There is no one single event or development that marks the beginning of the Golden Age of tango dance music. It is often said that the impetus surrounding the formation of D’Arienzo’s orchestra in 1935 was key: but that is to over-simplify. Having arrived at 1933, we’re not quite there yet, but many of the ingredients are in place.
The smaller groupings, mostly sextets, that had dominated early tango have now given over to small orchestras, and that changed the sound to allow more varied musical textures and more sophisticated arrangements. Canaro (Odeon’s most bankable recording artist) was already using six bandoneóns and six violins in his early 30s orchestra – making a very full sound.
Odeon (Canaro) also seemed to be well-ahead in producing almost modern-sounding recordings. The Victor sound (Fresedo & OTV) is distinctly different, and probably mostly to do with the way the two companies used their microphones.
Canaro (Famá) 1932-33
These four songs are typical of Canaro in the early thirties: straightforward arrangements with clear rhythms. The vocal contributions of Ernesto Famá are in the traditional role of estribillista (chorus singer). In Dos amores we hear a muted trumpet solo straight after Famá’s vocal contribution – one of the ways in which Canaro (and others) expanded the instrumental lineup to extend the range of timbres available in his orchestral palette. A pesar de todo is unusual too, in that Famá gets to sing twice as long as normal: a verse & chorus.
- Dos amores (12-Aug-1932)
- A pesar de todo (9-Sep-1933)
- Pero aquel muchacho (7-Nov-1932)
- Puerto nuevo (11-Dec-1933)
Fresedo (Ray) 1933
Fresedo and his sextet had recorded with Odeon until 1928, but nothing more appeared until June 1931. By then, he had switched to a much smaller company, Brunswick, but it promptly went bust. His last release for them was recorded in July 1932. The recorded repertoire of that period is interesting, though, as it marks the transition from sextet to orchestra, but unfortunately, the sound quality of the available transfers (you can find then on Spotify) is dreadful.
By 1933, Fresedo had signed with Victor, and had started to record with tenor, Roberto Ray. The partnership produced several dozen wonderful recordings over about six years, and they remain Fresedo’s most popular work, even though he continued recording right up to 1980 (making his the longest studio career of any major tango musician). Ray had a distinctive voice. He sounds to me as though he’s an old hand and has been around for a while. It surprised me to learn that he was just 20 in 1933.
- Araca la cana (6-Jun-1933)
- El mareo (6-Jun-1933)
- Cordobesita (6-Jun-1933)
- Colibriyo (16-Mar-1933)
Orquesta Típica Victor (Gómez) 1932-33
By the early 30s, the directorship of the Victor house orchestra had passed to Adolpho Carabelli. Unlike the early years, when the recordings were almost exclusively instrumental, the output is now almost all with a singer – here, Alberto Gómez. In all four songs, though, the role is still firmly that of estribillista. If there is a star in the orchestra it is Elvino Vardaro, the principal violinist – but every section had first-rate players: Carabelli, himself, on piano, and a very strong lineup of bandoneón players.
- Don Juan (4-Feb-1932)
- El mortero del globito (9-May-1933)
- Lemita (27-Oct-1933)
- Ventarrón (13-Mar-1933)
Click here for ‘Tango in 1932’.
Click here for ‘Tango in 1934’.