DDPs Favorite Tandas:

Troilo: Vocals with Alberto Marino

Uno (1943)

On the U.S. festival scene, Troilo, especially his mid-’40s repertoire, is not as popular as he is in Buenos Aires. I think this is because these recordings are both very lyrical and very complex musically; they are not as straightforward to dance to as D’Arienzo or even Di Sarli‘s recordings from the same period. Michael Lavocah explores Troilo’s inventiveness in great detail in his excellent book Tango Masters: Aníbal Troilo, for those who are interested.
My friend Mike McCarrel is one of few fellow Americans I know who enjoy Troilo’s recordings with Marino—and I have to admit, at first I wasn’t crazy about them. Of course, that was largely due to the fact that I didn’t have good quality versions (many of the most widely available CDs of Troilo with Marino have been terribly processed, and the sound quality is appallingly awful). I didn’t really begin to appreciate Marino until recently, when I purchased some shellac transfers of his sides with Troilo from TangoTunes.
These four tangos represent, to me, the height of ’40s emotional tangos: Troilo’s master arrangers (Astor Piazzolla himself wrote the arrangement for “Uno”) put together multilayered orchestrations that perfectly incorporate Marino’s delivery of words by three master lyricists (“Uno” is by Enrique Santos Discépolo; “Después” and “Torrente” by Homero Manzi; and “Cristal” by José María Contursi). The result is dense, rich, rewarding music.
For a more unorthodox yet still coherent tanda, you could remove any song except “Cristal” and end the tanda with the masterpiece “Gricel,” sung by Fiorentino. Another beautiful lyric by José María Contursi, “Gricel,” like “Cristal,” is part of a cycle of tangos that chronicle his passion for a woman he couldn’t have…the full real-life story and its surprising ending can be found in Lavocah’s book or on TodoTango.

About Derrick Del Pilar

Born and raised in Chicago, I came to the tango while studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires in 2006. In 2008 I earned my B.A. with majors in Creative Writing and Spanish & Portuguese from the University of Arizona, and in 2009 I earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. My specialty is the history & literature of early 20th century Argentina.


7 thoughts on “Troilo: Vocals with Alberto Marino

  1. Thank you for featuring Troilo con Marino. Much under-represented at milongas – in Buenos Aires, too. Perhaps because this music is so intense and much more demanding than most Golden Age tangos, so the DJ needs to be careful about when to play it.

    Some more of my favourites are Me quede mirandola, La luz de un fosforo and Cotorrita de la suerte.

    Posted by Patricia | 21.01.2015, 1:04 am
    • Thank you for sharing your favorite Troilo/Marino tangos, Patricia! I’m glad you enjoyed this tanda. I agree 100% that Troilo’s mid-’40s recordings are more intense and demanding that other Golden Age music. And it’s not the same kind of intensity as, say, post-Golden Age Pugliese–it’s not an “obvious” drama. And yes, I also agree that DJs need to be very careful about playing it. See my reply to Dmitry’s comment below!
      Un abrazo from the Northern Hemisphere,

      Posted by Derrick Del Pilar | 21.01.2015, 8:24 am
  2. What do I think, the page asks? I still think it is too educational to foist it on the community. The DJs are called to lead with great caution, and to listen to the vibes of the floor with great attention. It’d be hard to make this one tick.
    Argentina may be still reaping the consequences of its 1960s and 1970s when Troilo was the survivor of the near-extinct genre, as much by his talent as by political and social smarts.

    Posted by Dmitry Pruss | 20.01.2015, 11:27 pm
    • Dmitry, I actually agree with you. But I don’t think it says anywhere on the site that every tanda I post is a tanda I have successfully played at a milonga (does it? I’ll have to look and change that…editor’s privilege!).
      You’ve heard me DJ, and you might have noticed that, especially at festivals, I am “safe” almost to a fault–as are most of the tandas here on this site.
      Also, you might notice that 3 out of the 4 songs in this particular tanda were also recorded by other dance orchestras, and we hear those versions fairly often at U.S. milongas and festivals: “Uno” by D’Arienzo with Mauré; “Después” by D’Arienzo with Echagüe and Caló with Iriarte; and “Torrente” by Demare with Quintana. Canaro also recorded “Uno,” “Torrente,” and “Cristal” with Roldán, though I personally find those versions lackluster next to Troilo and the others. But anyway, I selected these 4 songs carefully–they should not be completely unfamiliar to a seasoned festival attendee.
      Yes, the DJ’s job is to keep most of the dancers attending an event dancing most of the time, and that usually means playing an overwhelming majority (75%? 80%? 90%? I tend towards the higher figure myself…) of familiar hits in their most familiar versions, and limiting unfamiliar songs (less known cuts by A-list orchestras, or B- and C-list covers of A-list hits) to one slot in the middle of an otherwise “safe” tanda.
      So then, with any less-played tango music, not just Troilo/Marino, there’s a classic Catch-22: the public is unfamiliar with this music because no one plays it, and no one plays it because it is unfamiliar…
      Fortunately for me, I have a forum in which to present unfamiliar music that I think worthy of attention: my two blogs! :).
      Ultimately, of course, I don’t know if I’ll succeed in stirring up any enthusiasm, and I don’t know if, when next I’m up there in the booth at a festival or milonga, I’ll be bold enough to play this, if there will be any moment where I feel like the crowd can handle it. We’ll see…
      Two asides: Have you read Michael Lavocah’s book on Troilo? I don’t think that Troilo is more popular in BsAs because of his “for export” work in the ’60s and ’70s. I think he’s more popular because, at the beginning of the tango revival, there were plenty of people around who’d actually heard him, along with the other great orchestras, play for dancers in cabarets and other venues around the city, so they played his music with actual nostalgia (and they perhaps had access to original shellacs, vinyl, etc. that we did not, so they had versions that actually sounded like they were supposed to). And yes, this era, with Marino, is still his dance era! Even a couple years later, with Floreal Ruiz, he still played for dancers…it wasn’t until Marino left and Rivero came in, in the very late ’40s, when Troilo shifted to more avant-garde music.
      Second aside: I’ve actually heard Troilo/Marino played twice recently: Shorey played two cuts, “Uno” and “Tal vez será su voz,” in a mixed tanda with two more familiar Fiorentino songs at the October TangoFest in Portland. And just last week in Seattle, a local DJ played 3 Marinos (“Tal vez será su voz” again, “Siga el corso,” and one that I didn’t recognize) and ended the tanda with a very unfamiliar mid-’40s instrumental. Admittedly, the latter tanda was not to my taste…

      Posted by Derrick Del Pilar | 21.01.2015, 8:18 am
    • P.S.—In the YouTube age, performers can also catapult “deep cuts” to “hit” status–this happened with Canaro’s “Invierno” a few years ago. No one had heard it or played it, then suddenly it seemed that every famous couple was performing to it, and I started hearing it at festivals a lot more.
      And performances like this masterful one by Carlitos and Noelia give me hope for Troilo/Marino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viBzWAFvMf8

      Posted by Derrick Del Pilar | 21.01.2015, 8:26 am
      • Yes, you captured my feelings perfectly already in your reply to Patricia. It is very intense, and this intensity is substantially different from what we have grown accustomed to. So much so that I can’t help thinking that Troilo was looking beyond the dancers already, even before the mid-40s. It’s beautiful, insanely talented stuff and yet I can’t help my gut feeling that it wasn’t ultimately meant for our lowly bunch.
        Troilo helped Piazzolla develop, and without Piazzolla we might have not had our universe of tango today; Troilo himself helped keep the flame going in the dark periods of the tango history, as you mention above – not so much through his work for export but rather through his continuing presence on TV, in live scene etc., and, importantly, for then-relatively high quality of his older records which escaped destruction – hats off to him for the help. My feeling is, though, that tango will keep moving away from Troilo, at least for a while, as tango’s dark decades fade deeper and deeper into memory. And of course I hope beyond hope that our music tastes won’t ever ossify, that we’ll keep on making new discoveries!

        Posted by Dmitry Pruss | 22.01.2015, 9:34 am


  1. Pingback: D’Arienzo: ’40s Vocals with Laborde & Echagüe | DDP's Favorite Tandas - 22.01.2015

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