Pianist, bandoneonist, composer and arranger
(9 July 1928 - 19 April 2003)
conjunction of varied and positive qualities has harmoniously concurred so that Julián Plaza could shape one of the most outstanding artistic personalities in the history of tango.
Bandoneonist, pianist, composer and, especially, arranger, were the abilities through which he launched his name, not only to public consideration, but especially into the circle of music professionals, among whom he enjoys a well deserved prestige. He has achieved an authority by way of study, work and talent.
As a player, he has evidenced a special ductility to adapt himself to the most varied interpretative styles, since at its time, he joined orchestras of widely different modalities (Edgardo Donato, Antonio Rodio, Miguel Caló, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese), and in all them he achieved an excellent degree of consubstantiation.
That permanent challenge whose rules he accepted with pleasure and discipline, would be later a valuable ally, together with the study of the different musical rules, when he started his very important work as arranger, a labor in which he would reach his highest peak with the works he made for the two most outstanding outfits of the latter times, Aníbal Troilo and Osvaldo Pugliese, without discrediting by that the notable display achieved, in like manner, for the Sexteto Tango.
In composition as well he stood out with very personal features. His tangos and milongas, nearly all instrumentals, bear the seal of an authentic creator, a peculiarity that began to be evidenced since his first important work, which we guess, may be the tango A lo moderno, premiered in 1954 by the Miguel Caló orchestra, and that later continued with that unsurpassable series that is formed by "Sensiblero", "Danzarín", "Melancólico", "Nostálgico" and "Disonante", which with others he made known in the mid- 50s make a list of a very even quality.
Julián Plaza, from the crossing of these three roads, playing, arranging and composing, has been a musician in permanent search. After that first experience in the famous Forties, he later became a leading figure in the generation of the Fifty Five, together with Atilio Stampone, Osvaldo Berlinghieri, Leopoldo Federico, Osvaldo Requena and some others, to afterwards continue towards improvement and evolution, always in constant progression, probably influenced by the weight of Astor Piazzolla. But that avant-garde tendency never drew him far from the genuine tango roots. His moderation and his clear vision that tango, to continue being called as such, must keep its authentic popular and urban fleshiness, place him at an important place of its history.
In a word, Julián Plaza went as far as the exact extreme was allowed by the genre. Beyond that limit, tango even loses its name.
Julián Plaza was born in General Manuel Campos, a small locality of the province of La Pampa, on July 9, 1928.
He began his musical instruction with his father, who had learnt to play bandoneon by mail. When Julián was eleven, his family moved to Buenos Aires; he started to study with Félix Lipesker; by that time he was member of infantile orchestras, where he was learning to play in a group.
His fast improvements allowed him to debut in Edgardo Donato´s orchestra at the age of fifteen, and soon later with Antonio Rodio´s outfit; in 1949 he joined Miguel Caló´s ranks, with which he stayed nearly ten years. Meanwhile, he made a long tour through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon with Eduardo Bianco.
Later he joined Carlos Di Sarli and was associated with Atilio Stampone and Florindo Sassone as arranger.
During 1959 he joined the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra, always as bandoneonist. With this outfit he was on tour of Russia and China in that year. He was with the author of "Recuerdo" until 1968, when, with other members of the orchestra, they formed the Sexteto Tango: Osvaldo Ruggiero and Víctor Lavallén (bandoneons), Emilio Balcarce and Oscar Herrero (violins), Alcides Rossi (double bass) and Plaza himself as pianist; with this group they recorded for the Victor label.
In 1992 he decided to split with the Sexteto Tango, trying to shape his artistic personality, that is to say, taking a chance on the orchestral conduction, a discipline he had not undertaken yet.
His efforts of recent times have been directed to assemble his own outfit, to play his own tangos with his own arrangements. And on that struggle he is now.
Among his many and varied activities, let us say that while he alternated his work in the Miguel Caló orchestra, he formed an "a capella" bandoneon quartet, lined up by Alfredo Marcucci, Ernesto Franco and Atilio Corral.
Alongside these works, he began to experience with arranging (he told the specialist Nélida Rouchetto that he wrote his first arrangement in 1950 for the Miguel Caló orchestra: the milonga "Dominguera"). In this difficult task he made numerous works for Atilio Stampone, Leopoldo Federico, Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Osvaldo Piro, José Colángelo and many for the Sexteto Tango. To that we have to add the professional labor he displayed writing standard arrangements in Editorial Korn.
Also for the movies he contributed his music and his arrangements, for the Argentine films "La tregua", "Solamente ella" and "Chau, papá", whose soundtracks were recorded by his own orchestra.
Furthermore, in this brief summary I do not want to leave unmentioned the arrangements and the accompaniment he provided for Susana Rinaldi on the recording of her LP Recordando a Homero Manzi (some of the musicians that were part of that outfit were no less than Osvaldo Berlingheri, Ernesto Baffa and Fernando Suárez Paz, among others).
In a previous work of mine (Abel Fleury. Vida y obra, Editorial GraFer, 1995) I expressed a concept related to the work of composer of every musician, that I think convenient to quote here, because it perfectly fits to comment Julián Plaza´s creative work:
"Every composer, no matter how large his output may be, always has a work that, without being the most polished, it is the one that defines his style. In it, by exact and harmonious conjunction of certain values, the author has evidenced his sensitivity, has laid his roots bare, shown his knowledge and developed his creative capacity, achieving in that synthesis the identity of all his labor. Reasons of impact on popular taste, the acceptance and the incitement it provokes on the players, who, by including it in their repertoires, create the necessary channels to secure it with the necessary widespreading and make that composition be welcomed by the ears and the emotion of wide audiences. Besides the technical and aesthetic values, what turns out true is that through all that context a determinate work of composition finally becomes for its author a kind of summary of his artistic personality".
And that summary, in Julián Plaza´s case, can be looked after in his tango Danzarín.
We had already mentioned at the beginning some numbers, A lo moderno, (the first one), which was followed by five wonderful instrumental tangos: the recently commented Danzarín, Sensiblero, Melancólico, Nostálgico and Disonante, and four milongas with different accentuations: Dominguera (urban), Payadora (folk), Nocturna (urban) and Morena (milonga candombe).
Milontango, Buenos Aires-Tokyo, Color tango and Cuánta angustia -I guess the only tango with lyrics (by Manolo Barros)- are also works of his. And there are, surely, many more, but the above mentioned, I think, are which better represent his style and his personality as composer.
Furthermore, we need to say, they are the most widely spread and the ones that most often have been recorded by different groups.
Originally published in "Tango y Lunfardo" magazine, Nº 130, Chivilcoy, 16 July 1997.