Ricardo García Blaya

n the artistic history of maestro Miguel Caló we see two stages well differentiated that reveal his musical evolution and his gifts as great orchestra leader.

Even though his most transcendental success is related to tango in the forties, his work starts in the late twenties and is consolidated during the thirties.

His first stage began with the 1934 orchestra, in which we can appreciate a style familiar to Fresedo´s and a sound that reminds us of Carlos Di Sarli. Although he had put together other outfits before, these were reunited for certain occasions and were of little importance.

The orchestra in 1934 had Miguel Nijensohn on piano, who was to leave an indelible impression on the style of it forever, even after the forties. This instrument will have the responsibility of linking the musical phrases, with a timing and an ideal beat for the dancers.

During this time we can highlight the vocal participation of Carlos Dante, with whom he recorded 18 numbers of a noticeable beauty.

Alberto Morel and his brother Roberto Caló were as well singers in this first part of his history that lasted until the year 1939.

The forties reveal us the maturity of this great director, capable of assembling an outfit of young musicians of extraordinary capacity and professionalism, and all of them later organized their own groups..

At this second stage, Caló carried out and developed a style that connects traditional tango with the innovations of the age, without stridence, with a highlighted presence of the violins, a rhythmic bandoneon section and a spectacular piano, played by Osmar Maderna the first year, who was later replaced by Miguel Nijensohn, on his comeback to the orchestra.

Among the musicians that lined-up in his orchestra, the following stand out: Domingo Federico, Armando Pontier, Carlos Lazzari, Eduardo Rovira, Julián Plaza, José Cambareri (bandoneons), Enrique Francini, Antonio Rodio, Nito Farace (violins), Ariel Pedernera and Juan Fassio (double bass).

Miguel Caló not only promoted great musicians, but also great singers that made their professional debut in his orchestra, for example the cases of Raúl Berón, Alberto Podestá and Raúl Iriarte.

As for Berón we can say that he was discovered by Armando Pontier, who introduced him to the leader, and about this there is an interesting story. This singer together with his brother José was essentially devoted to folk music, furthermore Raúl Berón only knew a few lines of a tango. Because of that, maestro Caló took him to his cabaret Singapur so as he got acquainted with the music of his orchestra.

After outlining a repertory, the singer accompanied the maestro at the radio performances. But as the officials of the broadcasting did not like the singer they suggested Caló to dismiss him. With grief, Caló told him that at the end of the month they would end their relationship.

In the meantime, the first disc recorded by Raúl Berón with the orchestra is issued, the tango “Al compás del corazón” by Domingo Federico and Homero Expósito, which became an incredible boom that meant a success in records sold.

The same officials who had negatively criticized the vocalist, congratulated maestro Caló for his choice and accepted their mistake. This made possible that one of the most important voices of our tango and, undoubtedly, the best the orchestra had, did not spoil his career.

Miguel Caló was a musician formally trained, that studied violin and bandoneon.

After 1926, he was in different orchestras of major importance, he was part of the bandoneon section in the orchestra of Osvaldo Fresedo. In 1927, he was admitted in the pianist and leader Francisco Pracánico's orchestra.

In 1929, he put together his first orchestra, which he disbanded to join the orchestra of the poet and pianist Cátulo Castillo on a tour of Spain. On that tour the brothers Malerba and the singer Roberto Maida were included as well.

He returned to Buenos Aires and re-assembled his orchestra with Domingo Cuestas (bandoneon), Domingo Varela Conte, Hugo Gutiérrez and Enrique Valtri on violins, Enzo Ricci on double bass and the pianist Luis Brighenti.

Once again he is required to travel abroad and in 1931 he went to the United States with the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra.

Already in 1932, again as conductor of his orchestra, he recorded for the first time, for the disappeared Splendid label the numbers: “Milonga porteña” (tango by Caló himself, Luis Brighenti and lyrics by Mario César Gomila) and “Amarguras” (waltz by Miguel Nijensohn and Jaime de los Hoyos). The singer was Román Prince.

Miguel Caló was not a remarkable composer, but some of his works, in collaboration with Osmar Maderna (both also authors of the lyrics), are incredibly beautiful, such as “Jamás retornarás” and “Qué te importa que te llore”, both committed to disc with Raúl Berón's voice. The tango “Dos fracasos”, with lyrics by Homero Expósito and the milonga “Cobrate y dame el vuelto”, lyrics by Enrique Dizeo, were also very popular.

In 1961, with the bandoneonists Armando Pontier and Domingo Federico, the violinists Enrique Francini and Hugo Baralis, on piano Orlando Trípodi, and the singers Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá, Caló re-assembled part of the line-up of the forties, with the name Miguel Caló y su Orquesta de las Estrellas (M.C. and his all-stars orchestra). They played on Radio El Mundo with such success that they recorded on the Odeon label, 12 new numbers (between 16/4/1963 and 7/6/1963).

The Miguel Caló orchestra will be remembered as the best tango performance, one that goes beyond its age and that today is recognized for its great artistic qualities and by a dancing group that permanently evokes it with the notes of “Sans Souci”, maybe its emblematic interpretation.