Tango Argentino > Living Tango Musicians

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by oldtangoguy, Dec 13, 2015.

  1. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    When I DJ, I seldom play Golden Age music. Rather, I prefer OT Fervor de Buenos Aires, Misterioso, San Souci, Gente de Tango, Solo Tango, Hyperion, La Juan D'Arienzo, La Furca, etc....

    I know it's heresy, but I really prefer to support living musicians who are trying to create dance music. Although some are truly excellent, without people buying their CDs, or inviting them to play at festivals, how can they afford to improve their musicianship and keep Tango a living dance?

    Or do people want a living dance?

    What do you think.
  2. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    When DJing, I mostly play golden age music, because I really like it, and it's what people expect to hear. Later in the evening, I typically will play one tanda from a modern orchestra, as well as a neotango tanda.

    One thing I really do not like much (from some of the modern orchestras), is when they fuse jazz elements into their arrangements.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I'm going to just sort of ramble here, so be prepared!

    I really prefer to support living musicians who are trying to create dance music.

    Alex Krebs has done several albums, and his sextet is on for Valentango this year. He talks about who he is collaborating with in this video.

    I looked at the schedule for his TangoBerretin here in Portland, and it's obvious that this is not a full time gig. He has lots of players who are professionals, and for them AT is "another gig."

    What would it take for you to get either group to your locale? It's probably not feasible. And that's probably true for most groups that play AT.

    Here's another local group https://www.facebook.com/sombratango/

    Meanwhile, there are two groups who play Western Swing monthly here. (They may play elsewhere, too. haven't checked.) Western Swing? What the Heck!
    Then there are the hundreds of people who show up on a Saturday to dance country at the several places open nearly every night.

    The point is that there has to be enough interest in a particular music/dance form to justify getting people together on a routine basis to play live. And you have to collect enough currency to pay the musicians as well the expense of the studio or hall. And it looks like there is more opportunity for the fairly obscure Western Swing than AT here in Portland.

    Nevertheless, there they are; the musicians who like/love the music enough to put that much time and effort into it. I guess they are like many of us who seek out opportunities to do what we love, whether it's dancing, trekking over mountain passes, or... watching sports?

    Living dance?
    Do you mean changing all the time partly because the music is changing?
  4. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    And I'm going to do a bit of a rant, so be prepared!

    [RANT] In various past lives, I danced CW (even got good at some of the line dances), ECS, WCS, Lindy, Balboa (placing third at National Jitterbug Championships one year), and have seen the various appetites for live music. The CW, ECS and WCS dancers often dance to live music - any CW band, any rockabilly or early rock cover band, and essentially any blues or pop group respectively. The Lindy/Bal crowd can be a bit pickier, preferring Fletcher Henderson, Goodman, etc, and accepting of Dean Mora, Hal Smith etc., but they are still somewhat flexible, willing to dance to most music that has a swing rhythm unless it has beboppish sensibilities.

    But tango dancers (other than the electro-tango music crowd) can be the worst. If it ain't D'Arienzo, DiSarli, yada yada, it ain't nobody. The result is that your local tango orquesta (TangoBerretin, QTango, etc) is judged by the standards of the Golden Age Orquestas, and they generally pale in comparison. Personally, I prefer live music to recorded under nearly all circumstances, going so far as to dance tango (mixed with balboa as tempos dictate) to nearly any live band where there is a dance floor. I know! So wrong!!

    My concession to the "you are not dancing tango unless you are dancing to Golden Age tango music, preferably played by one of a handful of dead Argentine Orquestas" crowd is to DJ with totally excellent dance music by living musicians, and to try to encourage dancers to be more flexible as to what they are accepting of. Sans Souci, Misterioso, Solo Tango, Gente de Tango etc fall into this category of excellence, but I find that they still turn off a lot of dancers (many seem to lump the modern orquestas in with electronica and alt tango).

    Alex Krebs, Korey Ireland, Erskine Maytorena, Homer, Nick Jones et al deserve a LOT more respect!


    [RANT] No, I mean that many of the dancers idolize the "milonguero" style, and act as though that is the only way tango was ever danced, whether in the heart of BA or in the neighborhoods or out in the sticks (Uruguay comes to mind) and how dare Gustavo Naviera and all those new comers, like Fabian and Chicho, screw with their dance. It is most interesting to look at early videos. When they had the opportunity, the milongueros of old would open up their dance. Gustavo says that, when he and Fabian started their practicas and began to deconstruct the dance, their real goal was to try to preserve what was being lost. I think that it was in 1994, at Todaro's funeral, that they realized that the real masters of old were dying off, with Todaro perhaps being among the last.

    As to being a living dance, the question is - "When is it tango?" I've had the opportunity to talk to Gustavo and Fabian specifically about this, and their answer is a LOT broader than the disciples of Susanna Miller and her ilk might accept (BTW - do you know from whom she took lessons in the mid 90's? A hint. His initials are GN.)

    So, for me, tango is living and breathing. The music, the dance, the whole ball of wax. I could go on and on, with comparisons to the Frankie Manning, Dean Collins worship in the early days of Lindy Hop revival (I participated), and the Maxie Dorf, Hal Takier, Willie Desatoff etc worship in the early days of Balboa revival (I participated), but I won't. There is no point. I dance my tango, and you (the generic you) dance yours. Oh well. [/RANT]
  5. brunoalfirevic

    brunoalfirevic New Member

    The thing is that most of the music by living musicians is not as good for dancing as that by the golden age orchestras. At least by my and apparently many other dancers' taste, since those kinds of things are entirely subjective.

    Therefore, music by golden age orchestras is what mostly gets played. But I understand that you and dancers in your community might enjoy something different, it all boils down to taste in the end.

    That is a false dichotomy. It will be a living dance even if nothing but golden age music is ever played.
    UKDancer and Mladenac like this.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I'll add one thing, (that sort of stacks the deck against the modern orchestras). As DJs we generally play only the best of what exists from the golden age. IMO, basically there's a lot more bad music from the golden era than good (i.e. most tracks I have, I'd never play at a milonga).

    A modern orchestra needs to be good most of the time, or they won't get much work.
  7. brunoalfirevic

    brunoalfirevic New Member

    Very true! That phenomenon even has a fancy name: Survivorship bias ( https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki /Survivorship_bias )
  8. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Great interview:

    It seems that by Felix the golden age orchestra put pretty high standard of danceability that nowadays cannot be reached.

    IMHO Golden age orchestras played music much more, so they could know what's most danceable when they recorded the songs.
  9. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Something with which I do agree. But some, generally those I listed, can very good for dancing.

    You are absolutely correct. I was just in a grumpy mood when I wrote that. In fact, now that I look back, both of my rants were rather grumpy. Time for some coffee and a donut.
    brunoalfirevic likes this.
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I will say that I like dancing to Solo Tango (when playing live), a lot more than I like the stuff from them I've heard that is recorded.

    I'm not seeing the problem.

    (grumpy is my natural state)

  11. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    It's a fair comparison: and, by and large, they don't come even close to the standard of the best of the Golden Age. I do enjoy dancing to live music, occasionally, but I'm under no illusion that it's very unlikely that we'll ever again hear music-making of the calibre of the best of the Golden Age. If it wasn't the best possible music for dancing tango, despite the limitations of the recorded sound, we would have stopped playing it many decades ago.
  12. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I have no problem dancing to modern orchestras, especially live. I think it's really fun.

    However, there's no way for a skill gap not to exist (although smaller than many think). Golden age orchestras were playing for thousands of dollars a night (in modern money), every night, for decades, solely for dancers, as their primary source of income, immersed in the culture of the time.

    Modern orchestras often have to have another source of income, and need to sell their music to listeners and dancers alike to make ends meet. You just can't devote as much time to increasing skill in dancing music when you have to do other stuff to live. They have two advantages though: recordings can't match the experience of live music (all things being equal), and modern technology and access to information makes making music a lot easier. That's why I say the gap isn't as big as it initially seems.

    Almost all great dancing with modern orchestras is when they're playing covers of golden age hits. I think tango needs to get bigger and more lucrative for modern orchestras to really get to where they want to be. I can't wait until they start developing really good, original music solely for dancing.

    Caveat: I fully acknowledge there is modern tango music out there I haven't been exposed to. I'd loved to be proven wrong on any of my points if it means there's awesome music I can discover that approaches golden age sophistication.
  13. tangobro

    tangobro Active Member

    I try to support living musicians by attending the milongas where live tango music is played. Here in the New York City area there are a few groups, and one orchestra made their debut here in November 2013

    Astoria Tango Orchestra

    I enjoy occasionally dancing to live music, but I prefer the tanda/cortina format & predictable tango-tango-vals, tango-tango-milonga structure with golden age orchestras that most traditional DJs provide.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Those of us who choose to dance to mostly (or exclusively) traditional music as it had started to be arranged by the end of the Golden Age, when dancing to recordings become normative, have become very conditioned to the format. Essentially, we like to know what is coming next. We probably have our own list of preferred orchestras, and a pretty clear idea of how our 'ideal' DJ will rotate styles/periods and mix instrumentals with vocals. Many of this group have very little interest in music before 1935 or after 1945, with a huge peak around 1941-43. We make 'exceptions' for Donato/Lomuto and early D'Arienzo, and also for late Di Sarli & Pugliese. We dance in our own bubble or comfort zone, and I know many dancers who will sit out, rather than get up, for a song they are not familiar with.

    How different it must have been to dance during the late 30s early 40s. Quite apart from the fact that even the biggest billing orchestras were sharing the platform equally with a jazz band, and therefore only 50% of the programme would be tango music, we would have bands playing their current repertoire, trying out new arrangements, and dancing to a whole range of orchestras that may have been quite well known from live performance or radio broadcasting, but who never obtained recording contracts. Their contribution has been lost for ever.

    Improvisation must have meant something very different, then, when dancers never knew what was coming next. They were more adaptable dancers, too: I very much doubt they sat out when the alternative band played its set. I wonder what the dancing was like - it's an aspect of the BsAs scene about which you hear almost nothing.

    Tango music developed in its forms and style progressively throughout the twentieth century, became (very briefly) a dance craze taken up by huge numbers, and then sank into almost total obscurity, before being revived. About 80% of most DJ playlists is drawn from material recorded by a small group of orchestras in just a few short years centered around 1941, and 'traditionalists' harangue us regularly with the accusation that our tango is, somehow, inauthentic, unless it conforms to what are really very, very restrictive norms. I rather doubt that there ever was a time (and if I'm wrong, when was it) or place (and if I'm wrong, where was it) when a significant proportion of the Golden Age dance population would even recognise a 'modern' traditional milonga. The tradition never existed: we have invented it.

    That said, I prefer it too, and the live music is going to have to be unusually good, before I'll give up my grabaciones.
    oldtangoguy likes this.
  15. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    To quote TodoTango:
    "Criticized by innovators and praised by the dancers, his (Enrique Rodriguez) orchestra enjoyed a great popularity in the forties and fifties, either in Argentina or in the rest of Latin America"

    Rodriguez's entire recorded output was 349 pieces. Of these, 17 were milongas, 44 were valses, 134 were tangos, and 154 were none of the above, mostly foxtrot and pasodobles, but also ranchero, polka and others. If this is at all representative of what he played live, I do have to say that a lot of the dancers of old were more flexible than we. I don't have the numbers in hand, but feel certain that the the output of none of the major orquestas consisted of 15% Milongas, 15% Valses and 70% Tangos, which is roughly the ratios we demand in the standard TTMTTV format.

    Face it. We are not dancing like they did back in the day. UKDancer is right on.
  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I think it depends more on whether this was representative of what most orchestras played back then.
  17. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Rodriguez was unusual in recording so high a proportion of non-tango, although most recorded at least a few (particularly Canaro). But throughout the peak years of the Golden Age, half the bands that played live music played no tango at all - and they usually received equal billing with a tango orquesta, playing alternate sets (not tandas).

    One notable musician, often overlooked, in terms of 'other rhythms' was Carabelli (who recorded in his own name, and also with Orquesta Tipica Victor). Both ensembles were made up from more-or-less the same group of musicians (early session players), but he was a jazz musician, principally.

  18. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've heard that the reason Rodriguez' orchestra did such a high number of non tango songs, was because they would play a tango set, and then come back out in different outfits to do the non tango set, (and repeat), instead of having two bands that night.

    I wasn't there, so I don't know if it's true, but that's what I've been told.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I saw one band morph from one style of music to another (swing to top 40?) as the musicians left the stage one or two at a time and came back in different clothes.

    Does anyone have the time and/or interest to post contrasting Golden Age vs current group of same size versions of a song or two so we can hear the difference?

Share This Page