Tanguango with Aníbal Troilo, the short story of the record label Discos T. K.

“We know, and we cannot explain the cause, that many típicas have recorded up to five versions onto wax, and despite the time elapsed these works have not been released, nor have they gone on sale. And on the other hand, interpreters who were not part of our middle recorded yesterday, and only a few hours after the printing, their records circulate.”

Julio Jorge Nelson, songwriter and tango critic,

Buenos Aires Oct 1951

 

A new record company is born

The famous Argentine actor Pepe Iglesias recording his first record with the new label T.K. in 1951

In the beginning of the 1950s something very interesting happened to the Argentine music market which had an important influence on the subsistence of the tango genre. A lot of new record labels were founded multiplying the chances for the tango bands to get a recording contract. To quote just a few: Orfeo (Caló, Firpo, …), Columbia (Fresedo, Pirincho, Charlo), Pathé (Attadia, Pedernera, Del Piano), Pampa (Varela, Barbero, Donato, …), Antar-Telefunken (1957 Uruguay), etc.

This occurred at a moment when more and more foreign music got pushed onto the Argentine music market. It is the post war time and the culturally isolating bubble of the tango golden age had definitively come to an end. The music market evolved more and more into a global business where the record labels would sign international agreements for catalog sharing and representing each other in their respective countries. The recordings had become more transportable since the technology was shifting away from the former shellac process, which was heavier, less flexible and slower in production, to the new vinyl technology. This opening of the music market represented a chance and a danger at the same time. On the one hand, the sudden availability of global markets and the diversification of national record labels was an opportunity to be sized by the numerous tango musicians, maybe also to get exported and on the other hand, the local market was submerged by foreign music shifting away the public interest from the music of the típicas.

One of the new labels founded in Buenos Aires was Music-Hall, my last article was discussing this label in depth, the present article will focus on the other tango related independent record company called Discos T.K.

While Music-Hall intensively and right from the beginning was working with the new vinyl technology, the TK label which started issuing at around the same time at the beginning of 1951, decided to work with the older shellac process. As discussed in my last article, Music-Hall, the other competing record label, had problems being an early adopter of vinyl because nearly nobody had yet a vinyl record player! TK certainly had better compatibility but their main problem was bad sound! And indeed, while listening through the original TK shellac records I sadly confirm that the quality of their first recordings is deficient, whereas, and that’s important to remind, the recording quality of Music-Hall was extremely high during their whole production history! As we will see, TK went through some kind of learning process which finally would improve their sound but for the Aníbal Troilo series which I will discuss here, it improved indeed but it never became perfect.

Often these two new labels are quoted or discussed as to be a single entity by error! People easily mix them up. But they were actually two completely separated commercial companies and competitors! The confusion might come from the fact that in the mid-1960s TK’s catalog was merged into Music-Hall.

 

Inter-Bas, the company behind TK

Music-Hall was owned by the company Sicamericana S.R.L. (Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada) and Discos T.K. was owned by Inter-Bas S.A. (Sociedad Anónima or Sociedad por Acciones). This is a form of company where originally, shareholders could be literally anonymous and collect dividends by surrendering coupons attached to their share certificates.

The founding act of Inter-Bas S.A. dates back to 27.9.1946 and in the beginning it was described as a stationary business dealing with office supplies, print media and typewriters. The brand name was registered by a certain Leonardo José Vidal.

In December 1950, Inter-Bas takes over a company which is specialised in selling equipment for learning English at home. During this act the name of another associate is mentioned: Eduardo Botta.

And in 1951 Leonardo José Vidal files a patent for a portable book record holder and is mentioned as the General Director of Inter-Bas S.A.

Processing just this information, it looks like besides entering into the music business, the company was interested in developing a multimedia device for audio language courses. We later will see that the invention of this patented device is actually key in understanding the brand name T.K.!

 

What does TK mean and stand for?

En su discoteca… Discos TK / Inter-Bas Cientifica, Industrial & Comercial S.A. / BUENOS AIRES ARGENTINA / INDUSTRIA ARGENTINA

The name TK is literally explained on the record jackets. In 1951 records didn’t have yet sophisticated covers, shellac records used to be wrapped into kraft paper which often contained a form of simple printing. On the TK series there are outline drawings of instruments with some geometric shapes crossing the jacket. The other crossing line is the Spanish sentence “En su discoteca … discos tk” ending in the logotype of TK. From this we can derive one meaning of the letter combination TK: It is the homophone of the Spanish word teca and together with the word discos, discos TK, simply means discoteca. This word has three meanings: 1. a record library, 2. a device or furniture to store records and 3. a public dancing club. In some online forums there are contributions which speculate that TK might stand for Troilo-Kaplún. During my research I couldn’t find any evidence for that or that Aníbal Troilo or Raúl Kaplún were commercially involved in the record company other than having signed a recording contract with it.

Inter-Bas ad from 1951 for their publication of audiobooks (El libro sonoro)

The second meaning of the word discoteca, a device or furniture to store records, matches actually the patent which the director of Inter-Bas S.A. Leonardo José Vidal filed internationally! (see above) I can easily imagine that he came up with the name Disco TK, discoteca, to have an interesting name for his new practical storage device being at the same time a furniture and a collection device for records (disco) and books (biblioteca), compound and with an added neologism it results in name Disco T.K. And indeed, Inter-Bas had been a pioneer in the field of audiobooks, a chapter in their company history which seems to be forgotten and this perfectly fits the brand name Disco T.K. The advertisement for their audiobooks, to the left, published in 1951 is still under the company name of Inter-Bas without the new strong double articulated brand name which reflects the concept of publishing spoken books!

 

The first published tango records

First bunch of issued TK records, Boletin Oficial 1951

TK started off the record production with very well known musicians when they published their first bunch of records in 1951. Among the first signed artists were the tango diva Mercedes Simone, the soloist Agustín Irusta, the Orquesta Hawaiian Serenaders, the Orquesta Astor Piazzolla, and others. Later TK added more artists to their catalog like Horacio Salgán, Tito Martin, Joaquin Do Reyes to quote just a few. With Raúl Kaplún TK recorded only 4 records in total! With Aníbal Troilo they produced a total of 49 shellac records. Normally on a shellac record there are two tracks which should add up to an even total but with the TK-Troilo recordings there strangely is only an impair grand total of 97 tracks. This is because they have added the same recording of the milonga La trampera on two different records. Once on the record TK-S-5038 together with the tango N.P. and another time on the record TK-S-5057 alongside with the vals Un momento. On both records the matrix number of La trampera is 84/51. The faithful Troilo fan must have felt cheated when discovering that it’s the same track bought twice!

TK sold La trampera twice, once on the record S-5038 with N.P. and then a second time some months later on the record S-5057 with the vals Un momento. Both versions of La trampera are the same and they do have the same matrix number!

 

The first troilo TK record, Che Bandoneón – Para lucirse

Unlike Music-Hall, TK had an incredibly rich output already during its beginning phase. They were issuing new records nearly at the same pace as the big players Odeon and RCA Victor!

It’s in March 1951 that the first Troilo TK record was issued to the public. It had the number Disco T.K. S-5001. (As a side note: It’s the first record number of TK but not the first matrix number) On the A side Che Bandoneón and on the B side Para Lucirse interpreted by Aníbal Troilo and his orchestra. This record is very programmatic as the A-side is composed by Troilo himself and on the other side contains a tango by Astor Piazzolla who was since the end of the RCA Victor contract introduced as one the new arranger of the band as mentioned in the official Troilo discography. The Piazzolla arrangements and repertoire gave the TK recordings a very avantgarde and recital touch. Some of these tangos can also live outside of a pure dance music context and have an incredible listening factor!

A nice move of TK was that they have put the recording year on the records, not many other record companies did this. In my opinion, the others mainly didn’t mention any dates on records because they wanted to keep the records fresh to the customer. This TK feature helps greatly to organise the records according to their recording year and to disambiguate. On this first record, the recording year is punched into the lead-out groove, check the enlarged picture to the left. Later they would add it on the record label, next to the matrix number.

As you might have recognised, the graphics on the T.K. record labels was a slightly derived Yin and Yang design, green and white in the beginning of the Troilo series, then for the 12 Troilo-Grela recordings it was black and white and later, for the last recordings it was red and white. This design of divine connotation gives them a touch of far-eastern wisdom and mystery. The outer ring has been printed interestingly with a black and white stroboscopic ring. When illuminated by incandescent or florescent lighting while the record spins on a turntable, the strobe lines will stand still at the appropriate configured speed! It is very possible that the record label transmitted that way the recommended playback speed information.

During the editions of the Troilo-TK records, the audiophile Discomania revue was following attentively the label and commented these record issues and artists. Let’s travel through the different highlights and hear how the tango critics back in the days discussed these recordings:

 

Pick-up #1 Responso-Discepolín, the tribute to the tango poets

On the 3.5.1951 Homero Manzi the famous tango lyricist died. The instrumental tango Responso is Troilo’s farewell to Manzi. Manzi collaborated on numerous tangos with Troilo and both were connected through a deep friendship. The tango an the B-side on this record, Discepolín, is such a Troilo-Manzi collaboration. It’s sadly their last collaboration and a song which Troilo composed as a tribute to Enrique Santos Discepolo and for which Homero Manzi, who was already deadly ill at the time, wrote the lyrics. Posthumous, one can say that this record became a homage record for both tango poets because Enrique Santos Discepolo also died himself at the end of that same year! The lyrics of the tango Discepolín are delivered by the singer Raúl Berón who will be present during most of Troilo’s TK time together with Jorge Casal, they are Troilo’s main singers from his TK period and will stay with the orchestra until around 1954-55.

“Troilo, Anibal (Pichuco) and his orchestra. Responso, Tango (A. Troilo) – Discepolín, tango (H. Manzi-Troilo) (T.K, S-5048). Troilo offers us a magnificent version of his last tango Responso, written in homage to Homero Manzi. There may be excess bandoneon, but it is justified if we understand that the popular director has wanted to express, in notes, his ‘musical tears’ to the definitive absence of the friend of all hours. On the other side of the disc we hear the posthumous page of Homero Manzi, with musical stanzas by the conductor, which is titled Discepolín. The set of Pichuco is shown with the impeccable adjustment of always, and we note also the happy recovery of the singer Raúl Berón.” [Discomania, ed. 1, Oct. 1951]

 

Pick-up #2 Bien milonga-De vuelta al bulin, Troilo the movie star

In a side note of Discomania of November 1951 one reads the following concerning the Troilo record TK-S-5053: Ismael Spitalnik, first retired as bandoneonist, and is now in his new role of arranger for great tango bands. He was the one who collaborated in his double task of composer and arranger so that Troilo will shine once more through the tango called Bien milonga. Piano, bandoneon and strings come together effectively in a recording that deserves to be described as outstanding; then we hear, from the movie Mi noche triste (still unreleased) the tango of José Martinez and Pascual Contursi, De vuelta al bulin. Once again this ratifies Raúl Berón’s solid position as a singer, acquired in the típica of the author of Barrio de tango.” [Discomania ed. 2, Nov. 1951]

Mi noche triste: was the first premiere of the year (January 3, 1952), directed by Lucas Demare. The movie is a free allusion of Pascual Contursi’s life. Troilo intervenes with his orchestra making incidental music, composed by Lucio Demare. He interprets, Mi noche triste (Lita), which in the fiction is sung by the actor Jorge Salcedo (doubled by Oscar Alonso), Ventanita de arrabal and a fragment of Que querés con esta cara (doubled by Jorge Casal) and also some notes of El porteñito.” [Todotango.com]

 

Pick-up #3 La cumparsita-Inspiración, the updating of the old guard

“La Cumparsita, the most executed tango in the world, perhaps the only one that is treated differently by each of the orchestras that include it in its repertoire, is offered by Troilo in a different version. Pichuco does not try to show off making the ‘bellows’ cry. The defect that we point out in the other típicas is that according to the instrument played by the director of the ensemble, La Cumparsita is ‘arranged’ (or disarranged) for the director-performer to abuse the solos. In this register, the orchestral equipment is complete, the strings, the piano and the bellows alternate the rhythmic melodies complementing each other perfectly, without special phrases that in most cases only serve to distort the original sense of the score.

Returning to the recording of Troilo, on the other side of the record: Inspiración by violinist Peregrino Paulos, with lyrics written much later by Luis Rubinstein. This tango, had the peculiarity of being composed without lyrics, and was in that form well received by the public. At the time, the melody was forgotten and replaced by other successes, when Rubinstein, years after the composer disappeared, expanded it with his own verses. With these Inspiración made a triumphal comeback to occupy a privileged place among the  music of the típicas. The curious thing is that after this initial success it returned or fell another time into oblivion, to reappear, years later, as an exponent of the tangos of the Guardia Vieja, but again without lyrics.” [Discomania, ed. 5, March 1952]

 

pick-up #4 Tanguango-La violeta, the invention of a new rhythm!

Here is the ninth Troilo record which had been announced by TK in an advertisement as to be a brand new rhythm, the Tanguango! Maybe you remember, numerous orchestras tried in the past to come up with new rhythms. The most successful was certainly the invention of the milonga of the city (milonga ciudadana) by Sebastian Piana and songwriter Homero Manzi back in 1931. This newly presented rhythm lead to a permanent new tango sub genre to which we still dance today in the modern milongas. Other such new rhythm creations were limited in time like tango rumba or Canaro’s experiences with Tangón-Milongón which found actually a larger adoption in Uruguay. The Tanguango as they called it is in that regard not a dead end. It is indeed very typical of Astor Piazzolla’s music with it’s sometimes shifting rhythms from tango to milonga (candombe in this case) and vise-versa. In this context I remember also the piece Bordoneo y novecientos by Osvaldo Ruggiero which also switches back and forth from milonga to tango. To my big surprise, at a festival some years ago I got myself caught by Stazo Mayor and Alfredo Marcucci performing such a rhythm shifting piece while dancing!

TK ad in 1951

TANGUANGO, thus capitalized, at the outset this exceptional composition of Astor Piazzolla was quite a headache to the popular Troilo, who came out to break molds with a plausible sense of avantgarde. Not to say that he was vexed or insulted, but if, for the first time, he received an unforgettable ‘whistle and boo’ when he was publicly performing the piece. But, at the second live performance of the Tanguango, Troilo was greeted by those who had hissed him before. With ‘bongo’ and ‘tambora’ and a great orchestra unfolding, Píchuco [Troilo’s nickname] recorded this version in which great and serious hopes are credited. And by sharing them fully, we extend our applause and our adherence to those who, the performing artists and the recording company, have put their soul and their efforts in the achievement of this new manifestation.[Discomania]

When I was listening for the first time to this record, I had all sorts of associations in my head. Once I was in Africa at the Congo River than it had this modernist character coming after the drum part. It’s crazy! I can imagine that some people had a difficult time to listen to it for the first time and not being able to manage their feelings …

 

Pick-up #5 Moving from Emelco to Splendid recording studios, Cenizas-Uno

In the May 1953 issue of Discomania there is a review of Troilo’s record S-5110 Cenizas on the A side and Uno on the B side. This record is discussed as a technological turning point as the first recording of the Troilo TK series to be recorded at the studios of Radio Splendid. This improved greatly the quality of their records which were known up-to-date as terrible sounding! The article says this in a very polite and diplomatic way:

Troilo TK-S-5110
* José Maria Rízzuti, in collaboration with Emilio Fresedo, wrote quite some pages of our tango. Today, Aníbal Troilo, with his orchestra gives us impeccably his version of Cenizas, a sentimental tribute that, as a posthumous memento, José Maria Rizzuti composed and dedicated to his girlfriend. The orchestra with its habitual seriousness, executes very well this page, that by the intention of its content and substance, deserves to be treated in the given form. On the other side, the well-known tango Uno, which not many years ago was one of the tangos that was on everyone’s lips. This work, with a melodic line, is a worthy combination with the previous side. The vocal interpretation of Jorge Casal is carefully well done, and the technical impression of both matrices has been satisfactorily performed. The tonal differentiation that is established in this recording with respect to the previous ones of the same label, is due to the fact that the recording was made in the studios of Radio Splendid, more apt for good sound than the sets at Emelco.” [Discomania ed. 11, 15.5.1953]

This Astor Piazzolla arranged version of Uno is very interesting as it doesn’t have the evenly pronouced triplet on the outro of the main refrain melody as on the first recording with Alberto Marino from 1943. The 1952 rendering is smoother and Jorge Casals voice very convincing! This could make it an interesting pick for an accessible TK tanda.

 

The Emelco studios and the deficient sound

From Emelco’s movie Diez segundos (1949)

The Discomania article shortly mentions in the end that the previous records of TK were recorded at the Emelco movie studios which without any doubt explains the low sound quality of the first TK recordings. When you listen to these Emelco recordings, it is as if the sound stage is quite fare away. It could have been that they had problems with arranging the microphones around the orchestra. In another edition of Discomania, I found this short news: “A new type of recording in our scene is the one performed for the Hawaiian Serenaders on the T.K. record label. It consists of making ‘set’ recordings, as if they were made in dance halls, with applause at the end of the piece. The reverberation sound system has been used in these recordings.” [Discomania, ed. 3, Dec. 1951] It is therefore plausible that this might partially been applied to the Troilo recordings or that they were experiencing with this technique.

As the Troilo orchestra does an interplay of staccato, legato and dynamic (loud and quiet) passages, the sound engineer often has to use the gain control to prevent clipping resulting in wedge-shaped effects in the waveform. In general, when listening to Troilo recordings one would wish a little bit more detail in the legato passages but often it is missing. Therefore, and taken apart that most of the later Troilo LP and CD transfers have their own problems being badly done, the Troilo recordings are in their original form as 78-rpm records slightly deficient since the beginning of the RCA Victor period. They are not optimal in the rendered detail. As if the microphones were misplaced on purpose to prevent too much dynamics. I can imagine that recording Troilo’s music was by fare one of the most demanding tasks for a sound engineer. It was without any doubt one of the most difficult orchestras to record correctly. So I guess if TK was collecting experiences, doing it with the Troilo outfit was the worst case scenario and certainly the most challenging!

 

Pick-up #6 Malena, Mensaje, Ivette, Un momento and La cantina

If the TK-S-5110 Cenizas Uno record is the qualitative pivot point of Troilo’s TK recordings, there are still quite a lot of Raúl Berón and Jorge Casal recordings which date from the sound improved period! Like for instance the very nice Berón Malena interpretation or the great recording of Mensaje or Ivette. No reason to be sad, even some from the more difficult Emelco recordings have quite acceptable sound like the beautiful vals Un momento. If you want to discover the voice of Jorge Casal try his interpretation of La cantina (well-known from the Caló-Podesta recording from the same year, 1954) and Uno.

 

Pick-up #7 Edmundo Rivero’s guest appearance and the revival recording

For all Edmundo Rivero fans there is good news during Troilo’s six years lasting TK contract (1950-1956) there is one revival record with his emblematic singer of the late 1940s who took his retirement from the orchestra at the end of the RCA Victor period back in 1949. He comes back for one single recording, TK-SB-35003, and records Sur and La ultima curda.

Edmundo Rivero who retired from the Troilo orchestra in 1949, visits Troilo for one single recording at TK in 1956. They record together “La ultima curda” and “Sur”. He himself started to record as soloist under the TK label since 1954.

The first recordings with el polaco, Roberto Goyeneche and Ángel Cárdenas

In 1956, Roberto Goyeneche and Ángel Cárdenas come to replace Raúl Berón and Jorge Casal. With Roberto Goyeneche, Troilo will record until the early 1970s! These are the very last Troilo TK recordings. With Roberto Goyeneche, Troilo records the following TK titles: Bandoneón Arrabalero, Calla, Milonga que que penas canas and Cantor de mi barrio and with Ángel Cárdenas: Quien, Chuzas, Vamos vamos Zaino viejo, Callejón and Qué risa.

The típica Aníbal Troilo performing at the at El Club Comunicaciones with his singer Roberto Goyeneche

The TK-Sondor Uruguay connection

Like Music-Hall, TK also was interested to license its repertoire to foreign companies to increase sales on their repertoire. They quite simultaneously got a deal with Sondor in Montevideo, to issue the Troilo series in Uruguay.

The Troilo TK records were issued from the same matrices in Uruguay but with a blue white Sondor record label and some of the A-B sides were differently recombined as compared to the original Argentine issues. The original matrix number is mentioned under the Sondor record number in smaller print.

 

The TK Polydor Japan licence and later TK vinyls reeditions

I cannot precisely date this Japan vinyl reedition but judging from the fact that the size is still 10″ I would guess that it’s from the mid-1950s. It’s based on a deal with Polydor in Japan which allowed the Troilo-TK recordings to be issued in Japan. This series is also of perfect fidelity as compared to the original recordings!

Among later vinyls reeditions are first of all TK’s own 12″ series from the early 1960s with this beautiful cover design:

 

The end of TK

Between 1963 and 64 the record department of Inter-Bas was transformed through a financial transaction into a new structure called Fenix S.A. which inherited the TK catalog and brand name. The remains of the company Inter-Bas became a record pressing plant. Fenix S.A. continued to release under their new record label called also Fenix mainly Jazz artists with a rather mixed success. Since the new Fenix settlement the TK repertoire became frozen and passive. The TK-discography I have seen, stops around the year 1960 with some last recordings of Alberto Castillo with the orchestra of Angel Condercuri.

TK-S-5101-B 228 El Marne 1952

Some years later, 1965-66 the low budget subdivision of Music-Hall, Difusión Musical, extended its repertoire in buying the historic TK catalog from Fenix S.A. They were said to be very successful with their low priced reissues of past titles. The name and brand TK seemed to have stayed with Fenix S.A., hence they called the old TK catalog Repertorio Caravelle in order to circumvent the use of the TK brand name. “Del Repertorio Caravelle” is therefore written on all DM records dealing with TK recordings. The vinilo Troilo-Grela contains all Troilo-Grela TK recordings. On the record Ayer, Hoy y Siempre of DM there are two errant tracks which were not recorded by Troilo: La Bordona and El Marne. They seems to be later tracks recorded by the Orquesta Maffia-Gómez in 1959. This embarrassing error was passed onto the later CD Sus Mejores Momentos – Aníbal Troilo – Orfeón Records 1999!

 

The LP reissues and Eurorecord’s Archivo TK

As an overall evaluation, the TK series, even after the change to the more professional recording studio at Radio Splendid stays underneath the sound quality of the former RCA Victor recordings. In theory, the 1950s TK recordings should have been better as the state of art in sound recording technology had improved since the 1940s. But as a matter of fact the Troilo TK recordings have to be situated under the RCA Victor sound standards of the 1940s! Additionally I would like to add that the currently available CD series Archivo TK of Eurorecords makes the TK repertoire appear as to be worse as it really is, adding sometimes to the degraded impression. Their CD-transfers were not optimal and some of the tracks were initially better recorded than the CDs of the Archivo TK series present them! It’s also astonishing that the first TK vinyl reeditions are very faithful and have very good sound! Even the later DM (Difusion Musical, Repertorio Caravelle) editions which date from the late 1960s when TK merged with Music-Hall have very fine fidelity and compare very well to the original recordings.

Discomania – Carlos Di Sarli records his first ‘long-playing’ record

While I was browsing through a pile of Argentine Discomania revues from the early 1950s, I found this interesting interview with Carlos Di Sarli which I would like to share here. It was made during the rehearsals of the orchestra to prepare the first Music-Hall recordings and it gives a very interesting insight on the scope and concept of the recording project. It seems that in the beginning only around 5 records were planned with a total of 20 songs. And that the initial idea was to conquer new markets outside of Argentina, like Brazil, the USA and others. In that regard the use of vinyl makes perfectly sense as the format was about to spread from North to South America and it has by nature a better transportability either as flexible and unbreakable records or as tape copies. It also looks like if the Di Sarli MH-project was not only meant to be distributed “for export” but also as an intercultural exchange where other local artists would share some tracks on the same albums with Carlos Di Sarli.

The initial records, though produced in vinyl, were quite short 7″ records with only 2 tracks per side. Later they would grow to 10″ with 4 tracks per side and by the end of the 1950s, they were edited on a series of 12″ LPs with 6 tracks per side. That’s the contemporary LP-format.

Here is how the original 7″ record series looks like, it’s the very first record, LP-1001, it’s the size of what we know later as 45-rpm singles but these were dobles, 2 tracks per side in 33,33-rpm:

See here for the interview which back in 1951 must very much have been a scoop in the Argentine music industry.

Carlos Di Sarli records his first ‘long-playing’ record

A report by Xavier Rouge

Being a reporter for a record magazine has its laps. The reading public is very demanding and wants to be informed of all the novelties of the recording industry. And this is a very interesting novelty. It’s about our first Argentine artist to be recorded on vinyl: Carlos Di Sarli.

We are heading to the studios of Argentina Sono Film, and we meet with Carlos Di Sarli, who is rehearsing at the front of his orchestra before definitively impressing the fonomagnetic tape that will later be poured into L.P. He stops with his activities, and taking advantage of the rest, we hasten to interview him.

“How was the idea of ​​recording on ‘long-playing’ born?” We asked.

“When an Argentine orchestra travels abroad, it usually gets a warm and successful welcome, this means that Argentine music is very much appreciated. So why not record it on ‘long-playing’ albums, so that our authors and musicians are known by all audiences in the world? That’s how the idea was born.”

“Yes, but there are no ‘long-playing’ record factories in our country yet.” We said.

“That was solved in the following way: we record in the studies of Sono Film onto fonomagnetic tape, that later is sent to the United States, where it is formed into ‘long-playing’ records.”

“I’m going to give you another interesting detail,” he adds, “As ‘long-playing’ records bring together several compositions, 40% of their surface is dedicated to the national music of the country to which they are directed, and the remaining 60% is occupied by Argentine music. That is, if the discs are directed to Brazil, for example, the percentage is distributed in choros sambas, marchinhas and in between tangos, milongas and waltzes.”

“What are the compositions you have chosen for the phonoelectric recording?”

“We have made a selection of twenty pieces, among which are: El organito de la tarde, Didi, El 11, El recodo, Don Juan, El caburé, Nido gaucho, Como los nardos en flor, El pollito, El ciruja, and others that I do not remember right now. These are the titles of the típica music part but I can advance you that I will share the responsibility of recording with artists of the stature of Giácomo Rondinella and Sagi Vela.”

“Must we wait long before we can appreciate these recordings?”

“At the moment, two representatives of Music-Hall are in the United States, finalizing the preparations to launch on the market the first series that might be appreciated by the public.”

“In fact,” we said, “this is also for you a comeback to the world of the record, because you didn’t record in a long time.”

“Effectively, and I am already excited to hear the final version poured into the plastic. Okay, guys, I’m sorry to have to interrupt this friendly talk, but we must continue rehearsing.”

We say goodbye with a handshake, and we leave with the pleasant feeling of knowing that we have now our own ‘long-playing’ recordings.

Revista Discomania, Buenos Aires, December 1951, pp. 42-43

 


Variety International, Jan. 1952 Issue. The founder of the Music-Hall label, Armando Gandolfo was an ex-RCA sales manager!

Extract from a record catalog of March 1952, showing the initial 20 Music-Hall tracks

In the end, this ambitious project was downscaled and records were mainly sold in Argentina and Uruguay (there licenced to the local label Sondor). The recordings were made on tape in the studios of Argentina Sono Film in Buenos Aires in a magnificent recording room as Discomania states, and were then sent to the vinyl plant in Peru where the records were produced and sent back to Argentina for domestic distribution. It could be that the stampers were produced elsewhere, like i.e. the USA.  While I was looking at the original releases, I recognised that on the later records an alternative recording location is indicated on the record label: “Grabado en los estudios de Radio Splendid“, it can be verified on LP-1026, LP-1042 and LP-1050. This strongly suggests that they stopped using the Sono Film recording studio for the last records and that the final 24 MH Di Sarli titels were recorded at Splendid’s studios as a replacement.

In March 1953, Juan Bautista Monglia sells his shares of Sicamericana, the commercial entity behind Music-Hall, to Héctor Noberto Selasco. This makes Selasco the strongest shareholder and manager of the company. When the articles of association were first published in March 1952, Juan Bautista Monglia, Héctor Noberto Selasco and Armando Gandolfo, ex-RCA Victor sales manager, all had an equal share in the company. There is actually a coincidence between the capital restructuring of the company, and the changing of the recording studio. On the first record covers Argentina Sono Film was indicated as “productora asociada” of Sicamericana S.R.L. and it seems that they stopped the coproduction when Sicamericana shrinked to a hierarchical one boss structure. By the way, Wikipedia mentions that only two years later in 1955, Lucas and Atilio Mentasti owners of Argentina Sono Film were being arrested during the Liberating Revolution (Revolución Libertadora) which ended the second presidential term of Peron therefore there could be also political circumstances involved which left the Sono Film studios impracticable.

It’s important to mention that the Music-Hall project was very progressive and probably achieved the first Argentine commercial recording with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a vinyl record production. It’s still in mono but the tape master brings a new flexibility and mobility into the recording process. The studio and the record plant can now be easily at different remote locations.

At a later period, after the maestro’s departure, some of the Di Sarli MH records were also commercialised in Brazil and Japan but without the announced guest artists. Music-Hall licenced the repertoire to the Sinter label in Brazil and to Seven Seas in Japan.

Export MH records, produced in Brazil (Sinter label) and Japan (Seven Seas)

While rethinking the business model from export to a mainly domestic distribution, the whole 33-rpm vinyl format turned out to be a burden for the Music-Hall label as most of the record players in Argentina still had one speed in the beginning of the 1950s: 78-rpm. Only the new record players had 3 speeds and who would buy a new record player just to just listen to Di Sarli? In order to get a better market penetration, in a later phase of the project, a lot of hybrid records were therefore produced from the same titles to achieve backwards compatibility. That’s around the same time when Odeon and RCA themselves launched their own dual distributions: on 78-rpm shellacs and at the same time on the new vinyl format. The first 78-rpm Di Sarli Music-Hall edition was published on the 26.11.1952 and is a very curious hybrid because it was in the format of a 7″ record running at 78-rpm speed and pressed in vinyl!

The first 78-rpm re-edition was made on 7″ vinyl, this is record 15001, Tangueando te quiero – Quien te iguala, issued on the 26.11.1952 on blue marbled vinyl. They mention on the cover “78 Velocidad normal”

From the last recordings, LP-1050 (only 750 pressed copies), LP-1070 (pressed also as disco 4011 at 1540 copies), LP-1079 and LP-1085, it seems nowadays impossible to find any 7″ vinyl copies. During the last moments of their collaboration with Di Sarli, Music-Hall went massively back to a more conventional support, the classic 78-rpm shellac. It looks as if the vinyls LP-1070, LP-1079 and LP-1085 were issued in very low quantity! This is also standing to reason because from these last 3 vinyl records I have never seen a single picture. According to my research, LP-1070, was also published with a different record number and on a different support, as disco n° 4011 on a doble 78-rpm shellac. So there might be another chance to get these difficult to find titles on this shellac series.

The 4000 series was actually produced as 78-rpm shellac records with 2 tracks per side, another curiosity! At least LP-1070 was (re)-issued as record 4011, which is a 78-rpm shellac doble. The 4000 series had a yellow label.

The first MH Di Sarli vinyl records were initially published at very high numbers, at an average of around 14000 ex. And were then gradually reduced to 5000 ex. since the vinyl record number LP-1010, the 10th record, and ending with a very small-circulation of 2000-750 ex. or even less for the last vinyl records! The numbers of produced copies were published in the Boletín Oficial which contains the mandatory legal deposit of every domestic publication. Though I couldn’t find any publication of the release dates for the last 3 vinyls but this is maybe related to some missing Boletíns of the year 1954 in the archives.

As an overall evaluation I would like to mention that these 84 Di Sarli Music-Hall recordings were all very well done, they sound great, especially the original 7″ vinyls. When you listen to a well-preserved copy, you get indeed the impression that the maestro himself is descending from the heavens, MH themselves called their sound fidelity equal to reality, fidelidad que iguala a la realidad. This high sound quality is though not always maintained on later vinyl re-editions, especially the 12″ vinyls often have less good sound. They partly messed up the original equalisation and added on the latest generation LPs some reverberation. There are also some strange problems with the gain where the sound engineer started the transfer too loud and corrected the gain only later after the first bars. On the earlier 10″ and 12″ vinyls there is very muffled sound on some tracks which are therefore virtually useless. A few tracks on these next generation vinyl transfers are OK. Also positive to mention, I didn’t recognise any pitch/speed problems on the following generation vinyl transfers like one sadly often hears with other record labels.

First 12″ MH LP series from around 1958, 12 of the 84 total tracks are missing, as if one 12″ LP record was never produced (at least I haven’t seen it and I think it doesn’t exist). This is often an indicator that the record label didn’t find back their own material when they prepared for a re-edition years later …

The downscaling of the initially ambitious project and the too early adoption of vinyl for the domestic market with all the resulting problems might have contributed why Carlos Di Sarli returned by the beginning of 1954 to RCA Victor. It could also be related to the change of the recording studio, the last 24 recordings were produced at the studios of Radio Splendid. But maybe it was just the end of their contract. There is a lot to speculate which is favored by the circumstance that the initial distribution of Music-Hall seems rather experimental based on a trail and error method. Discomania shows him in their August 1954 edition as to be back at the RCA Victor studios without mentioning any further motives for the change.

Concerning the concept of guest artists, finally, the 7″ vinyl series has numbering discontinuities when we check the discography. During the first 10 records the numbers were all used for Carlos Di Sarli and then there are holes. These missing record numbers were actually used for other artists and genres, like Cole Porter (LP-1033), Herbert ‘Happy’ Lawson (LP-1044) and a lot more. The Giácomo Rondinella and Luis Sagi-Vela recordings were running on a separate record number prefix in order to distinguish the classical music aspect, the LP-5000 series, the LP-1000-series was initially the popular music classification. All these recordings were never published together on a shared record like the initial idea proposed but were juxtaposed on separate records.

It’s much later that Carlos Di Sarli recorded an LP album alongside with another artist. By then he had long left MH and after some years at RCA Victor he joined the Philips label during his last recording sessions with the orchestra. This shared record was published in 1960 and it’s called Carlos Di Sarli mano a mano con el Dixie. Los Estudiantes Holandeses are also known as the Dutch College Swing Band. The record contains a succession of one track by Di Sarli and one swing orchestra track, in ping-pong battle mode, all recorded in a live environment. In the end his idea of an intercultural concept became a reality!

As we can see now from our future perspective the high goals of the initial Music-Hall project were flattened and a compromise was found. The recordings were nearly exclusively distributed in Argentina and Uruguay and the guest artist concept abandoned. Instead of exporting Argentine titles to the rest of the world, mostly foreign artists were imported into the domestic record market via Music-Hall. The maestro delivered fantastic recordings but they didn’t find any major international resonance back in the days. How would he be delighted to see that nowadays his music is played globally!

Advertisements from the launch of the new MH label in the revue Discomania

And last but not least, see here for a visual succession of the main Music Hall vinyl generations, from the first issue starting in 1952 to the last LP edition from the 1980s. The reverberation was added on some tracks since the 1979 edition. And the edition El señor del tango, red and green/blue monochrome cover, is a reduced two volumes edition, focusing on the most known initial titles.

Based on my research I have put together a discography of Carlos Di Sarli’s Music-Hall recordings. It’s still a work in progress and based on records which are in my collection. The recording dates which are taken from the later CTA CD edition are very questionable and some aspects of the way the last MH recordings were issued are still unclear. The CTA dates are questionable especially when the release date, which implied a legal deposit of 3 physical records at the national archive, is before the recording date, that’s implausible! I would like to get access to the data of the Music-Hall recording book, and as, they used reel-to-reel tape masters for the recordings, the tape boxes might contain the take info and also the recording dates. So there might be a chance to get hold of the correct dates if these tapes and boxes have survived. If you want to contribute to this document, if you have suggestions or information to share, please mail me.

Carlos Di Sarli Music-Hall Discography in PDF Format

 

 

Carlos Di Sarli Music-Hall Discography in CSV Format

Un Argentino en París

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As you might recall, just a couple of weeks ago on the 13.4.2016 the maestro Mariano Mores passed away. He composed some very famous tangos like Uno, Cuartito azul, Cafetín de Buenos Aires, Adiós Pampa mía, Taquito militar and many others.

Today I received a very interesting 10” LP published on the Odeón label in Buenos Aires in 1954. The titel is “Marianito Mores – Un Argentino en ParísPiano con acompañamiento de órgano y ritmo It is less suited for dancing and has a more recital, jazzy character. The 2 x 4 titles were recorded in France (grabado en Francia) and the vinyl record then pressed and published in Buenos Aires. All tracks are composed or co-created by Mariano Mores. The record number is LDS-182, it is a very low number, so we are most likely very close to the beginning of this Odeón series which might have started as early as 1953 with some Francisco Canaro, Rodolfo Biagi and Roberto Firpo re-editions. You can crosscheck this via Christoph Lanner’s Francisco Canaro Discography, he mentions the LDS vinyl re-edtions in the Electric Recordings Part II (1935-1973). The LDS series produced also Argentine folklore and jazz titles with artists like Atahualpa Yupanqui or Oscar Alemán.

I found an extract of a copyright register with a very detailed description of some of the earliest records in this series alongside with the number of copies printed and the historical price:

Interp.: Oscar Alemán y otros. Disco Odeón No LDS 109. 1.000 ejempl. $ 49,75; Bs. As., 2 de mayo do 1953. (Argentina).
Intérp.: Trío Sánches Monjes, Ayala y otros. Disco Odeón No LDS 110. 600 ejempl. $ 49.75. Bs. As., 2 de mayo de 1953. (Argentina)
Intérp.: Oscar Alemán. Disco Odeón No LDS 111. 1.000 ejempl. $ 49.75; Bs. As., 2 de mayo de 1953. (Argentina).
Interp.: Carlos Gardel con guitarras. Disco Odeón No LDS 112. 1.600 ejempl. $ 49,75; Bs. As., 2 de mayo do 1953. (Argentina).

Source: Boletin Oficial Republica Argentina 2da sección 1953-09-01 (Obras Depositadas Bs. As., enero a mayo de 1953)

Compared to 78-rpm records of the day these early vinyl circulations were very low. The same source shows that for instance D’Arienzo’s 78-rpm record “Don Juan, Sin Balurdo, RCA 68-0236″ from 1950 was republished at 20000 copies in 1953, that’s ~20 times more circulation (plus the first issue)!

7 DE JULIO DE 1953 [...] Faz "A~T Don Juan. Tango. Letra: 
E. Podestá. Música: SI. s Ponzlo. Faz "B": Sin Balurdo. Tango. 
Letra: -Carlos Bahr. Música: J- D'Arienzo y F. Salamanca. Intérp. 
f Juan D'Arienzo y su orq. típica, Disco Víctor NO 68-0236. 
Bs. Aa." 2312163. 20.000 ejempt.- $ 9,96.

I wonder if the declaration of the number of copies was a legal requirement. If that’s the case, it must be possible to get precise circulation figures for a lot of tango recordings.

LDS-182 is the oldest South-American tango 10″ LP vinyl record I have seen so far with a genuine content directly being produced and published on this medium. During the whole 1950s most of the Argentine records were still published on 78-rpm shellac records and sometimes, at a later moment, regrouping vinyl samplers were published. According to what I have been able to verify, the Odeón LDS series was in the beginning mainly meant for such republishing editions until this Mariano Mores creation.

It is said that during the first years his stage name had been Marianito Mores, like written on the present record. Later in 1955, when the Perón gouvernment was brought down by a military putsch, being a peronist, he felt changing his name would bring him a certain protection. He called himself ever after Mariano Mores.

The oldest genuine Argentine tango vinyl production is most probably the Music-Hall 7″ series of Carlos Di Sarli starting with the record number LP-1001 and published in February 1952. On some of these small vinyls, EPs, the production site is indicated with Peru. So most likely they were produced in a plant outside of Argentina. This is certainly something to investigate more in depth … Also the fact that the series shortly after was continued to be published on shellac (which is some kind of a regression).

The following video is taken from the 1953 movie “La voz de mi ciudad” and not directly related to the record. But it contains a nice jam session around the milonga “Taquito militar“.

Please find here the back cover and I invite you to read the interesting liner notes of Cátulo Castillo written on the 25.5.1954, in a few days precisely 62 years ago:

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Picture of a Típica

CAL-3080-FC CAL-3080-BCThe other day I had this mysterious Carlos Di Sarli RCA vinyl LP in my hands. Mysterious because of a picture on the back cover which doesn’t seem to be contemporary to the recordings contained on the album. The record’s title is “Lo mejor de Carlos Di Sarli”. On the front cover there is a charcoal drawing of Carlos Di Sarli and to the left side his name: “Carlos Di Sarli” written in yellow and red on a big off-white background, a relatively minimalist graphic front cover. The hand-drawn aspect of the typography reminds a bit the fileteado art of Buenos Aires. Checking the tracklist on the back cover there are some instrumentals and the rest are recordings with Roberto Rufino and Alberto Podestá from the 1940s. The picture on the back cover seems at first glance out of context and completely unrelated to the record because it’s showing the later Di Sarli outfit from around the mid-1950s! That’s really strange and it took me some time to get all the puzzle pieces together but then this picture gives a lot of information about the Di Sarli orchestra, also some unexpected information. Let’s investigate this …

From CD collections we know that most of the time the editorial effort is quite low (unless there is an interesting extra booklet or some liner notes), essentially we will find on the typical tango CD a list of around 20 tracks which follow a chronological order from the earliest recording to the latest. On the present LP album, it’s a little bit different. The record is called “The Best of Carlos Di Sarli” and indeed there has been a particular selection on the 2 times 7 tracks: There are exclusively recordings with the singers Roberto Rufino and Alberto Podestá, each represented with 5 recordings and there are 3 instrumentals on each side, 6 instrumentals altogether. I expect a lot of people would refute that selection and consider it a non-representative sample of what should be considered “The Best of Carlos Di Sarli”. A choice somehow exclusively limited to these two, indeed important singers, but not the only ones … Nevertheless, this is a strong statement, the editor who prepared the LP tells us: “The best of Di Sarli is Rufino, Podestá and some instrumentals and nothing else. Basta!”

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CAS-3080, the same record but in stereo

The record is a re-edition of inital shellac releases, it was issued in the series RCA Camden Coleccionista (CAL-3080) somewhere in 1967. It is therefore a posthumous edition as Di Sarli died on 12.1.1960. Tango vinyls are difficult to date because dates were rarely indicated on the records mostly to keep them as evergreens and especially this LP series was on for a long time. In this series the record numbers with the prefix CAL were for records in mono and the prefix CAS was used for stereophonic transfers (on the stereo CAS-3080, there is an alternative front cover, a collage of several portrait photographs of Carlos Di Sarli). “The label was named after Camden, New Jersey, original home to the Victor Talking Machine Company, later RCA Victor. It specialized in reissuing historic classical and popular recordings from the extensive RCA Victor catalog. The long play albums originally sold for $1.98 retail and consisted of [main]ly monoaural recordings, often drawn from 78-rpm masters.” [Wikipedia]

Looking closer at the back cover picture there is neither Rufino nor Podestá on it. They were long gone when that picture was taken. Curiously you will see two other singers: Rodolfo Galé and Argentino Ledesma who are not on any recording of the present record! Iconographically spoken, there is a contrariety: On the front cover you have Carlos Di Sarli in portrait and in a typogram, solo, and on the back cover Carlos Di Sarli in action together with his big mid-1950s orchestra. The album contains vocal recordings with Rufino and Podestá but there is no picture of them on the covers …

Capture du 2016-02-05 22-06-56

Blow-up of the back cover picture, showing Argentino Ledesma and Rodolfo Galé standing behind the orchestra. What are they doing on a record with Rufino and Podestá?

In contrast to the rather difficult dating of the record itself, the picture on its back cover can be precisely dated because of the random presence of the two other singers. Like bystanders, they just happen to feature on the picture: Argentino Ledesma (background left) and Rodolfo Galé (background right) standing in the last row behind the orchestra. These two singers were shortly recording with the Di Sarli orchestra in the year 1956 between 3.2.1956 and 7.3.1956, around one month only! With Argentino Ledesma, Di Sarli recorded three tangos and with Roberto Galé one tango and one vals. Both were a little later replaced by Roberto Florio and Jorgé Durán. Together with the single tango recording Carlos Di Sarli made with the singer Carlos Acuña on 2.8.1941 “Cuando el amor muere” and his last singer in 1958, Horacio Casares, they are among his shortest casts, both in time and number of recordings. So we now know that the picture has been taken in between February 1956 and beginning of March 1956. We can even further track down the precise day when this photograph has been taken because there is only one day when both, Galé and Ledesma were together in the studio! On the 3.2.1956 Carlos Di Sarli recorded a single 78-rpm record, RCA-Victor 1A-0752, with the tango “Fumando espero” sung by Ledesma on the A side and “Noche de locura” sung by Galé on the B side. Therefore, most likely, the picture was taken on the 3.2.1956.

But why using a picture from the 1950s to illustrate a record with singers from the 1940s? Listening to the record I found out that most of the instrumental tracks don’t sound like being from Rufino’s and Podestá’s time. And as the record doesn’t indicate any recording dates next to the titles I started my own analysis. The outcome is the following extended tracklist:

A1 Organito de la tarde – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 31.8.1954
A2 Griseta – Carlos Di Sarli : Roberto Rufino – Tango – 21.6.1941
A3 En un beso la vida – Carlos Di Sarli : Roberto Rufino – Tango – 23.9.1940 (C: Di Sarli)
A4 Milonguero viejo – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 4.7.1940 (C: Di Sarli)
A5 Zorzal – Carlos Di Sarli : Roberto Rufino – Milonga – 3.12.1941
A6 Al compás del corazón | Late un corazón – Carlos Di Sarli : Alberto Podestá – Tango – 9.4.1942
A7 El choclo – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 30.6.1954

B1 A la Gran Muñeca – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 30.6.1954
B2 Nido gaucho – Carlos Di Sarli : Alberto Podestá – Tango – 30.11.1942 (C: Di Sarli)
B3 Verdemar – Carlos Di Sarli : Roberto Rufino – Tango – 7.10.1943 (C: Di Sarli)
B4 La capilla blanca – Carlos Di Sarli : Alberto Podestá – Tango – 11.7.1944 (C: Di Sarli)
B5 El ingeniero – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 31.1.1955
B6 Tú, el cielo y tú – Carlos Di Sarli : Alberto Podestá – Tango – 8.11.1944
B7 Bahia Blanca – Carlos Di Sarli : Instrumental – Tango – 21.11.1957 (C: Di Sarli)

Surprisingly I found out that the instrumental titles on the record are mostly from his return to the RCA Victor label since the year 1954, like the first track A1 “Organito de la tarde”. Adding to the confusion, Tangotunes states that the track is the version from 1942 but according to me it doesn’t fit several markers and it has the clear 50’s sound. It cannot be the 1951 Music-Hall version as this is a RCA record. Track A4, “Milonguero viejo” is from the 1940s, like all vocal tracks A2, A3 and A5 with the voice of Rufino and A6 with Podestá. The last instrumental track on the A side is “El choclo”. It is most probably from 30.6.1954, as the 1951 version was recorded under Music-Hall a repertoire to which RCA had no access.

But check for yourself, I have provided here two of my own digital transfers from the A side of this LP, first “Organito de la tarde”, then “Milonguero viejo”:

Organito de la tarde (31.8.1954):

Milonguero viejo (4.7.1940):

 

On B1 “A la Gran Muñeca” is dated by Tangotunes to 29.8.1945. I would rather date it to 1954. The vocal tracks B2, B3, B4 and B6 are all from the 1940s. B5 “El Ingeniero”, triggers again a doubt because there are 3 recorded versions: 20.2.1945, the MH version from the beginning of the 1950s and the version from 31.1.1955. For me it’s missing the sweetness and tempo of the 1940s version therefore I think it’s the 1955 version. B7 “Bahia Blanca”, maybe the most difficult to distinguish as he recorded it twice in a very short period of time: 27.11.1957 and in 1958, on his last recordings with the label Philips, but as we deal here with a RCA record we can be confident that it’s most certainly the 27.11.1957 version. This is important to underline, the record companies never published the recordings of other record companies because they didn’t own the rights and also they didn’t have a master to make the copies.

I tested the recordings on several markers in comparison to other sources but there is something else which is quite evident when watching the VU meter: The line level of the 1950s tracks is stronger than that of the 1940s tracks! They are louder with a wider dynamic range and are therefore standing out, easy to identify. As a conclusion we can say that apart from “Milonguero viejo” all of the instrumental tracks on the present record are from the 1950s!

milonguero viejo spectrogram

Spectrogram of “Milonguero viejo”: the 1940s tracks have thinner regions above 10kHz and less detail in the bass

el choclo spectrogram

Spectrogram of “El choclo”: the 1950s tracks have full frequency range from deep bass up to 20Khz. Between the recording “Milonguero viejo” and “El choclo” there are 14 years in which the microphones have been immensely improved!

 

That extends the editorial statement and makes the relation to the back cover picture more meaningful: The editor now tells us the best of Carlos Di Sarli are also his 1950s instrumentals. And indeed, it’s the time when he found to his most typical sound: Marking the rhythm with the strings, banishing the bandoneóns into the background and developing a lot of energy with a relatively slow tempo! Whereas the 1940s were characterised by his most emblematic singers: Roberto Rufino with whom he started into the golden age at the beginning of the 1940s and the little later arriving Alberto Podestá. Even nowadays no milonga without at least one tanda Di Sarli/Rufino or Di Sarli/Podestá! And also, did you recognise? Around half of the recordings on the record are Carlos Di Sarli’s own compositions! Like Milonguero viejo which he composed in the late 1920s shortly after his participation in Osvaldo Fresedo’s orchestra.

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The full back cover picture of Carlos Di Sarli and his gran orquesta in the recording studio of RCA Victor probably taken on 3 February 1956

So let’s dive a little deeper into this picture of the Carlos Di Sarli orchestra. The picture is taken in a big RCA recording studio in Buenos Aires, maybe during a sound check or a pause and we can see all the microphones placed at their final recording position. There are also some podiums to higher the second row of instruments. That’s a trick which dates back to the time when recordings had been made acoustically during the Guardia vieja. And that was still an advantage in the current situation because the studio technique of RCA Victor in the mid-1950s consisted of organising the instruments into recording groups and not to pick them up individually like we would expect nowadays. To the right there is the string section and their group microphone is flying overhead. Next, in the middle, the bandoneón section has its dedicated microphone placed in front. Then to the left side, the grand piano and the double bass are sharing a microphone on a stand in a perfect triangulated position. There is another flying microphone, probably for the vocalist who had to stand just next to Carlos Di Sarli. This changes to the former 1-2 microphones technique which we know from the late 1920s until the 1940s. Like in the following picture of the Ricardo Tanturi Típica which might have been taken in the same location some 10-12 years earlier:

ricardo-tanturi-el-sueno-del-pibe-lp-argentino-976011-MLA20467852548_102015-FBy the way, notice that Ricardo Tanturi has the role of a conductor, there is someone else behind the piano. According to Gabriel Valiente’s Encyclopedia of Tango (Reprinted with corrections version of 2014), Ricardo Tanturi is reputated to have played the piano during his recording sessions with Alberto Castillo between 23.06.1937 and 07.05.1943. At least since the sessions with Enrique Campos he left that position, maybe to conduct the orchestra as we can see on the present picture. Some sources say that Ricardo Tanturi never was on the piano during any recording session because the playing style is too much tainted by that of Armando Posada, pianist of the orchestra on the left side of the photograph. The photograph must have been taken the earliest around August 1943, or later, as it is in August 1943 that Tanturi went first into the studio with Enrique Campos.

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RCA-77 type ribbon microphone

The microphone on the right side next to the singer Enrique Campos, is a RCA Type 77. Which was a very versatile microphone. It could be modified through a simple switch and therefore be used for different applications. For vocals it had a selectable cardioid pattern. Up to now, I was thinking the microphones used in that time would be completely obsolete nowadays. But apparently they are still in use and occasionally sold via eBay for very high prices. And I also learnt during my research, they still find their application in some modern recording studios! It is also important to note that these microphones were under constant development and for instance the RCA Type 77 went through several sub types, with the A model initially developed in the 1930s. Until the year 1945, there have been a B, C and then a D model. The D model reached in 1945 a frequency range from 50Hz-15kHz. It was definitely replaced in 1955 by the RCA Type 77-DX. These microphone improvements are something you can really hear when you compare recordings from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s (see also the spectrograms above for a 1940s to 1950s comparison).

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RCA-44A ribbon microphone

The orchestra microphone in the middle of the Tanturi picture is most likely a RCA-44A or one of its successors. It’s the orchestra microphone par excellence and was manufactured since 1932. It later evolved to an incredible frequency response of 30 to 16kHz which is pretty much the full audible spectrum! It’s the central orchestra microphone in the Tanturi picture and might be the same type on the Di Sarli picture. Most of the ribbon microphones were construction-related omni-directional and some were modified through obturation and electrical modifications to become directional or to have other pickup patterns. RCA Victor’s instructions manual shows how to use a 44A microphone in a single microphone setup and how to take advantage of its omni-directional sensitivity in the form of an 8:

RCA44A

RCA’s suggestion for setting up the RCA-44 microphone and taking advantage of the omni-directional 8 pattern to record a dance orchestra or use it as a movie microphone with some actors

 

Nowadays a grand pianogrand piano would be picked up with a complex microphone setup inside the body of the piano, maybe using Blümein arrays to get a perfect stereo image as shown in the diagram to the left. The disadvantage of a setup like this is that one needs to EQ and compress quite a lot the obtained signal to get it right. It needs a lot of post-processing which was largely unavailable in 1950s and earlier. Also, these complex setups are more suited for recording solo pianos and not so much orchestras where there is a piano in the context of other instruments.

There is a simpler technique with one microphone from the side which is more fitted for a piano in an orchestra context. It’s the same technique RCA Victor used in the 1950s with Carlos Di Sarli:

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Putting the string bass next to the piano is a suggestion which can also be found in the above mentioned RCA microphone manual. The setup in the Di Sarli situation is very much identical.

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RCA KU-2A ribbon microphone

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Frank Sinatra Album Cover with RCA KU-2A

As Di Sarli was conducting his orchestra from behind the piano, I can image that he would have liked to have the singer very close to be able to communicate and that’s what the second flying microphone on the left side was meant for. There are some other documents which show that it was used for vocalists, like on that Frank Sinatra photograph. It’s a RCA KU-2A, with an unusual uni-directional cardioid pickup pattern and a uniform response in its operating range making it ideal for voice recording (the majority of ribbon microphones are omni-directional “8” pattern microphones). Most studio vocal recordings are made using a cardioid or uni-directional microphone, as these pick up less sound from the sides and rear.

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RCA KU-3A ribbon microphone

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RCA 44-BX microphone seen on eBay

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KU-3A RCA microphone sold on eBay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we move to the right side of the picture, we see the other flying microphone above the violin section. A violin has a frequency range between approximately 196 hz to 10 khz which is the exact frequency range of the RCA KU-3A uni-directional cardioid pattern microphone (very simular to the KU-2A). To my surprise it’s again manufactured by the company AEA as the AEA KU4 Supercardioid Ribbon Microphone at a price of around 6000€!

If the bandoneón section is recorded with a RCA-44A which can be seen on the stand in front of this instrument group (maybe a RCA-44BX if they updated in 1955 when the improved model came out), then there is a slight difference of how the sound of the bandoneóns is recorded compared to the violins (the bandoneóns from the front and the violins from above). Remember that since at least the beginning of the 1950s the violins are centerstage and marking the rhythm in Di Sarli’s orchestra. This central role could have been further emphasized by the use of two different kind of microphones for these two instrument groups so that the treatment of the sound places them on different layers in the musical image.

Quickly checking the cast of Carlos Di Sarli’s orchestra on the picture, we can see that there are six violins, four bandoneóns, one double bass and a piano. In the historical accounts, like Gabriel Valiente’s Encyclopedia of Tango, Carlos Di Sarli is supposed to have only five violins in 1956: Szymsia Bajour, Elvino Vardaro, Elías Slón, Alfredo Rouco and Antonio Rossi. There is one more in the picture. Who is the sixth? The bandoneón section is pretty much the official cast: Upper right side José Libertella, upper left side Alfredo Marcucci; Julián Plaza and Domingo Sánchez in the front row; Carlos Di Sarli on the piano and Alfredo Sciarreta on the double bass. And last but not least the two singers on the substitutes’ bench 🙂

As we have recognised RCA Victor was using its own recording technology and gear. No other foreign brand or equipment to see here. There is still an unidentifiable object in the forefront of the picture with a maybe hexagonal shape. It looks like a talkback or intercom system, for the control room to communicate with the musicians, or maybe some sort of timer. A lot of the electronic equipment, like limiters and later even compressors, were self-made by the sound engineers, maybe it’s such a customised device. I couldn’t find anything about it, so it’s pure speculation. But my best guess is that it’s just an ashtray on a stand 🙂

Odeón, the other big record company in Buenos Aires was working mainly with German equipment as one can see on numerous photographs of artists and bands who were under contract with that label.

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Tipíca Ricardo Malerba with Odeón recording equipment

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Tipíca Roberto Firpo with Odeón recording equipment

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“Osmar Maderna (piano) y su orquesta. De derecha a izquierda, adelante, el segundo es Leopoldo Federico. Estudio del sello SONDOR. Año 1946.”

Generally, one should pay attention as on some photographs you might see RCA Victor equipment with these artists too. Mainly, these were taken in radio studios most of which were equipped with RCA Victor gear. RCA did not only produce records but also sound equipment for the cinema, radio and later for television studios. Therefore you might find their microphones on pictures with Odeón artists performing at Radio Splendid or Radio LR1 El Mundo. Odeón’s German equipment seems to be coming from Telefunken (probably produced at the Neumann factory in Berlin) like the Ela M-14 bottle style microphone and alike, which were, compared to the RCA Victor microphones, condenser microphones. Pretty much as the ones we commonly use today. That could explain why RCA Victor and Odeón recordings do have another sound. Do you remember that Aníbal Troilo recorded his first record with Odeón in 1938? It sounds very different to the records he did when he signed with RCA Victor in 1941. His Odeón titles “Tinta verde” and “Comme il faut” are therefore difficult to put into a tanda with later instrumentals and one is tented to apply some equalization to pretend they would have the same sound. They actually don’t! Odéon was using condensor microphones whereas RCA Victor used ribbon microphones!

In 1944, on the other side of the Rio de la Plata, in Montevideo, the newly established Uruguayan record label Sondor seemed to be equipped as well with RCA Victor recording material. As you can see on the photograph to the left showing Osmar Maderna’s orchestra in the new Sondor studios. They were very much grouping by instrument groups and using several microphones already in the late 1940s! Maybe they had a very modern mixer because they used three microphones. There is only a maximum of three years difference to the Ricardo Tanturi photo above.

The technology used in the control rooms is of pure speculation, we know for certain that since the first multi microphone recordings there needed to be some sort of mixer in front of the sound engineer. In the beginning when there was a single microphone in the studio a single channel and a rotary knob to determine the gain would have been sufficient, later one needed a channel per microphone. That wouldn’t mean necessarily multi-track as these channels were always down-mixed into a single mono channel. Multi-track recording started to develop since the end of the 1950s with the first stereo equipment (2 channels) and multi-track reel-to-reel tape machines with several channels. That opened the field to post production steps and slowly ended the pure direct-to-disc recording technique. At least in theory.

To make a direct-to-disc recording, musicians would typically play one 3-minute “live” set in a recording studio. The recording was made without multi-track recording and without overdubs. The performance was carefully engineered and mixed live in monophonic sound. During the performance, the analog disc cutting head engaged the master lacquer used for pressing records and is not stopped until the entire side is complete.

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The monophonic RCA mixer BC-2B came out in 1952. It permitted to connect several microphones

I can image that during the 1950s RCA sessions, they still produced under direct-to-disc conditions, having one output master channel going directly to a lathe cutting a 78-rpm wax and maybe optionally a second output master to tape. Direct metal masters were ideal and fast for the production of shellacs records whereas for vinyl a tape master was more suited and direct to the goal. Therefore for an intermediate period, in between the end of the shellac era and the not yet fully started vinyl times, this would have made sense and the mixers had this capacity of double output. In the radio studios, it was used to direct one audio feed to the broadcast antenna and the other to a transcript acetate disc cutter to record the radio feature for later broadcast or archival. Even later, during the vinyl age, there still have been experiences with direct-to-disc recordings because this process has a very authentic aspect.

“Direct-to-disc recording meant that there was no way to cheat or to alter the result and there had been very few takes because of the high price and intensive preparation work of the recording support. Most of the time these sessions were done in one flush at first take. Unimaginable today. Though, this direct-to-disc process had been around until the end of the LP era as you can read in the aforementioned Wikipedia article! And it’s coming back, look for instance at the new label Berliner Meister Schallplatten, they are reintroducing the direct-to-disk process with vinyls and taking it to a new climax, they even invite the public into the studio during a recording session. The direct-to-disk process makes me think about Roland Barthes who wrote about silver photography in his essay ‘La Chambre claire’, long before the advent of Photoshop, that the noema of photography is the shocklike ça a été (that has been), as with these direct-to-disk recordings which are an immediate conserved state of sound without any cosmetics! A shocking document of what has been … A great deal of the emotions we live while listening or dancing to these recordings certainly result from this circumstance!” [Quoting myself: http://jens-ingo.all2all.org/archives/1794]

The first microsurgo (microgroove) records, in short LP (33 13 rpm), were issued in the first half of the 1950s and were mostly reissues or grouping albums of preceding shellac pressings, either in extended-play format on 7″ records (EP) or as long-play records (LP) (first as 10″ with 2×4 tracks, then towards the end of the 1950s as the full size 12″ LPs like we know them today with 2×6 or 2×7 tracks). Starting at around 1953, Odeón is among the earliest labels to issue vinyls as 10″ records in their LDS series and as 7″ in their DSOA series with artists like Osvaldo Pugliese, Mariano Mores, Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Oscar Alemán, Roberto Firpo and others.

In general no genuine new stuff. Some exceptions confirm the rule: Mariano Mores’ first LP “Un argentino in París” from 1954 is maybe one of the first genuine vinyl productions in Argentina. The recordings of the day were still first issued on the older shellac 78-rpm support. For the record companies the conversion to the new technology represented certainly a big investment but also the households had to buy new record players to be able to playback the newer vinyls. Bringing the older music as vinyl samplers on the market enabled the record labels to test vinyls sales without taking too much risk. It also transferred the older music to the new format and made it available. Even the last Carlos Di Sarli recordings were issued first on shellac and later on a grouping LP and, to be precise, it was in the beginning of 1952 that Carlos Di Sarli became the first tango artist to be published directly on vinyl at Music-Hall on 7″ records starting with the record number LP-1001 in February 1952. Music-Hall later reduced the number of issued vinyl copies and then completely moved the series back onto shallac 78-rpm as the consumers weren’t ready for the new medium. This slow shellac-vinyl conversion, taking nearly ten years, could also be in relation with the economical lag during the first Peron era where a quite protectionist economy was advocated. “In the 1950s and part of the 1960s, the country had a slow rate of growth in line with most Latin American countries, while most of the rest of the world enjoyed a golden era. Stagnation prevailed during this period, and the economy often found itself contracting, mostly the result of union strife. Increasing economic wariness as the 1950s progressed became one of the leading causes for Perón’s downfall in the Revolución Libertadora of 1955.” [Wikipedia] At least for the tango history we know that 1955 is the outer limit of the golden age.

The first multi-track tape recorders were in development since the mid-1950 like the Ampex 8-track recorder. But as we have seen these technologies might not have spread as fast as expected: “The original multi-channel recorders could only record all tracks at once. The earliest multi-track recorders were analog magnetic tape machines with two or three tracks. Elvis Presley was first recorded on multi-track during 1957, as RCA‘s engineers were testing their new machines. Buddy Holly‘s last studio session in 1958 employed three-track, resulting in his only stereo releases not to include overdubs. The new three-track system allowed the lead vocal to be recorded on a dedicated track, while the remaining two tracks could be used to record the backing tracks in full stereo.” [Wikipedia]

The arrival of the first stereo equipment at the end of the 1950s must have naturally introduced at least a simultaneous 2-track recording ability. And indeed, by the end of the 1950s, there is sometimes evidence that the orchestra and the singer were separately recorded in Tango. Around 1961 the Philips label asked the singer Edmundo Rivero to re-record the voice part of some titles they previously recorded with Di Sarli and the singer Jorge Duran. The result are 4 recorded titles “Nubes de humo”, “Si nos queremos todavía”, “Por quererla así” and “Dónde estás”. A pure studio trick were Jorge Duran’s voice had been replaced by Edmundo Rivero’s. Rivero was never a member of Carlos Di Sarli’s orchestra and is therefore in no discography of the maestro. It shows that on Di Sarli’s last recordings at least the orchestral part must have been separately recorded permitting later, sometime after Di Sarli’s death, to overdub the pieces with another voice.

 

“Lo Mejor de Carlos Di Sarli” is all in all a very information rich LP album. It connects to the tradition of anthology vinyl albums reproducing older initial shellac releases. It invites to rediscover Di Sarli’s 1950s instrumental tangos considered back then in 1967 as being integral part of his best recordings. I’m also happy with the recordings on the record and their sound quality, these transfers are far less manipulated than on vinyls from the early 1980s where the tracks were altered with excessive reverberation. The pitch on the 1940s tracks is not always perfect though. The picture on the back cover gives an unexpected insight into the 1950s studio technique. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!