Tango in 1928

Music from the 20s is little heard at milongas, now. There certainly isn’t any lack of repertoire; but most of the recordings are simply no longer available. Unfortunately, what we do have is too frequently offered in poor quality sound. It isn’t that the original recordings were all bad, but the record companies have not always been good custodians of their own historical recordings. It would be great to hear high quality transfers, newly made from the original shellacs. I think we’d be surprised at how good the sound could be, once we accept the inevitable limitations of the technology of the time.

Osvaldo Fresedo

The other reason we hear this music so little is that fashions have changed. The growling bass lines of the Fresedo Sextet, or the ‘wailing’ violin tone of De Caro can make a limited appeal when compared with more ‘modern’ recordings. But if we listen to this music regularly, and seek out the best repertoire and the best sound (however compromised), we find much danceable music that deserves to be played more regularly.

Canaro (Charlo) 1928


In February 1928, Francisco Canaro began recording with singer, Charlo (whose real name was Carlos José Pérez). In 1928, alone, Canaro was to record over 250 songs, and nearly 200 of them were with Charlo. They maintained a prolific partnership until 1932, and no other singer has a comparable discography. Charlo found time to record dozens of songs with Lomuto, too.

  • Tango lindo (7-Mar-1928)
  • Pero yo sé (28-Nov-1928)
  • Viejo callejón (10-Oct-1928)
  • Triste paica (18-Apr-1928)

De Caro (Instrumental) 1928

De Caro
Julio De Caro

Unlike Canaro, most of Julio De Caro’s output was instrumental. Providing music for dancers was not his main focus, but he was very important as an innovator, responsible for developing a more complex and sophisticated style of musical arrangement. However, his early electrical recordings are very danceable.

  • Adiós pueblo  (14-Aug-1928)
  • Colombina (28-Jun-1928)
  • El monito (19-Jul-1928)
  • Aromas (18-Jun-1928)

Orquesta Típica Victor (Instrumental) 1928


OTV, the house orchestra of the Victor record company, steered a middle path between the style opposites that were Canaro and De Caro. Unusually, the orchestra never played live: the musicians only came together to record. They were very popular and recorded from 1925 to 1944 with a variety of leaders and personnel.

  • Niño bien (09-Apr-1928)
  • La muchacha del circo (4-May-1928)
  • Fanfarrón (13-Sep-1928)
  • Esta noche me emborracho (9-Apr-1928)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1927’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1929’.

Barrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1927

Electrical recording had become well-established by 1927. All the major ensembles of the day were busy in the recording studio. Complete tandas of instrumental recordings by Fresedo, Lomuto, and Maglio illustrate the performing style and repertoire of the period. I’ve included a fine version of La Cumparsita by Canaro.

Fresedo (Instrumental) 1927

Osvaldo Fresedo

The sound of 20s Osvaldo Fresedo is very different from the saccharine sweetness of his later years. Here, the musicians play with a simple and clear beat. Fresedo’s recordings at this time are overwhelmingly instrumental. Ernesto Famá joined the orchestra at the very end of 1927 – but only stayed a year.

  • Frases de amor (3-Sep-1927)
  • Arrabalero (26-Feb-1927)
  • Caminito (18-May-1927)
  • La cachila (15-Nov-1927)

The rather crackly transfer of Caminito can be cleaned up considerably. Here’s the opening of the same song, from my own library. There’s not much I could do to improve limited dynamic and frequency range, but I have eliminated much of the running noise.

Lomuto (Instrumental) 1927-29

Francisco Lomuto

Francisco Lomuto frequently recorded the same repertoire as his friend, Canaro. Both orchestras played in a similar style in this period too, but Lomuto had a heavier beat. If you are familiar with Fumando espero from the late Di Sarli recording with Argentino Ledesma (1956), this recording may come as a surprise. Orquesta Típica Victor also recorded it in 1927 in a similar style but with a lighter musical texture.

Bacán fulero has a great walking pulse. Patadura and Te aconsejo que me olvides (from 1929 & 1928 respectively) continue in that vein. Te aconsejo que me olvides adds irresistible syncopations that are great for dancing.

  • Fumando espero (20-Aug-1927)
  • Bacán fulero (11-Jun-1927)
  • Patadura (5-May-1929)
  • Te aconsejo que me olvides (15-Oct-1928)

Maglio (Instrumental) 1927

Juan Maglio (Pacho)

Pacho, as Juan Maglio was known, is almost unheard of now and his recordings are rarely played. His recordings have a strong pulse – great for dancing – and he was very popular in the 20s. He died in 1934, aged 54, so the whole of his output belongs in the guardia vieja period.

  • Ventanita de arrabal (5-Jul-1927)
  • La copa del olvido (5-Jul-1927)
  • Tuito es mentira (6-Dec-1927)
  • Perfume de mujer (15-Oct-1927)


Canaro (Instrumental) 1927

Francisco Canaro

This is a lovely and unusual arrangement of La cumparsita. It’s slow and tender, with an extended violin solo played in the lower register (from 1:10), a trick we later came to associate with D’Arienzo. The solo violin returns from 2:19, but now playing a counter-melody in a much higher register.

  • La cumparsita (17-Feb-1927)

Click here for ‘Tango in 1926’.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1928’.

Clive HarrisonBarrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.

Tango in 1926

Until around 1926, record companies recorded acoustically. The musicians gathered around a large horn which captured the sound directly. The fidelity was awful, and tango music recorded in this early period (and there’s lots of it) is almost never heard now for dancing.

Then electrical recording was introduced: microphones converted the sound into an electrical signal, and that signal could be amplified and processed in rudimentary ways. The sound was still captured direct to disc, but now, the electrical signal powered a cutting head, allowing a wider frequency and dynamic range to be preserved. Previously, the limit of the recording process was determined by the amount of acoustic energy that could be captured in that big horn.

In 1924, a young tango musician, Osvaldo Pugliese (born 1905), composed the music for a new tango: Recuerdo. In the same year, violinist Julio De Caro had formed his first sextet. By 1926 it had secured a recording contract with Victor. On the 9 December 1926 De Caro was to make the first recording of Recuerdo, just a week after Pugliese’s 21st birthday.

The recording is one of the earliest electrical recordings in my own collection, but if you listen carefully you’ll hear that the sound, although of very limited frequency and dynamic range, is remarkably good. Recuerdo has been recorded by many orchestras; most frequently as an instrumental, but it has a lyric (by Eduardo Moreno). It was also recorded by Orquesta Típica Victor in 1930 with singer, Roberto Díaz, the incomparable Elvino Vardaro as principal violin and Luis Petrucelli (who had been principal bandoneon in De Caro’s 1924 lineup) playing the famous variación.

Recuerdo has been recorded many times, but probably the best is Pugliese’s own, from 1944. The arrangement is almost exactly the same as that used by De Caro back in 1926. It’s as though the composer’s own interpretation was a homage to De Caro, founder of the Decarean school, of which Pugliese had become the leading proponent.

Before leaving Recuerdo, here it is as the opening song of a complete De Caro tanda (1926-28).

This period is a remarkably fertile one for tango music. Canaro, Lomuto, Fresedo, Firpo, Maglio and Orquesta Típica Victor were all very active in the late-20s. Here’s Canaro’s very first electrical recording, A media luz, recorded on 8 November 1926:

And finally from 1926, another recording by Orquesta Típica Victor, La payanca, recorded on 13 December 1926, just days after De Caro’s Recuerdo:

If you’ve any curiosity about the sound of the recordings in the pre-electrical era, try this: Don Juan, recorded by Vincente Greco in 1910.

Click here for ‘Tango in 1927’.

Barrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.