Oscar Zucchi

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True name: Justo César Ginzo
Bandoneon player, leader and composer
(29 September 1903 - 11 March 1983)
Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina

by Oscar Zucchi

He was born in the neighborhood of San Telmo on a dead-end street named Luján.

He skillfully carried out his career at an important tango period, from the beginning of the 20’s to the early 40’s, in which its most busy activity took place.

His landmarks begin when he joined the primitive sextet led by Carlos Di Sarli and later he was member of the groups fronted by Juan Carlos Cobián, Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores, Juan Carlos Bazán and co-leader with Armando Baliotti of his own orchestra.

Nearly at age twenty he began to study when he was attracted to the bandoneon: «I bought the first one when I worked as typist in a metal work enterprise. It was in the Celestino Fernández house, its trademark was El Argentino and its price was $350. I held it backwards but I liked it and took it home».

He knew nothing about the musical art, but he got in touch with Domingo Julio Vivas, bandoneonist and later guitarist for Carlos Gardel, who began to introduce him into the subject. «Vivas taught me by ear the pieces I liked most and so three months later I had a repertoire of around ten compositions. Vivas, in the afternoons, played at the Café Domínguez (Corrientes between Paraná and Montevideo). One afternoon when I went to hear him he asked me to replace him for a while because he had another job at the same time. I started and played for several hours because he came back much later. So I played for fifteen days until one afternoon he asked me if I played “La cumparsita”. I replied that I did, then he sent me to the Teatro Porteño because they were looking for two bandoneon players. I turned up and they signed me. I worked there for two months.

«I studied harmony, on my own, with the Rimsky Korsakoff’s book. In 1923, at the Domínguez, I made my debut with a humble trio along with Mario Brugni (violin) and Pedro Vilella (piano). Later with Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores and thereafter I joined the group led by Juan Carlos Bazán.

«With Flores, for the recordings, I was replaced by Gabriel Clausi aka Chula. That was at the San Martín movie theater of Flores (7056 Rivadavia Avenue)».

In 1927 Osvaldo Fresedo introduced his ensemble at El Tabarís (ex Royal Pigall) and, at the same time, another sextet at the Casino Pigall (Maipú between Corrientes and Sarmiento). But he had other engagements with the Bar Fresedo and the Cine Fénix of Flores (7802 Rivadavia Avenue). Because of that, he was forced to put together another sextet, which he named Fresedo, as stipulated in the contract with the Fénix. For that, on advice of his substitute José Domingo Pécora, he summoned Carlos Di Sarli who was then jobless. The latter led this group in which Ginzo played. As reward for that action, the pianist from Bahía Blanca dedicated to him the beautiful melody of the tango “Milonguero viejo (Fresedo)”, which was already composed back in 1926.

Ginzo quit in 1928 and did not succeed in recording with that sextet. That same year Juan Carlos Cobián returned to our country to record for the Victor label. He put together a large orchestra that included Cobián (piano), Elvino Vardaro, Manlio Francia, Vicente Russo, Fausto Frontera and Bernardo Germino (violins); Luis Petrucelli, Ciriaco Ortiz, César Ginzo, Vicente Romeo and Luis Minervini (bandoneons); Humberto Costanzo and Adolfo Krauss (alternatively on double bass). The pianist René Cóspito also played in this group. The refrain singer (estribillista) was Francisco Fiorentino, who joined them to substitute for Romeo as bandoneon player and take advantage of his ability as singer.

Thereafter he was invited to join the quartet that Armando Baliotti had put together with the players of the Miguel Caló sextet who decided not to travel to Spain with Roberto Maida and Cátulo Castillo. Those who stayed were Raúl Kaplún (violin) and Domingo Cuestas (bandoneon). Others were soon included: Luis Adesso (double bass), Domingo Mancuso (violin) and Carlos Alsina as vocalist.

In the beginning of the 30’s there were less jobs for music groups when sound movies appeared. Baliotti and Ginzo teamed up to work downtown and, firstly, they appeared at a café on Corrientes Street which was close to the El Germinal. They were the same guys save for the inclusion of Alfredo Attadía and Martín Cuestas (bandoneon) who replaced his brother Domingo Cuestas who joined again the Miguel Caló orchestra.

In 1931 they appeared at the Salón Imperio, on Maipú and Lavalle. Later Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores summoned him to travel to Europe: Spain, Italy, France, Canary Islands and African cities. The musicians were: César Ginzo, Héctor Presas and Luis Moresco (bandoneons), Alberto Mercy and Víctor Canfranc (violins), Geroni Flores (piano); Alfredo Marino and Héctor Farrell (singers). In 1933 they recorded several tracks for La Voz del Amo (His Master’s Voice)(Victor in Spain) in Barcelona: “Criolla linda” by a bandoneon trio; a piano solo by Geroni Flores: “La querencia”. That year they returned to our country and the Baliotti-Ginzo duo was formed again.

In 1938 he appeared with his own orchestra at different night venues, at the Hotel Alvear, at teatime at Harrod’s and on LR5 Radio Excelsior, where, for eight months, he was conducting three different orchestras: La Típica Ginzo, the América folk music orchestra and a third one with light music.

The players were basically the same ones: Jaime Gosis (piano); Ginzo, Anselmo Esmella and Jorge Sara (bandoneons); Víctor Hormaechea and Carlos Campanone (both ex-violinists of the Vardaro-Pugliese sextet); Francisco Molo (viola); Wilek (double bass).

Between 1938 and 1946 they were, among other musical activities, on Radio Splendid, Prieto and La Voz del Aire. They continued at renowned night venues. In 1947 the folk music orchestra, with some added personnel, played on sequences of the movie Santos Vega, with the appearance of the actor Fernando Ochoa. The music included four pieces by Ginzo and was awarded the prize Cóndor for it.

In 1969 he had been retired for several years and was living in Mar del Plata. He was not a prolific composer, but we can mention those which stood out: “Corazón callate un poco”, co-written with Baliotti, “El tábano” and “Sin ternura” (also with Baliotti), “Noche de San Juan” (with Roberto Dolard and lyrics by Celedonio Flores), “Perdoná si no vuelvo” (with lyrics by Carlos Pesce), the waltz “En un rincón de Hungría” (with lyrics by Marvil). He also composed some folk tunes like the zambas: “Camino de San Javier” and “Nunca te pude olvidar”.

Excerpted from the book: El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes, Tomo IV, Editorial Corregidor, Buenos Aires 2008.