Archive for the ‘ Musicians ’ Category


Composer, Leader, Bandoneonist, Pianist (Pisces) –“You idiot, that’s Piazzolla”Nadia Boulanger screamed at a young Astor Piazzolla; looking back on a story book career many years later he would say“in a mere matter of ten seconds, she had sent to hell ten years of work”…perhaps more than any one else, it was Nadia Boulanger, renown music teacher of the twentieth century, who was responsible for the eventual emergence of the genius Astor Piazzolla…he had been ashamed of his tango roots and his bandoneon; his true soul, he thought, belonged to Mozart and Bach but the astute Boulanger set him on the right destiny…the destiny of combining classical, jazz and tango all cemented by the musical milieu of New York where he grew up…it was a fateful day in 1953 when it was suggested to him to enter one of his compositions into the “Fabien Seveitsky Competition” which he did very reluctantly, he just did not think his work was good enough…to his great surprize, he won first place and a scholarship to study with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in Paris


Although Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina he was raised in New York and his music, his character and his life reflected that ambience; he even spoke english with a New York accent…his granparents had been immigrants from the ancient town of Trani, a settlement of ancient jewish scholarship in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy…as a boy he went through a series of operations due to a polio deformed right leg; his father advised him to be tough and to never let anything defeat him a lesson he learned all too well; he was once thrown out of school for aggressive behavior…the composition which won him his first popular acclaim was “Ballada Para Un Loco” which was premiered in 1969 by his second wife Amelita Baltar at the First Iberoamerican Music Festival where it won second place…his immortal “Libertango” was composed during the period that he lived in Rome in the 1970s…in his prolific career he would compose over 1000 works including orchestral works that continue to be played by orchestras the world over…Astor once said, “music is more than a woman because you can divorce a woman but not music…once you marry her, she is your everlasting love and you go to the grave with her”…he also once said of the most famous tango in the world, “La Cumparsita”“the worst of all tangos”



Composer, Leader, Violinist, Guitarist, Harmonica (Pisces) – as a youth he was tormented, difficult, rebellious even a bully and finally he was practically thrown out of school and began working in a series of  menial jobs along the way becoming a fiery anarchist and strike organizer…one fateful evening while working at the famed Colon Theater as a mechanic’s assistant, he happened to see a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and he was stunned; it changed his life…although unrefined, course and practically illiterate,  with tremendous determination, he enrolled at the Pettizini – Sttianessi Conservatory to study music for the first time and gradually the musical genius that was prowling inside his soul began to emerge…later he earned a scholarship to the to study with Maestro Alberto Williams at the prestigious National Conservatory…his tango “Caminito”, composed in 1926, along with “La Cumparsita”, “Il Choclo” and “A Media Luz” would become one of the most universally beloved and recorded musical themes in history…


He was born in the mythical neighborhood of La Boca, Buenos Aires to a mother who was a descendent of  native americans and a father who was Genoese…many years later he would nostalgically recall his first taste of tango as a six years old toddler at his uncles cafe “La Estrellita”…battling symptoms of tuberculosis, his friend and physician Jose Ingenieros, himself an impassioned political activist and philosopher, advised him to move to the city of Guaymallen; his stay here inspired his first tango, the first of his tangos with distinctly indigenous chords…in 1932 he formed his first orchestra which debuted at the mythical Cafe Tortoni…he dared to include unusual instruments like clarinets and flutes and nativist themes but the critizism that naturally followed was difficult for him to bear…however, it was the beginning of a long and productive  career…among his numerous compositions are great hits like “Quejas De Bandoneon”, “Malevaje”, “El Panuelito”; Carlos Gardel would record sixteen of his tangos…toward the end of his life, reflecting on his career he would say, “my music is many things but above all it is feeling…of course feeling is not enough for you have to know how to express it”



With tears running down her face, clasping her favorite embroidered apron she looked out the window to the orchard she had planted and whispered, “it is a miracle, thank you heavenly father”…Luciano would recall that day vividly many years later…his father had just received a letter from the landlord’s representative; he had passed away and, in an act of deathbed generosity, had cancelled the debt on the house…to the children who played on those 70 meters on which his father had personally constructed the house, it seemed like such a large place; with tremendous personal sacrifice, he had bought that property for twenty-three pesos a month…Luciano Leocata was the third of four children to poor immigrants from Sicily which had settle in the neighborhood of Almagro in Buenos Aires…one evening, when he was thirteen years old, from a distant neighbor’s house, he heard an odd, new sound that captivated him; he found out later it was the bandoneon…


He began taking lessons and he quickly exhausted his teachers’ ability to teach him…he began playing in the neighborhood cafes and bars for spare change…the news of the “kid” reached Juan Pedro Castillo who have him his first professional job; it was the beginning of a glorious career culminating in a 50 year collaboration with the Florindo Sassone Orchestra…it was in 1940, that the most important event of his life happened; he met a shy, unassuming Aida Emma Gagliardino, “I heard music like I had never heard before”, he would say…they married on January 16, time this event would produce two daughters, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren…Luciano composed some of the most beloved tangos in history…His “Volvemos A Querernos”which he presented on Radio El Mundo had the distinction of being a hit simultaneously on two different radio stations, played by two different orchestras and sung by two different singers…his “Y Todavia Te Quiero” to our very day is one of the most revered tangos played in milongas all over the world; there were many others…


1900, March 2 – BIRTH OF KURT WEILL

“Hurry, hurry Kurt…we have little time to waste, the car is waiting” he heard his friend’s panicked voice cry out; Kurt hastily grabbed the sketches of the second symphony he had been working on and with nothing but the clothes on his back, he rushed out…in fact merely  hours later the Gestapo arrived at his door but by now he was on his way to Paris: it was March of 1933…just months later, for the play “Marie Galante”, he would compose the immortal “Youkali Tango” whose mesmerizing lyrics say, “Youkali is the land of our desires, happiness, pleasure…Youkali is the land where we forget all of our worries…the star we follow is, Youkali…but it is a dream,a folly for there is no Youkali”…in his short and troubled life, he witnessed the turbulent, first 50 years of the twentieth century;  a period of political instability, upheaval and decadence leading to human carnage as the world had never seen before…Kurt would leave a substantial and varied body of work  including cantatas, chamber music, orchestral works, songs, musicals…perhaps his best known ballad is “Mack the Knife” which would be a massive hit for Bobby Darin


His most famous pieces are the stage works he wrote in collaboration with playwrite Bertold Brechtoddly their estrangement would come finally over politics; Kurt was a passionate socialist, Bertold a passionate communist…he was born in the industrial city of Dessau, Germany…his father a synagogue cantor and composer gave him his first music lessons…young Kurt soon earned the nickname of the “attic composer” for his habit of secluding himself in the attic to compose…in September of 1935 he sailed for New York to work on Broadway where among others he would work with Ira Gershwin…the relationship with his beloved wife Lotte Lenya was turbulent and one day she ran away with Austrian tenor Baron Otto Von Pasetti and the couple divorced; four years later they would remarry…she would become a passionate supporter of his work…observing the intense and often violent encounters of political parties after World War I,  Kurt was to write ominously “the mob is just waiting for the call to pillage and revolt and their favorite target will be the jews”



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 from Naples, Italy 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…


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


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…


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”


com/watch?v=pCUhry-F5GA to hear Antares perform “Redline Tango” at a live performance in Sanibel Island, Florida on February 26, 2009

1887, February 25 – BIRTH OF JOSE RAZZANO

Singer, Composer, Guitarist (Pisces) – at the end of negotiations with the renown Club ArmenonvilleCarlos 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


Jose Razzano was born in Montevideo to a poor immigrant italian 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