Cóspito - A meeting with René Cóspito
t was on a Saturday, after noon, when it occurred to me to visit a restaurant about which I had been informed. I walked along Corrientes Avenue and turned to Talcahuano Street, there I found the local that people used to say that belonged to Horacio Ferrer and Antonio Carrizo. A few tables were occupied. I chose one past the middle of the salon.
After I made my order, I noticed that on one side of the entrance there was a piano played by someone who was hardly seen. I immediately recognized him. He was the same one of the roof garden reunions at the Automóvil Club Argentino, the one of the Harrods shop, the one at the Hotel Alvear and at so many other places. He performed a routine of varied rhythms as comfortably as he would be talking to a friend.
Then there was a brief break that I took advantage of to request “Esponjita” in a loud voice. The pianist paused and turned around to locate where the voice came from. He smiled at me and started to play that tango of his lost in the memory of the world but not by his own. Later I recalled he had composed it in 1932 nearly by the same time he had written another one entitled “Porota”. I think none of them were recorded.
After his playing round was finished he came to my table and I invited him to sit by my side. When the waiter came he asked a coffee and a marroquito (a old word used to indicate a piece of bread or a small roll generally of the previous day). Maybe he noticed something in my face because he soon tried to explain it and smilingly he told me:
«Don’t you think I’m starving, it’s an old habit of mine. I’m in a good financial situation. I had a retirement pension here and another in the United States because of my jobs in that country. In Buenos Aires I’m called from everywhere and that helps me to keep my mind and my fingers agile.
«I’ll tell you the story of “Esponjita”. I’m a musician devoted to jazz but I have had my tango times. The orchestra we had put together with Eduardo Armani was, possibly, the most renowned for several years. We used to play an elegant jazz. We were like Osvaldo Fresedo for tango. We used to play in Harrods at tea time. One day Armani told me we had been summoned by the Teatro Casino where it was intended to be introduced a musical with several figures and we were one of the main attractions. There was a good pay; with what I collected in three months I bought a new car and I still had money left.
«Among the hired people there were some female dancers of the Teatro Colón and, among them, two quite pretty sisters of German origin. We soon fell for them. They were very funny and it was a pleasure to spend the time with them. The one I chose had a quality: after the performances when we met to dine she used to drink rather heavily, before the meals, with the courses and a lot of champagne after lunch. It struck us that she was not altered at all as if she would had drunk only water. Armani told me that she was like a sponge. I like his phrase and so I entitled a tango I had already composed. All this with the sole intention of going on with the joke. And I tried to play it every time we were together.
«But this didn’t finish here. Armani went on with his girl for a long time but I split with mine when I met the one who would be later my wife. About fifteen years later, when Perón was president, I was hired for a social rendezvous which would reunite the most prominent people in the government. Nearly at the end of the party Raúl Apold, press secretary, approached me and congratulated me. After his words he enthusiastically introduced me to his wife. She turned out to be Esponjita so I met her again but I only seriously said hello to her.
«I was born to a musical environment: my father run a conservatory where he also taught. He was also lead mandolin player of the Teatro Colón’s orchestra. My mother was a concert pianist and I, like so many kids that played an instrument, earned my first bucks in the movie theaters of the neighborhood playing along with silent movies.
«It was a great satisfaction for me when Juan Carlos Cobián heard me playing —I was just 20 years old— and he invited me to play tangos for several appearances as a duo with two pianos. I have always been lucky and always had jobs. The American artist Don Dean arrived in our country on a tour. He was a smash hit at the Hotel Alvear and later in other venues. But he fell in love with an Argentine girl and here he stayed. His siblings were musicians. When he married by 1935 he quit everything and gave me a part of his orchestra, his contracts, all. The singer was Fernando Torres. Later I included Eduardo Farrel. Both vocalists had a long career in bolero.
«My groups always shared billboards with tango men. I remember Juan D'Arienzo, Miguel Caló, Julio De Caro and all the others. For the Victor label I recorded for many years as René Cóspito, su piano y su ritmo. One day a manager of the Columbia company, Mr. Taylor, came to see me because he had liked my versatility and he wondered if I would like to record tangos in a trio accompanied by guitar and bass. I told him that I played head arrangements. That made him more enthusiastic. “Get 20 tangos ready, he told me, but you must use another name so that people will not identify you”. So the sobriquet Don Goyo was born. I liked it and the first LP was released. But it had a bonus. There was some milonga and, in other cases, two tangos in a track as a medley. It was a hit and up to now six records were released and I don’t remember the number of pieces».
After some more words —he had to go on with his playing— we said goodbye and I did not see him again. This happened in 1992 or, perhaps, one year later.
As composer he was not often requested. In 1930 Charlo, as refrain singer in the Francisco Canaro Orchestra, recorded his fox-trot “No me fastidies más”. Another number played by some tango men was the shimmy “Tut Ank Kamón”. In 1932, besides “Porota” and “Esponjita” he released “Yuyito [b]”, “Decime la verdad”, “Ada”, “Salvaje”, “Bandido”, “Delirio [b]”. In 1940: “El vals de medianoche”, between 1969 and 1972: “La desnuda verdad”, “Dicen de vos”, and in 1972: “Es un otoño más” and the milonga “En un ranchito de tejas”.
He was born in Buenos Aires in the neighborhood of Villa Devoto and he died in this city. He was always a gentleman and in his long life he kept a humble, sober behavior.