Ricardo García Blaya

Sexteto Tango

t is, no doubt, one of the orchestral expressions most representative of tango after the sixties, organized like the traditional sextets but with an avant-garde conception that as well was respectful of the essence of the genre.

For the researcher Luis Adolfo Sierra, besides the talent and prestige of its members, the Sexteto was something else, «much more than the sum of worthy individual contributions... it stands as a brand-new, original unit with a sure future projection... that corroborates the perfect possibility of continuing the essential structure of a consecrated style (that of Pugliese’s), without incurring in a fake version or in a vulgar imitation».

The Sexteto was a search not towards new ways of playing or false showy effects, its members perfectly knew what they wanted and despite the common origin of them all —the Osvaldo Pugliese Orchestra— they achieved a sound of their own that was the point of departure of many other aggregations that followed it and, in some cases, imitated.

Although it may seem paradoxical, the idea of putting together a sextet modeled after De Caro came from Pugliese himself when he came back from Japan in 1965. He thought that the group had to reduce the number of its players to face the crisis that tango was undergoing around that time. But he didn’t and his orchestra continued to work.

Due to an illness of the leader, the orchestra interrupted its performances and temporarily disbanded. Then six of its members agreed in making true don Osvaldo’s previous idea and gave birth to the Sexteto Tango in October 1968.

It was a true all-star team of excellent musicians: the bandoneon players Osvaldo Ruggiero and Víctor Lavallén, the violinists Emilio Balcarce and Oscar Herrero, Julián Plaza on piano, on double bass Alcides Rossi and Jorge Maciel on vocals.

Soon thereafter Pugliese resumed his activity and the boys played in both line-ups, until they definitively split in very good terms.

They made their debut at the mythical stage of Caño 14, alongside the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra, the Quinteto Real, Roberto Goyeneche, Rubén Juárez, among others. Later came their first LP for RCA-Victor, titled Presentación del Sexteto Tango with classics like “Quejas de bandoneón”, “Amurado” and others composed by its members, “La bordona” (Emilio Balcarce), “Danzarín” (Julián Plaza) and four sung by Jorge Maciel.

Their debut on television was at the popular program Sábados circulares conducted by Nicolás Mancera on channel 13. Later came their first tour of Montevideo. They appeared at the Hotel Victoria Plaza and at the prestigious Teatro Solís.

In 1970 they started a long tour of the American continent that included Chile, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Santo Domingo and ended in the United States, in the city of Los Angeles.

Four years later they were invited to an important tango show at the Teatro Colón alongside the orchestras led by Aníbal Troilo, Horacio Salgán and Florindo Sassone (the latter substituting for Osvaldo Pugliese who was recovering from a surgical operation). The singers Edmundo Rivero and Roberto Goyeneche as well performed then.

From now on it turns out impossible to describe the crowded agenda of the Sexteto. It was the most requested outfit and its records were released without interruption. Their new tours of Latin America and the United States received an impressive acclaim. They also toured Europe in 1987, appeared successfully in Berlin and later in Paris at the famous local Les trottoirs de Buenos Aires where they were spotlighted for two months as the only show.

Later they went to Japan where they were already known as Pugliese’s musicians. Their shows were so successful that they returned to that country twice.

The Sexteto Tango recorded eleven LPs, all for RCA-Victor and one in Japan for CBS Columbia.

Among their most interesting recordings I want to highlight “Trasnoche”, a quite beautiful instrumental tango by Julián Plaza that has a nostalgic, melancholic melody and a nice arrangement written by its composer.

Besides Jorge Maciel, the Sexteto had Raúl Funes and Jorge Mariano on vocals. In 1983 they released a record with 12 numbers sung by Roberto Goyeneche, among which we highlight the beautiful waltz “Esquinas porteñas” written by Sebastián Piana and Homero Manzi and the tango piece “Estrella” by Marcelino Hernández and Roberto Cassinelli.

The Sexteto Tango had four arrangers: Osvaldo Ruggiero, Julián Plaza, Víctor Lavallén and Emilio Balcarce, furthermore they are all great composers.

Every time I listen to them, they confirm to me that tango, in order to evolve, does not need to depart from its roots and denaturalize its rhythm and, especially, its melody that should not be distorted with arrangements that, in many cases, make it hardly recognizable. The Sexteto Tango is an example of legitimate modern tango whose memory, as a homage, I highlight in this brief portrayal.