as Charlo takes center stage. His unfailing intonation, polished technique and superlative musicianship put him in a special place in the history of tango vocalists. It is a shame that his voice is less often heard at the milongas than that of many lesser talents. The last two numbers also display his remarkable skills as a composer.
Biagi with Ortiz is simply Biagi at its best. And the four tangos included in this set are so congruent in terms of the mood they evoke that they seem to have been conceived for being played together. A sine qua non tanda.
D’Agostino’s milongas are underappreciated, and the last two numbers from this set are seldom heard at tango events. This is a pity because these songs are both a pleasure to the ear and very fun to dance to. The closing number, with its subtle dynamic and rhythmic changes, has now become an all-time favorite of mine.
I am admittedly not a big fan of Pugliese. There is an exception to my reservations about his orchestra, however: his collaboration with Jorge Vidal. Unfortunately, Pugliese and Vidal recorded only seven tangos together (plus one milonga), so the options for a DJ are very limited. To spice things up and challenge seasoned dancers, I sometimes substitute ‘Testamento de arrabal’ with Argentino Galván’s ‘Pa’ mí es igual‘ (1951), which also features Vidal on vocals. (Galván arranged some songs for Pugliese in the mid-40’s, and his orchestra, while clearly distinct in style, shares some similarities with that of the celebrated pianist from Villa Crespo.) Another possible substitution is Galvan’s ‘Cuando yo me vaya’ for ‘La cieguita’: while musically the song doesn’t fit as nicely, the lyrics are evocative of both ‘Testamento de arrabal’ (“Tan sólo una cosa pido, que me llore un bandoneón”) and ‘Puente Alsina’ (“A la barra de Boedo, Caballito y Puente Alsina”).
A “gently melancholic” tanda about things past (“la milonga porteña, que nunca más volverá“). I am not at all bothered by the fact that the first song was recorded more than a decade after the other three and does not feature Ángel Vargas–especially since ‘Café Domínguez’ is one of the most beautiful tangos of all time–, but purists might want to replace it with ‘Mi viejo barrio’ or ‘Quien tuviera dieciocho años’ (both from 1944 and sung by Vargas).