Archive for February, 2011

186, February 28 – BIRTH OF ANTONIO SCATASSO

Leader, Composer, Bandoneonist (Pisces) – he was rough and uncouth in his manner and in his dealings with people which sometimes caused heads to shake a little…with little education of any kind, he was a survivor of the streets but inside his restless soul resided a gifted musician…at the age of four, his destitute family had emigrated to Buenos Aires in the hope of a better life…Antonio learned to play the mandolin, the guitar, and the bandoneon with almost no training of any kind; later he would become a composer of simple and melodic tangos much beloved by the public especially theater audiences…his professional debut, around 1907 with the mandolin alongside violinist and future legend, Francisco Canaro…later he performed at the Cafe Parque but this time on bandoneon which he had mastered in a short period of time…

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In 1933 he met Ignacio Corsini at the Teatro Smart; a long and productive friendship and collaboration would follow including some notable performances on Radio Nacion…in the early part of the century, stage plays were the preferred method of entertainment and it was also the preferred setting to debut a new tango…a successful debut of a new tango in a stage play could mean fame and fortune for a composer…this was exactly the dream of Antonio when he premiered his tango “El Ciego” in the play “Chi Lo Sa” written by Cesar Bourel which premiered at the Apollo Theater in Buenos Aires…he would remain close to the theater for his whole life, in his later year strictly in management…among his numerous compositions were some great hits for some of which he not only composed he music but write the lyrics as well…in his career he would back up legends like Tita Merello, Ernesto Fama, Azucena Maizani…

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1915, February 27 – BIRTH OF OLAVI VIRTA

Singer, Composer, Lyricist (Pisces) – A silence fell on the theater at the sight of this decrepit, thin, man being helped on to the stage where he shuffled to the microphone with the help of a cane; the audience was stunned…so this was what had become of the legendary King of Finnish Tango, Olavi Virta…but when he began to sing the Olavi that had been so beloved came back, his voice, his manner, the sensitivity that had made his “Tango Desiree” popular all over Europe…there was a sadness in the enthsusiastic applause that followed and more than one misty eye…in a few months time, in a state of absolute poverty, he  would be dead from diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver; he was 57 years old…Olavi Virta was born in the town of  Sysma, Finland to a father who was a cobbler and a mother who was a seamstress but it was a musical family; both his father and his grandfather were singers…his parents however, would divorce when he was still young…from an early age he was interested in music and at the age of eight he began taking violin lessons; he joined the youth orchestra and the choir of the local church Sornaisten…

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His first taste of notoriety occurred at a masked ball where, dressed as a clown, he sang “Orchids to My Lady”; the response from the audience was enthusiastic…he soon won a contest singing three songs including “La Cumparsita”…basically self taught, he dreamt of singing opera like his idol Beniamino Gigli…his first break came in 1937 when he was recruited by Harold Rainbow Orchestra; he recorded for the first time the following year…in 1939 he starred his first film “Rich Girl”…begining in 1940 his career would explode with performances, films, theatrical productions to a degree that went beyond his dreams; he was called a “living legend”…but it was also a time when his drinking began to increase…he met Dorthy Irene Kaarela with whom he would marry and have three children but his worsening alcoholism took its toll and after fifteen years of marriage she left him…he was known for his beloved Ford Fairlane which he drove fast while swigging his bottle of whiskey…Olavi Virta’s career was cut short by a scandalous arrest for drunken driving in 1962, it was continuously talked about in the press which mockingly called him “The Singing Meatball.”; he never really recovered from it.

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2004, February 26 – PREMIERE OF “REDLINE TANGO”

The incredible story of John Mackey is that of a young man who did not formally study a musical instrument and who learned to compose music on a toy like computer program on an early Apple II computer at the age of nine, who would one day compose a tango based orchestral work that would be performed all over the world…“this piece is freaking awesome“, one reviewer said of Redline Tango…in fact, its success has been phenomenal; in its first three years alone it was performed over 100 times in eight countries including the United States, Scotland, Norway, Singapore, Australia,China, Japan and Canada…in 2005 it won the highly prestigious Ostwald Prize from the American Bandmasters Association…John Mackey was born October 1, 1973 in New Philadelphia, Ohio into a musical family; his father was a trumpet player and his mother a flutist…his grandfather owned  a music store and it would be he, who would first introduce him to the computer program on composition…

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His parents, not wishing to replicate an unpleasant experience with his sister, did not encourage formal musical training on him and yet when John was finally accepted to the renown Cleveland Institute of Music it was on the basis of two works, “Gloria” and “Fantasie”,  which he composed on the computer when he was fifteen years old…his first taste of notoriety occurred in 1993 when his “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, based on a Dylan Thomas program, was selected by Cleveland Youth Orchestra for performance; it was the first time he would earn money from one of his compositions…he went on to receive a master’s degree in composition in 1997, from the renown Julliard School of Music and today in lives in Austin, Texas….his various other works have been performed all over the world; his “Strange Humors” for example has been choreographed and performed by the Parsons Dance Company to world-wide audiences…one critic said of his work, “his music is distinctly his, laced with an intensity sorely missing in the works of other composers”

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1887, February 25 – BIRTH OF JOSE RAZZANO

Singer, Composer, Guitarist (Pisces) – at the end of negotiations with the renown Club Armenonville, Carlos Gardel boyishly leaned forward to hear the results from his partner Jose Razzano, “Well, what do we have he asked” rubbing his hands together, “Seventy pesos” answered Jose, “Per month?” asked Gardel happily, “No, per night” added Jose, “Well” said Gardel incredulously “for that sum, I’ll even wash the dishes”…besides being an extraordinary musician Jose Razzano was a keen business man and crack negotiator…the singing duo of Gardel – Razzano would be immensely successful locally and abroad; they toured  Uruguay, Brasil, Chile and Spain in whose capital Madrid, sang to packed audiences…they met at a singing contest at which an aspiring Gardel generously complimented Jose on his singing voice; it was that night that the idea of combining their talents first emerged…they debuted together at the celebrated Teatro Nacional in 1914 to great acclaim; their performance schedule became immensely busy

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Jose Razzano was born in Montevideo to a poor immigrant family…when he was two years old, his father’s died suddenly and his desperate mother moved the family to the neighborhood of Balvanera in Buenos Aires… from a very early age Jose demonstrated keen musical ability and with much sacrifice his mother enrolled him in guitar lessons…at age eight he was already performing for neighborhood audiences…in 1925 tragedy struck when he developed a problem with his throat and he had to give up singing…he then began to devote himself exclusively to managing Carlos Gardel’s career which often meant paying off Gardel’s considerable race horse gambling obligations…later would come a bitter separation from Gardel which gave rise to many malicious rumors nevertheless the legendary singer Charlo hired Jose as his manager…Joe would accompany Charlo on a toursof latin america and the United States

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1934, February 24 – TOYO AND MASAFUMI WED IN TOKYO

Isami’s considerable investment and sacrifice in his daughter’s education and presentation was beginning to pay off in the social class aspirations of the family ….his investigation of  Ishikawa Masafumi including conversations with his family’s neighbors had confirmed that he came from the “right” famiily…his was a traditional samurai family and like his daughter he had been educated at Japan’s preeminent Tokyo Imperial University Bin’ichi; he was an engineer at the prestigious Mitsubishi Trading Company…his father Ishikawa Masayoshi was a career military officer and war hero who had died valiantly in the 1920 Siberian Expedition…that grand day, Toyo wore a red kimono made of the finest silk; Masafumi wore stripped pants, vest and tails and was carrying white gloves…the ceremony was partially held at the Shinto shrine General Nogi Maresuke, hero of the Japanese-Russo war who had been the embodiment of traditional samurai spiritual values; when his emperor Meiji had died, he and his wife had committed  ceremonial Seppuku….

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Toyo and Masafumi shared one other thing, a love of tango and in fact during their one year engagement they had taken tango lessons at the renown Baron Tsunami Megata’s tango academy; it was Baron Tsunami Megata who introduced tango to Japan…in 1920 he had gone to Paris to treat a skin condition on his feet but became so enamored with the night life that he stayed for six years…in the Club Garron where the Manuel Pizzaro orchestra was playing, he became ensnared by tango; he went on to become an accomplished dancer…upon his return to Tokyo he opened a tango academy and it quickly became  fashionable for the aristocracy to learn tango…he later published a book “A Method to Dance Argentine Tango”…the first Argentinean orchestra to visit Japan was that of Juan Canaro; later, several home-grown orchestras developed, prominent among them was Shimpei Hayakawa’s, Typical Orchestra of Tokyo

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  • CLICK HERE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ebfeKwEPeo to hear Ranko Fujisawa sing “Cristal”, composed by Mariano Mores…Ranko was born on July 21, 1925 in Japan became a noted tango singer in Japan during the golden era

1963, February 23 – BIRTH OF CLAUDIA LEVY

Singer, Composer, Poet (Pisces) – the little girl gazed tenderly at her mother who was crying as she was strumming the piano, “He’s not coming back is he mommy?” she asked, “No darling he’s not”, she answered...”well”, said the little girl “lets tear up his tooth-brush”…somehow it was that moment of  a child’s simple vision which set her free; yes it was time to move on…the day would come when she would be grateful for the whole experience for from that day on, she began composing tango…she had fallen madly in love with a boy ten years younger and he had gone to New York on tour…in the begining, his emails were numerous and daily and then gradually more scarse…one day, she boarded a plane to New York to see him and the plane was uncommonly late; an omen…when she finally saw him, as he walked towards her, somehow she knew, “it’s over”Claudia Levy was born in Buenos Aires; her father was jewish and her mother catholic…her mother was a lover of cinema and she would tell little Claudia all about the films’ plots; Claudia credits this early experience as seminal in developing her later love of writing lyrics…

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Early on she demonstrated precocious musical talent and her father promptly enrolled her in the Conservatory Alberto Williams where she studied classical piano…later she studied dance and mime but at a certain point she found her creative soul in tango…along the way, she has made some people angry; she was a pioneer in a new genre, “woman centered tango”, in a world that historically has been very macho…using trademark sarcasm and humor she has brought awareness to the custom, still prevalent in Argentina and other nations, of men beating their wives and in some cases even killing them…her first musical group, a duo, was called “Tangachas”…with her second group, she began making a name for herself and went on a critically acclaimed tour of  Europe…this was followed by her participation in a third group “Munecas Bravas”…her first disc “Mentime Mas” is a compilation of her own compositions and lyrics…her second disc “Escuchame Un Segondo” has received rave reviews from critics and public alike…in one of her celebrated lyrics she says,“go ahead and cry for there is no Christ to save you…cry that crying is good for you…dismount your horse and come to the light of the day for only a coward beats his wife”

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1937, February 22 – ROBERTO RAY RECORDS “SOLLOZOS”

“A man deceived me” she says humiliated and destroyed…the lyrics of “Sollozos” tell of the pity a man feels for a girl he finds sobbing…he notices a locket round her neck with a man’s picture in it; tenderly he counsels her, “forget your past, if he shed no tears for you, shed no tears for him”…originally composed by Osvaldo Fresedo in 1922 with lyrics by his brother Emilio Fresedo, the word “Sollozos” means sobs,; it was a major hit for the mythical combination of Osvaldo Fresedo with singer Roberto Ray…it was first recorded by Rosita Quiroga in 1922 without making much of an impact…through the man’s empathy and concern, she is strengthened; she remembers her mother, she recovers her pride…he remembers nostalgically her pained lips and the smile she gave him…Emilio Fresedo’s lyrics were no small reason for the attainment of his brother’s legendary status; some of their hits together include, “El Once”, “Canto de Amor”, “Siempre Es Carnaval”

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Unlike the overwhelming majority of tango greats, the Fresedo brothers came from a rich aristocratic family and there were heated battles with their father who had envisioned much more austere careers for his sons…in fact Osvaldo Fresedo’s music appealed to that part of the upper class that dared to admit that they loved tango…he was so popular that he kept several orchestras going simultaneously and Osvaldo would go from club to club to appear with each group for a few minutes before making his presentation at another venue…Roberto Ray with his refined, sensitive style was perfect for the Osvaldo Fresedo Orchestra and in fact they would work together for 30 years…Roberto Ray was born on December 21, 1912 (Sagittarius) in the neighborhood of San Cristobal, Buenos Aires…he started with Osvaldo Fresedo in 1931 and together they would create tangos that have never been out of popularity; hits like the legendary “Vida Mia”, “Niebla de Riachuelo” and “Recuerdo de Bohemia”

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