Mittwoch, 21. April 2021

Fresedo in Paris in 1928-1929

by José Manuel Araque

Argentine Tango was introduced to France early in the 1900s as Alfredo and Flora Gobbi, Ángel Villoldo and Enrique Saborido travelled to Paris, where it became a sensation. In 1913 Vicente Loduca and others travelled to France and recorded some tangos. After World War I broke, Loduca went to Buenos Aires and hired Osvaldo Fresedo in 1917 to play in his recordings. Some of Loduca’s old friends went to New York City, and Fresedo must have heard all their stories, and their recordings for Victor too.

Several musicians then travelled from Buenos Aires to Paris, notably Manuel Pizarro and his brother Salvador, who became fixtures at the Cabaret El Garrón, on 10 Rue Fontaine in Montmartre; “Tano” Genaro Esposito, and violinist Eduardo Bianco; and bandoneonist Juan Bautista d’Ambroggio, aka Bachicha.

Also Eduardo Arolas went to Paris and died there in 1924.

By 1920 Tango dancing was so popular in France that the Archbishop of Paris had to make a pronouncement on what could be considered “decent” on the dancing floor.

In 1923 Carlos Gardel travelled to Spain and was a huge success. 

In 1925 Francisco Canaro travelled to Paris with a troupe that included his brothers Juan and Rafael. Canaro himself returned to Buenos Aires in 1927, but his brothers and some musicians stayed behind as Les Canaros, and for a few years played in France, with shows in Paris, Deauville and Biarritz. It should be noted that Argentinian musicians donned gaucho garb when performing in France, somewhat creating the illusion that Tango was music from the Pampas.

As Fresedo himself tells the story to Oscar Zucchi, in 1928 his friend Martín de Álzaga Unzué, a famous racing driver nicknamed “Macoco”, helped secure a contract of 35 thousand francs for his shows at El Garrón in mid 1928. Ely Volterra, would be the promotor of the event.

On September 30, 1928 Gardel returned to Europe, and this time he stayed in or around Paris for at least 6 months

Fresedo and Gardel had known each other for years and recorded together in 1925. Word of the new success of his friend reached Fresedo as he prepared for what would be his final recordings for Nacional Odeon with Ernesto Famá on October 9th, “Piedad” and “Alma en pena”. Buenos Aires was jubilant at the time, Hipólito Irigoyen had been overwhelmingly elected President, and was inaugurated that same week.

On October 16 Fresedo left for Europe on the steamer “Florida”, a two week crossing.

His troupe consisted of:

Bandoneon: Osvaldo Fresedo - Alberto Rodriguez - Luis Minervini 
Violin: Adolfo Muzzi - Jean Koller 
Double Bass: Humberto Costanzo 
Piano: José María Rizzuti 
Singer: Ernesto Famá

On Thursday November 15th, 1928 Osvaldo Fresedo and his orchestra debuted at El Garrón, though a preview show had been done the night before (vernissage). Here they played regularly for the next 5 months.

For his opening night Fresedo shared the spotlight with Don Parker, an American sax player known as a member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans troupe that started the Jazz craze of the 1920s.

On November 28, Fresedo played at a private reception hosted by M. Carlos de Olazabal, in honor of the Fragata Escuela Presidente Sarmiento visiting in France since November 15th. The wife of the Argentinian Ambassador in Paris (Federico Álvarez de Toledo), and other society notables were in attendance. M. de Olazabal was the Editor of the column “L’Amérique Latine” for the newspaper Le Galois.

Tango was very popular with Parisian society, but Jazz and Josephine Baker were causing furor since 1927 at least.

The last we hear from Fresedo/Parker at the "Nouvel El Garron" (the re-opening program) is on December 31, 1928, concurrent with the announcement of the change of program at the same venue

Since December 13, 1928, Fresedo and Parker had moved to the Lido where they played on and off until January 11

On February 5, 1929, Fresedo and Gardel appeared together at the Bal de Petits Lits Blancs, a huge gala at the Ópera Garnier with dozens of other acts, a very prestigious engagement with the President of France, Gaston Doumerguein attendance. 

Fresedo played again at El Garron in the week after the Bal and until February 15, while at the same time Gardel sang in the Florida

This is where the story gets somewhat murky. With no solid contract in sight Famá, Rizzuti, Rodríguez and Muzzi decided to return to Buenos Aires, effectively deserting Fresedo. In his well known interview with Oscar Zucchi Fresedo spoke about the incident: on April 20 he sent a telegram to his brother Emilio in Buenos Aires requesting that members of his Casino Pigal orchestra in Buenos Aires come to join him in Paris

The pianist Nicolás Vaccaro, the violinist José Lorito, and bandoneonist Juan Salvatore then travelled to Paris and joined the troupe. In addition, Carlos Esposito, bandoneonist too, the brother of “Tano” Genaro Esposito, joined.

On April 22, Fresedo appeared at the Paramount Theater at a showing of Ivan Petrovich’s film Le Tsarevitch.

This German film, based on the Franz Lehar operetta of the same name, was silent, and Fresedo provided the orchestral accompaniment. We do not know who Fresedo played with at the Paramount.

On May 23, 1929, Fresedo joined a large cast of musicians at the reopening of Les Ambassadeurs, a very popular Cabaret on Champs-Élysées. Edmund Sayag, the owner of Les Ambassadeurs, wanted “a very American night” for his Jazz Club. The performers included George Dewey Washington, Bobbe Arnst and Lester Allen, all famous vaudeville acts from the USA; the great Mexican actress and dancer Celia Montalván, and her sister Issa Marcué, also a dancer;

and the Ambassadeur Orchestra directed by Noble Sissle, a well known American Jazz musician.

Fresedo's troupe for the show consisted of

Bandoneon: Osvaldo Fresedo - Juan Salvatore - Carlos Esposito - Luis Minervini 
Violin: José Lorito - Jean Koller
Double Bass: Humberto Costanzo? 

Piano: Nicolás Vaccaro?

Also amongst the performers were Roberto Medrano and Donna Landwehr, better known as the dance couple “Medrano and Donna”. Fresedo knew Medrano since his first trip to New York in 1920.


In June Fresedo met Ramón and Rosita, another famous American dancing couple that invited him to join their show in New York in October. In July Ramón and Rosita went to London, and then in August they were in Biarritz but we have no evidence that Fresedo was with them.

It’s hard to gauge the final impact of Fresedo in Paris in 1929. For one thing his records were not nearly as popular as Canaro’s or Gardel’s before or immediately after he visited. It would seem like there were enough reasons to move on to New York that Summer, and being surrounded by American Jazz musicians at Les Ambassadeurs surely was a catalyzer. Besides, the trip to New York took half as long as the trip to Buenos Aires.

Fresedo's exact whereabouts in the Summer of 1929 are still somewhat of a mystery. Minervini got married and stayed behind in Europe. On September 18 Fresedo left Paris for New York on the liner Île de France with Ramón and Rosita, and Juan Salvatore and José Lorito


In the interview with Oscar Zucchi Fresedo complained about being asked by a certain “Baron [Edouard?] de Rotschild" to play in a private reception behind the curtains, something that outraged Fresedo who demanded visibility. We can’t find references about this event on French newspapers of the time.

In general, the names of the musicians traveling with Fresedo are educated guesses, as there is no hard evidence of who was where and when, with the exception of the trip from Paris to New York. We presume Fresedo travelled with the people he had been recording with all year long in 1928. But specially after the desertion incident, the loose ends are evident. For example, Vaccaro travelled to Paris in April, but in September Fresedo was in New York with a different pianist (we confirmed that Rizzutti and Muzzi returned in May on the Alsina). As a matter of fact, a change or two were still in store before the troupe arrived in New York in late September.

Finally, the writer Henry Bernstein was reportedly a huge fan of Tango, always in the front row of the milongas and shows in Paris at the time. Sadly, we can’t find any of his writings about this: it would have been nice, Henry!


I'd like to add a personal thanks to Pablo Darío Taboada for contributing the picture of the telegram to help clarify the timeline somewhat. Pablo is the main force behind Investigación Tango.


1. Anita Turón has an excellent blog that tells in great detail what the nights of Gardel in Paris were like

2. Jazz Age Club is an excellent source on material about the famous Jazz Clubs of the roaring 20s

3. A wonderful semblance of Noble Sissle, of the Ambassadeurs Orchestra