Sonntag, 4. Juli 2021

Tango in New York 1923-1933

by José Manuel Araque 

There where was already a Tango scene in place in New York when Juan Carlos Cobian arrived in 1923, and it was still there in 1930 when Osvaldo Fresedo returned to Buenos Aires, and on December 28, 1933, when Carlos Gardel arrived in Town. Other Tango orchestras and shows played in the Northeast in those years, and they fell into two categories: the itinerants that occasionally travelled from other countries to the US, and the local acts. This cast of characters met in New York at a time when the World was experiencing the greatest boom in Media history. In the 1920s Humanity went from Music and Dance as live entertainment, to the instantaneous transmission of images and sounds to screens across the Globe. As the Era of Vaudeville gave way to Radio and the Talkies, these Tango stars came to New York in the Roarin’ 20s and vied for transcendence in the new medium.


1. The local acts


1.1 Louis Katzman and his muchachos


Amongst the artists singing Tango in the 1920s while living in New York City, three names stand out: José Moriche, Pilar Arcos and Juan Pulido.


Pilar Arcos was born in 1893 in Havana, Cuba; José Moriche, a tenor, was born in 1890 in Badajoz, Spain; and Juan Pulido, a baritone, was born in 1891 in Canary Islands. By 1923 all three were recording for Columbia Records in New York. In the years that followed they were featured together in many live and Radio shows. Between 1923 and 1933 Pilar Arcos recorded at least 281 tracks, Juan Pulido 388 tracks, and José Moriche 501 tracks for several labels competing for the incipient market for records for the Spanish-speaking population in the United States.



Many of the recordings Arcos, Moriche and Pulido made for Columbia and OKeh do not credit the accompanying orchestras or their directors by name. It's presumed that José María Lacalle (Joseph) directed some of those ensembles for the label. The exact recording date for the Columbia issues is almost never known either. Moriche and Pulido also recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company with Nathaniel Shilkret and Eduardo Vigil y Robles as conductors. 


In general the repertoire of these artists was eclectic, and included everything from Spanish couplets, to the first songs composed by Ernesto Lecuona. Their accompaniments lacked bandoneons, but many Argentine Tangos were first heard in the US as sung by these artists.


In 1924 Moriche and Pulido started singing for Victor and OKeh and Vocalion, but somehow they stayed with Columbia too. Maybe the market segment was too narrow, but these artists had the leverage to work in parallel for multiple labels.

Columbia acquired OKeh in late 1926 and Brunswick Records acquired Vocalion in late 1924. And with Vocalion, Brunswick, one of the great pioneering labels of the Jazz era, got Louis Katzman.

 

 

For most of the 1920s Louis Katzman was an alchemist of sorts at the recording studios. He was born in 1890 in Moldova (Russia) and came to New York in 1907. By 1920 he was a recording specialist and wrote orchestrations for the Edison Recording Company, and also recorded some tracks himself playing the cornet. By 1924 he had his name on dozens of arrangements from Fox Trot to Yiddish songs; he had his Meanest kind of blues recorded by Fletcher Henderson; and he had trademarked his Symphono-Jazz arrangements for M. Witmark & Sons music publishers, “white jazz for white people” [M. Katzman, 2013]. Katzman even wrote arrangements for the "King of Jazz" Paul Whiteman. Since 1924 he was directing many studio orchestras for Vocalion and Brunswick, including the Anglo-Persians and the Ambassadors. He started the Castilians while he was at Vocalion, a band that played mostly his arrangements of Spanish music. He also started The Floridians, in fact it is believed his bands used as many as 60 different names. These ensembles mostly shared the same musicians, and rarely played outside the Radio or recording studios.


As Brunswick gradually absorbed Vocalion, Katzman was prolific at their new recording studios on 799 7th Avenue at 52nd Street (the New Hotel Victoria opened next door in July 1928). The studios were built on the top floor for ventilation of the equipment, there was no air-conditioning at the time.


The neighborhood was rapidly changing since 1926 when new zoning regulations led to the opening of speakeasies on 52nd street. The famous restaurant Dave's Blue Room was downstairs from the Brunswick studios.

Katzman recorded Jazz and American folk music, but he also had a marked interest in Latin music and started recording with José Moriche in 1925, and with Juan Pulido and Pilar Arcos in 1926 while directing The Castilians. Together they registered more than 200 tracks before 1930, including quite a few Tangos specially by Pilar Arcos.



By 1925 the Spanish-speaking population in New York was somewhere near 80 thousand souls. There were theaters and ballrooms off Broadway that were very popular with these folks, like the Park Palace on 5 W 110th, the Rockland Palace on 155th Street (at Frederick Douglass Av.), the Apolo on 125th street, and the Teatro Campoamor on 116th. Spanish immigrants established Social Clubs that held functions for the communities, like the Centro Andaluz on Henry Street in Brooklyn, and the Centro Asturiano and La Nacional in Manhattan. In many of these social events they had Tango dancing contests, and sometimes performers would sing or dance. Pilar Arcos and the Spanish baritone Fortunio Bonanova were very active around Town singing Zarzuelas after 1928. Incidentally, Bonanova also recorded a few Tangos for Brunswick and Columbia. 


Since July 1928, Hugo Mariani was on Tango Romántico on WJZ Radio (NBC), a very popular weekly program that ran until October 1930 and then moved to WEAF, and ended sometime in 1933. Pilar Arcos and Juan Pulido sang there many times.


There was plenty of cross-promotion while the market was still on the rise. When Juan Pulido appeared at the Gallo Theater (Studio 54) on November 18, 1928, the newspaper La Prensa had ads for as many as 8 stores in the City carrying Pulido’s records.


The movie The Jazz Singer premiered on October 6, 1927, and the Era of the Talkies was now begun, the Era of Vaudeville was gradually coming to an end, it was a revolution. The movie was produced using Vitaphone, a technology developed to synchronize sound and image that fizzled around 1931 after the major studios agreed to use sound-on-film recording.



In January 2, 1929, Katzman was promoted to head of the Brunswick Labs in New York. Amongst his new responsibilities were to "go after sound film recordings"He also got involved with giving exposure to his stars on Radio. From August to December 1929 he sponsored a series of programs called Brunswick Brevities to promote their new recordings all over the US, and the fact that Brunswick was also making its own Radios.


Juan Carlos Cobian was an Argentine Tango musician on a sojourn in New York from 1923 through 1928. In 1926 he played with Moriche and Pulido. In early 1928 he recorded 20 tracks for Columbia, but for his recordings he chose newcomer Genaro Veiga to be his chansonnier. Genaro came with José Bohr on December 1926. Cobian returned to Buenos Aires in May 1928, and in September Katzman hired the talented Veiga to record more Argentine Tangos for Brunswick.

Genaro Veiga recorded with Don Alberto and Los Argentinos, Enric Madriguera, the Castilians and other Katzman projects. In 1929 Katzman was bullish on Tango, and went on to open a subsidiary in Buenos Aires that signed and recorded important names like Julio de Caro, and Edgardo Donato. He also asked Osvaldo Fresedo (who at the time was in Paris) to come to the US, and signed him up too. Between September 1929 and May 1930 Fresedo recorded 30 tracks for Brunswick in New York, with Arcos and Veiga and Bonanova. Fresedo even recorded a Tango composed by Katzman, Fascinación.



But as the wheel of Fortune turned the Stock Market crashed in late-October 1929. The effect was immediate, Brunswick was sold to Warner in April 1930, and by the end of that year most of Katzman's projects were dead. As the Great Depression took hold, people didn’t have enough money to spend on records, and all the labels contracted. By the end of 1933 the studios in New York were barely recording Latin music. Brunswick's South American operations ceased in 1932. Katzman moved to Decca in 1934, his great experiment still causing ripples on the Tango recording industry.



1.2 Don Alberto


Luis Alberto Infantas Arancibia was an Argentine musician born in 1896. He came to the US in 1920 and played a violin part in Osvaldo Fresedo’s seminal recordings with the Orquesta Típica Select. Don Alberto is an enigmatic figure, he was in Town longer than most players in this story but little detail is known of his exact whereabouts in the 1920s.

 

In September 1923, around the time Juan Carlos Cobian arrived in New York, and for the next year, Don Alberto was part of the revue “Cabaret in Cuba” that played in the Northeast. It was a classic variety show with Spanish themes, Amata Grassi danced and sang “Clavelitos”, and Kathleen O’Hanlon and Theodore Zambuni danced the Apache and the Tango. Zambuni was greek.

They toured Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana amongst others. In early August 1924 they were at the Rialto Theater in Glenn Falls, NY, where were joined by world-famous boxing star Luis Ángel Firpo, who the press called “a personal friend of Mr. Infantas”. Firpo loved Tango, he was good friends with dancer Roberto Medrano, but when he was asked to dance in public he chickened out.



Don Alberto split from O'Hanlon and Zambuni a few weeks later. In late 1925 he had a Tango Symphony Orchestra and played around Ohio and Michigan for Pepita Granados, a Spanish dancer in the US since 1920. We really do not know what Don Alberto meant by “Symphony Orchestra”, no recordings survive. In earlier ads the band was named "Infantios Serenaders". In Ohio the critics commended "the dark-skinned musicians".

Don Alberto was around when Francisco Canaro, and José Bohr and his Gauchos came in late 1926, but there is no news of him joining in these orchestras. There is no more evidence about his relation to Cobian either. In 1927 Don Alberto was on Radio with one Orquesta Buenos Aires. In early 1928, a few months before returning to Buenos Aires, Cobian recorded with Genaro Veiga for Columbia, and in September Don Alberto is back in the scene accompanying Veiga.



Don Alberto, this time playing the piano, led Los Argentinos in Veiga’s recordings in Brunswick’s Chicago studios. In November 1928 they were back in New York, where Don Alberto recorded a handful of tracks for both Brunswick and Okeh (Columbia). He also recorded two Vitaphone videos with Veiga before July 1929.

Between 1929 and 1930 Don Alberto mysteriously vanished from the news while Osvaldo Fresedo was in Town playing for Brunswick with Genaro Veiga and Pilar Arcos. Did Don Alberto play with Fresedo this time around? 
It would appear so as Fresedo named his Orchestra "Los Argentinos" when he played with Pilar Arcos on WJZ in April 1930. In fact, a very plausible scenario is that Don Alberto brokered Fresedo's meeting with Katzman. But Don Alberto is only credited by name in one show at Barney's in The Village in March 1930. Los Argentinos were on Radio through 1931, well after Fresedo had returned to Buenos Aires.


Don Alberto, fully credited, resurfaced on Radio in 1931 with Pilar Arcos.


In 1932 Don Alberto was active in Clubs around Town and recorded a few tracks for the almost-dead Brunswick. And in 1933 he was a fixture at the Restaurant El Chico in The Village (Grove Street)



He even did a little Vaudeville in 1933


and went on to play a role in the movie El día que me quieras that Gardel starred in New York in 1934.

Don Alberto recorded more than 50 tracks for Brunswick and Columbia between 1928 and 1935.



2. The itinerants



2.1 Francisco Canaro


Francisco Canaro was the most recorded Tango musician of all times, a pioneer and one of the longest lasting acts in the genre. He played with Vicente Greco in 1910 when the term “Orquesta Típica” was coined. By 1925 Canaro reigned supreme in Buenos Aires with multiple orchestras playing in multiple Clubs. He was contracted to play in France and went to Paris in March 1925 with his brothers Rafael and Juan, and others.


They were a huge success, all of Paris lined up to see them for months at the Florida. Casimiro Aín, the legendary Argentine dancer, performed with them.


At the Florida, sometime between December 1925 and January 1926, Canaro met Rudolph Valentino. Valentino suggested that Canaro should come to New York, and offered his assistance to make this trip a success. Valentino was responsible for a boom in Tango dancing in the 1920s after his iconic film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.



Maurice Mouvet was a New Yorker of Belgian parents that made a name as a Tango dancer since the 1910s. In early 1926 Maurice and his wife and dancing partner Eleanor Ambrose travelled to France. The couple were raking in 3000 dollars a week according to reports, a considerable sum even today. While in Paris they struck a deal with impresario E. Ray Goetz and the Canaros to bring the Orchestra to Goetz’s Club Mirador in New York (51st Street at 7th Avenue, same building as the Capezio shoes store). In April 1926 Goetz brought to New York Raquel Meller, a famous Spanish singer at the peak of popularity, and thus the Canaro deal was side-business to him. Meller stayed in the US for most of 1926, she was a sensation on Broadway. Maurice and Eleanor arrived from Paris on September 15, Goetz on September 30, and Canaro on September 27 (on the liner De Grasse).


Juan and Rafael Canaro had traveled to Argentina in July, and from Buenos Aires they traveled to New York, where they arrived on September 22, on the VanDyck. Aín came with them, as well as Fiorivanti di Cicco (piano), Luis Petrucelli (bandoneon) and Octavio Scaglione (violin).


Valentino unexpectedly died the previous month, so his promise to assist Canaro was now useless. It was originally reported that the Mirador was opening on Wednesday October 6, but the actual opening occurred the following Tuesday October 12, almost week later, and the Mirador had a full house that night.

In his autobiography Canaro recalls the friction between Aín and Maurice.




Canaro was very disappointed when he noticed patrons were timid to dance to his music. Surprisingly, the review in the October 23 issue of The New Yorker Magazine was very positive on his Orchestra's performance.



Canaro visited the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, and was at the opening of the Paramount Theater in Times Square on November 19. He left his brother Juan in charge of the Orchestra to meet the rest of their commitments in Town until December 18, and departed soon after for Buenos Aires where he arrived on December 7 on the LutetiaRafael and Juan Canaro, and Casimiro Aín, returned to France after Christmas. They never played in New York again.


On the Discography of American Historical Recordings there's a mysterious "Orquesta Típica Argentina" credited on many tracks: what other “Argentine Orchestra” was in New York between 1923 and 1933? The Brunswick recordings in this listing are clearly related to Osvaldo Fresedo’s visit in 1929. But the OKeh recordings remain a mystery, specially because OKeh records are very hard to find these days. Taking this into account it is very likely that the three recordings made on October 13, 1926, one day after the show at the Mirador, are from Canaro’s Orchestra in New York.


Date

Title

Genre

Group

Singer

Composer

Lyrics

Label

Matrix

Disc

Sept-Oct 1926

La provinciana

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Jovés, Manuel


Okeh


16193

Sept-Oct 1926

Buenos Aires

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Jovés, Manuel


Okeh


16193

Sept-Oct 1926

El sacristán

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina


Esparza Oteo, Alfonso


Okeh

74317

16212

Sept 1926

Muchacho

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Donato, Edgardo

Flores, Celedonio Esteban

Okeh

74319

16218

Sept 1926

Callecita de mi barrio

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Gasparini, Otelo

Maroni, Enrique P.

Okeh


16218

Sept 1926

El sacristán

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Fortunio Bonanova

Esparza Oteo, Alfonso


Okeh

74316

16219

Sept-Oct 1926

Langosta

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Filiberto, Juan de Dios

Bruno, Juan A.

Okeh


16224

1926-09-14

Juancito de la ribera

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

Juan Pulido

Scatasso, Antonio

Vacarezza, Alberto

Okeh


16224

1926-10-13

Beba

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

José Moriche

Donato, Edgardo

Flores, Celedonio Esteban

Okeh

80165

16229

1926-10-13

Sácate la caretita

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina

José Moriche

Cosenza, Luis E.

Schumacher, José

Okeh

80166

16229

1926-10-13

Cicatrices

Tango

Orquesta Típica Argentina


Avilés, Adolfo R.


Okeh

80167

16231


Did Canaro or Juan Carlos Cobian have anything to do with the OKeh recordings of “Orquesta Típica Argentina” with Juan Pulido or Fortunio Bonanova? It's an open question. OKeh was bought out by Columbia in November 1926.




2.2 José Bohr


José Bohr was born in Germany in 1901, and grew up in Chile. He moved to Buenos Aires in 1923 and had his tangos and fox trots recorded by Francisco Canaro and others. Bohr decided to try his luck in the US in late 1925. He sang, played the piano, and apparently he could dance too.


He went back to Buenos Aires in Spring 1926 and recorded with his Orquesta Típica until Autumn for Victor. And then he came back to New York on December 21 of the same year with his wife Eva Limiñana, and his band The Gauchos. The Canaros wrapped their show that same week. Bohr was very media-savvy, he was always finding ways to put his name on print.


These are The Gauchos, as the listing from the American Legion passengers shows, including Julio Fernández Falcón and Ernesto Nucci (bandoneons), and Genaro Veiga and Venerando Ochoa (guitars). 



Eva Limiñana was an accomplished concert pianist that travelled to the US since 1914. She also composed a few songs.


In early 1927 Eva recorded 20 tracks for Columbia with her Orquesta Criolla Argentina. Their recording of La Cumparsita 



appears to have two violins, one accordion, a guitar, a double-bass, one bandoneon, and no piano at all. Eva directed the Orquesta Criolla but she didn’t play the piano in her own recording of La Cumparsita no less? It’s more likely that the Orquesta Criolla and The Gauchos were one and the same, a team effort by the Bohrs, and José did not take credit for these tracks because he was under contract with Victor.



Date

Title

Genre

Group

Composer

Label

Label

Matrix

Early 1927

Amigaso

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Filiberto, Juan de Dios

Regal

RS 532

???

Early 1927

A media luz

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Donato, Edgardo

Columbia (USA)

2572 X

95523-1

Early 1927

La Cumparsita

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Matos Rodríguez, Gerardo

Columbia (USA)

2576 X

95524-1

Early 1927

Solo

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Bohr, Eva

Columbia (USA)

2577 X

95525-1

Early 1927

Primera hipoteca

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Nucci, E.

Columbia (USA)

2576 X

95526-4

Early 1927

Pato

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Collazo, Ramón

Columbia (USA)

2573 X

95521-1

Early 1927

Chiquilina

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Romanelli, Orlando

Columbia (USA)

2574 X

95528-1

Early 1927

Ojos que me hacen daño

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Bohr, Eva

Columbia (USA)

2574 X

95529-4

Early 1927

Medias de seda

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Bohr, José

Columbia (USA)

2575 X

95536-1

Early 1927

Don Goyo

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Berstein, Luis

Columbia (USA)

2575 X

95537-2

Early 1927

Carta brava

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Falcón, Julio

Columbia (USA)

2577 X

95538-2

Early 1927

Cascabelito

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Bohr, José

Columbia (USA)

2572 X

95539-1

Early 1927

Por el camino

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Geroni Flores, C. V.

Columbia (USA)

2573 X

95540-2

Early 1927

Mala firma

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina


Columbia (USA)

2737 X

95827-2

Early 1927

Mireya

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina


Columbia (USA)

2737 X

95829-2

Early 1927

Gorgeos

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Arancibia

Columbia (USA)

2738 X


Early 1927

Re fa si

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Delfino, Enrique

Columbia (USA)

2738 X


Early 1927

Hechizos

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina

Ruiseñor, H.C.

Columbia (USA)

2739 X


Early 1927

Mágica flor

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina


Columbia (USA)

2739 X


Early 1927

Aquel beso

Tango

Eva Bohr y su Orquesta Criolla Argentina


Columbia (USA)

2821 X





On February 19, 1927 The Gauchos played at the Mosque Theater in Newark, New Jersey, and on February 27 they played in Philadelphia.


Then they did the Vaudeville circuit in Pennsylvania



In May they were back in Brooklyn at the Flatbush Theater (Church and Flatbush).



On August 9 only 6 Gauchos showed up at Proctor's in Yonkers



And then their trace vanishes. José Bohr's Gauchos didn't disappear as much as they gradually dissolved. In August 1927 only the Bohrs, Veiga, Falcón, Ochoa, and a couple of others remained. Genaro Veiga and Venerando Ochoa recorded for Brunswick in November 1927 and early January 1928, and then, unexpectedly, Venerando died. In January Genaro also recorded with Juan Carlos Cobian.



Between 1927 and 1929 José Bohr recorded some tracks for Victor in New York too, with Eduardo Vigil y Robles conducting the Victor Studio Orchestra, or with a simple piano accompaniment. 
In December 1928 he recorded this video 
in Havana.


The Bohrs came back from Cuba in February and stayed in New York until Summer 1929. They stayed busy playing in Vaudeville and little functions for a while.


And then the incredibly multifaceted José Bohr moved to Hollywood where he starred in the first film spoken in Spanish, Sombras de Gloria



which premiered in February 1930. The movie was produced by Sono-Art, which also produced his second film in 1930, Así es la vida. He went on to direct his own movies and starred in a few others. He recorded a few more Tangos while living in California, but for the most part José Bohr’s days as a Tango performer were behind him after 1930. The Bohrs moved to Mexico in 1935 to work in the nascent film industry there.





2.3 Horacio Zito, the Spaventas and the others


José María Lacalle (Joseph) recorded Tangos for Columbia in 1927-1928, including two with Carlos Gianotti as singer. Lacalle was famous in New York for his involvement in Spanish music and his song Amapola.


Around the time Cobian returned to Buenos Aires in 1928 a mysterious “Orquesta Típica del Plata” recorded for Columbia. These discs are extremely rare, they have not been seen in the wild for a long time. And there is no detailed record of who these musicians were. From the Discos Regal catalog we have the following listing



On January 4, 1930, yet another "Típica del Plata" played around Town



Horacio Zito was an Uruguayan violinist. He played in Minotto di Cicco’s Sextet in the early 20s and was in New York since September 1928. Was he related to the “Orquesta Típica del Plata”?


Zito recorded on Brunswick with his own Orchestra from August 1931 through February 1932. Pilar Arcos allegedly sang on some of the tracks. Zito went on to play with Terig Tucci’s Orchestra.


Date

Title

Genre

Group

Singer

Composer

Lyrics

Label

Matrix

Disc

1931-08-07

Dime

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Victor, J.


Brunswick

E37013

41397

1931-08-07

Mi solo amor

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Victor, J.


Brunswick

E37014

41397

1931-08-07

Adiós madrecita

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra

Pilar Arcos

Maldonado

Tueros

Brunswick

E37015

41374

1931-08-07

Me llaman Coqueta

Pasodoble

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Del Campo

Sarno

Brunswick

E37016

41374

1932-02-09

Ayer se la llevaron

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra

Pilar Arcos

Díaz Giles, F.

Rocha, J.

Brunswick

B11253

41427

1932-02-09

Cariño gaucho

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Carabelli, J.

Policastro, G.

Brunswick

B11254

41427

1932-02-09

Al Uruguay

Foxtrot

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Jofre - Bolaños

Villmios

Brunswick

B11255

41431

1932-02-09

La chica de la radio

Foxtrot

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Freyrea, C.


Brunswick

B11256

41431

1932-02-09

Caminito

Tango

Zito’s Tango Orchestra


Filiberto, Juan de Dios

Coria Peñalosa, Gabino

Brunswick

B11257

6264



Francisco Spaventa was an Argentine Tango singer that travelled to Spain in 1922 and teamed up with Catalina Bárcena, a famous Cuban actress. Many Spaniards first heard Argentine Tangos on the recordings he made in Spain for La Voz de su Amo (His Master's Voice).


In New York he sang in theaters, social gatherings and at the Restaurant El Chico, but he had no Orchestra of his own. He also sang on Radio and recorded a few tracks with Don Alberto. Francisco was very charming in person, his show included stories and jokes, and he sat several times with the editors of La Prensa to talk. In June 1932 he finally gave up in the face of the economic situation and left.


The local artists gave him a sweet sendoff


His brother Carlos, 10 years younger, stayed a few more years and was part of Gardel's circle of friends in Town after 1933. The Spaventa brothers recorded a few of tracks for Brunswick with Don Alberto

A handful of other performers were in Town too, but their contributions before 1933 seem too small to note here




2.4 Eduardo Bianco


Eduardo Bianco was an Argentine violinist that travelled to France in the 1920s, and went on to form one of the most popular Tango orchestras of the era in Europe. In late June 1933 Bianco arrived in New York from Havana, Cuba. His musicians came later, not much is known about their schedule in Town until September. The Country was in the middle of the Great Depression and job protection was a theme. 


On September 9 and for the next four days Eduardo Bianco and his Gauchos (yes, that name again), appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.



From October 6 through October 11 they appeared at the Metropolitan Theater in Boston with Rosita and Ramón. 


Then on October 27 and for the next week they were at The Palace in Times Square



On November 3 they moved to the RKO Albee in Brooklyn (Fulton and Dekalb).


The troupe then moved to the Fox Theater in Philadelphia where they played from November 10 to November 16.


On November 19 they came back to New York and played at the Winter Garden



On December 13 Bianco played at La Fiesta Restaurant with Ramón and Rosita. And on January 2, 1934, he played at the Tivoli in Brooklyn. Incidentally, Carlos Gardel arrived in New York the previous week.



In early January, Eduardo Bianco recorded two tracks that were apparently commissioned by the Liberty Music Shop in New York. From the matrix numbers (14456 and 14457) it appears these are Brunswick recordings.



On January 11, 1934, Bianco entered the Brunswick recording studios and recorded 10 Tangos. Though Brunswick had been sold to Warner in 1930, somehow the recording studios in New York were still active and Warner had not killed the Brunswick brand. Agustín Cornejo made a cameo appearance in Tentadora. Curiously, some of these tracks were printed by Columbia too. It's presumed Bianco left for Italy soon after. 


Date

Title

Genre

Group

Singer

Composer

Label

Matrix

Disc

1934-01-11

Poema

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Manuel Bianco

Melfi, Mario

Brunswick

B 14575

41005 B - 6923

1934-01-11

Ventimiglia

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Manuel Bianco

Pecci, Juan

Brunswick

B 14576

41004 A - 7506

1934-01-11

Desengaño

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Manuel Bianco

Bianco, Eduardo

Brunswick

B 14577

41006 A - 7416

1934-01-11

Tentadora

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Agustín Cornejo

Cornejo, Agustín

Brunswick

B 14578

41004 B - 7506

1934-01-11

Razón 5a

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Manuel Bianco

Bianco, Eduardo

Brunswick

B 14579

41008 A - 7353

1934-01-11

Barrio Patricios

Tango

Eduardo Bianco


Pecci, Juan

Brunswick

B 14580

41008 B - 7353

1934-01-11

Rodríguez Peña

Tango

Eduardo Bianco


Greco, Vicente

Brunswick

B 14581

41007 A - 6782

1934-01-11

Madreselva

Tango

Eduardo Bianco

Eduardo Bianco - Manuel Bianco

Bianco, Eduardo

Brunswick

B 14582

41006 B - 7416

1934-01-11

Inspiración

Tango

Eduardo Bianco


Paulos, Peregrino

Brunswick

B 14583

41005 A - 6923

1934-01-11

Evocación

Tango

Eduardo Bianco


Bianco, Eduardo

Brunswick

B 14584

41007 B - 6782




2.5 Gregorio Ayala, Miguel Cáceres, Agustín Cornejo and Astor Piazzola


Agustín Cornejo was born in San Juan province, Argentina, in 1899. 


He sang folk songs with Miguel Cáceres since 1925, and then formed the Trío Los Cuyanos with Cáceres and Gregorio Ayala, and toured South America and Cuba with Camila Quiroga's theatrical company. On December 5, 1927, they came to New York for a two week engagement at the Manhattan Opera House.



Cornejo, Cáceres and Ayala stayed behind when Ms. Quiroga left. They started recording for Brunswick around November 1929.



While at Brunswick they recorded some tracks with Genaro Veiga and Peruvian folk singer Manuel Velázquez (b. 1897). In January 1930 they appeared with Sebastián Lombardo's Típica on WPCH Radio, they were using the moniker "Trío Argentino". And on March 1, 1930 they appeared with Osvaldo Fresedo at an event for the Argentine Sporting Club of New York.



When Brunswick collapsed in 1930 they stopped recording for a while. By 1932 Ayala and Cáceres were still playing dúos together, while Cornejo sang mostly solo. They appeared on Radio, at social functions, and in Spanish restaurants in Greenwich Village like El Gaucho


On December 29, 1932, Ayala, Cáceres, Velázquez and Cornejo appeared at the Roerich Museum (Riverside Drive at 103rd Street) with Andrés d'Aquila's Orchestra. They were accompanying 11-year old bandoneon prodigy Astor Piazzola. Astor Piazzola was born in Mar de Plata in 1921. His family moved to Greenwich Village in New York in 1925, and by 1929 little Astor got his first bandoneon from a pawn shop. Andrés d'Aquila, a pianist who played with Terig Tucci since 1930, had been teaching Astor, and they had played on WPCH Radio.



Astor Piazzola went on to change Tango as it was known.



3. Epilogue: before Gardel


After Osvaldo Fresedo left in May 1930, the Depression took its toll on the recording industry in New York. Pilar Arcos, Juan Pulido and José Moriche never went back to the level of popularity they had in the 1920s. They sang at Spanish restaurants in The Village and other social gatherings for a while to make ends meet. Some left town, it turns out in a way they were all itinerants. Even Columbia fell on hard times. By the time Gardel landed in Brooklyn on December 28, 1933, only Victor was still actively recording Tangos for the Latin market. Never again would so many artists gather in New York to record Tangos as in the previous decade. Would Gardel be a game changer?




Notes


1. The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, the parent company of Brunswick Records, was in business since 1845, and they were known for their woodwork, they made bowling alleys and billiard tables. This is how they became indirectly involved in the phonograph business (the cabinetry) and eventually in the record business. Through its meteoric rise the Company never let go its core business.



2. Little is known about Genaro Veiga in general: in his immigration form he said he was 24-years old and from Lugo, Galicia, as was José Ramón Pontón, another Gaucho. Genaro wrote with Bohr the lyrics to the foxtrot Si la vida te sonríe, which was featured in Sombras de Gloria. After Fresedo returned to Buenos Aires, Genaro recorded another dozen tracks for Brunswick (two of them with Manuel Velázquez), and then left Town.


3. Bandoneon players were rare in New York those days. The Gauchos came not with one, but 3 bandoneon players according to the picture. Katzman would have hired them?





Acknowledgements

1. Mark John and Camilo Gatica as usual, for their moral support too.

2. Pablo Darío Taboada for his patience with my impossible questions.

3. Jojo for La Cumparsita

4. Luis Pareja for that pic of Manuel Velázquez.

5. Aníbal Cravchick for the breaking news about Eduardo Bianco and Don Alberto.

6. Carlos Picchio for his priceless discographies.

7. Lucía Fanjul and Iván Araque

8. Lola ❤️



Bibliography

1. Michael Katzman wrote a paper about his grandfather Louis.
    https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA390561975

2. Carlos González Groppa wrote a very complete compendium “The Tango in the United States: A History”. He also wrote for Tango Reporter.
    http://www.tangoreporter.com/nota-canaro.html
    https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Tango_in_the_United_States.html?id=qr9HDwAAQBAJ

3. The University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections holds an immense trove of Fox Movietone videos.
    https://digital.tcl.sc.edu/digital/collection/MVTN/search

4. Ross Laird's "Brunswick Records: A discography of recordings, 1916-1931”.
    https://books.google.com/books/about/Brunswick_Records.html?id=GAerQSlFjPgC

5. The University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB) has created the “Discography of American Historical Recordings” as a searchable website that includes Laird’s work, and other material.
    https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/resources/detail/191

6. The Strachwitz Frontera Collection has recently digitized and published a huge stash of Brunswick recordings from the Louis Katzman days, also an invaluable contribution.
    http://frontera.library.ucla.edu
    https://www.youtube.com/c/fronteracollection


7. An awesome interview with Gus Haenschen of Brunswick Records

   https://78records.wordpress.com/tag/brunswick-building-799-7th-avenue


8. Valerie Paley wrote a piece on 52nd Street

    https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2019/the-epic-story-of-52nd-street-an-icon-underfoot-at-the-2020-annual-meeting


9. The New York Public Library has digitized an awesome collection of images from the early XX Century

    https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-edb0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99