Hugo Salerno
| Ricardo García Blaya

phone rang: —«Hello, Pichuco’s talkin’, kid!... I’m at the Marabú, come here ‘cause you’re gonna join my orchestra».

«I hurried up right away, —Ernesto recalls— and ten days later I was playing with Aníbal Troilo».

That phone call he got at the house of his mother, doña Rosario, back in 1959, still gives him a thrill. Once El Gordo had mistaken him for Leopoldo Federico when Baffa played in the Horacio Salgán’s aggregation, precisely replacing Leopoldo. After the misunderstanding, at one of the tables of the venue El patio de la morocha, Pichuco suggested that he would join him.

«My dream’s come true!» —says he— and he’s happy as when, still with short trousers, he climbed the fence of the Club Flores Que Surgen in Floresta, his hometown, to hear and see his admired bandoneon player. Even today, as soon as he opens the door to his heart Troilo appears.

But all this not only Ernesto tells us but he plays it. During the largest part of the talking the one that talks is the bandoneon. «This beast (referring to the instrument) is very difficult and you can’t stop practicing» —he asserts—, and he even presents his wife as a witness that he practices daily. Like he used to do with maestro Francisco Sesta whose fingering methods he is still using as well as the exercices that Marcos Madrigal taught him.

Thereafter he displayed his virtuosity by playing Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria”. A break for coffee and later, a couple of tangos will come. The memories of his childhood appear with a series of Italian songs that were a joy for Antonio, his father, a bricklayer who had arrived from Cosenza, Italy. «He managed to hear me when I played with Héctor Stamponi, later I lost him. He didn’t see me when I was with the greats. Oh! Had he seen me with Salgán, with Troilo...» He confesses it with wet eyes.

Some time later, he shows his passion for the Club Atlético Independiente (a soccer club) with an excerpt of his tango “Para el amigo Luis Islas” (an important goalkeeper of that soccer club). The chat and the music seem to be endless. A little before saying goodbye he sums up his feelings in a few words: «The satisfactions that music has brought to me cannot be described. I played with the best ones, what else can I ask for? In addition, I go on in the business».

Ernesto Baffa made his debut in the Héctor Stamponi’s orchestra in 1948 and, in 1953 he joined Salgán’s. About that Horacio Ferrer says: «During his adolescence he reached a high level of recognition as successor to Leopoldo Federico in the leadership of the bandoneon section in the Horacio Salgán Orchestra. His excellent sound and his mastery of the instrument were undoubtedly evidenced in many of the solos he played with that aggregation: “Responso”, “Entre tango y tango” and the milonga “Homenaje” (disc Antar Telefunken, 1957)». In 1959 he switched to the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra in which he stayed nearly 15 years.

«I brought Raúl Garello to the orchestra. He studied with me, in the house of my late mother, and one day there was a vacant place: Fernando Tell quit so I introduced him to Troilo».

He was still with Pichuco (1965) when he put together a trio with Osvaldo Berlingieri and the bass player Fernando Cabarcos. It would later become —after he split with El Gordo— the famous Baffa-Berlingieri Orchestra which recorded unforgettable pages with Roberto Goyeneche and excellent instrumentals: “Cabulero”, “Canaro en París”, “Ritual”, “Mi refugio”, “Verano porteño”, among others.

In his Libro del tango, Ferrer considers that the orchestra sound has Troilean origins and valuable influences by Astor Piazzolla and Salgán, which combined, result in a style of its own.

«Now there are new boys engaged in electronic tango; all right, I’m sorry but I don’t like it. Even though I played with Piazzolla, an avant-garde musician. But Troilo was an exceptional fellow. There is something that many people ignore; in his latter records I was the one who played the solos. He conducted and gave me the honor to play them».

In the Festival of Medellín held in 1968 he was awarded the Lira de Oro (Golden Lyre) due to his performance. In his long career it is worth mentioning his tenure in the orchestras led by Alberto Mancione, Alfredo Gobbi, Pedro Laurenz and in the outfit that accompanied the singer Alberto Marino.

With his music he traveled to Europe and Japan and appeared to great acclaim.

In the latter times he continued his task by leading smaller outfits which possess the same sound quality that distinguished his musical career.

As a composer his oeuvre is extensive. We highlight some numbers: “Calavereando”; “Con punto y coma”; “Pa’la guardia” in collaboration with Antonio Scelza; “Porteñero” and “Chumbicha” with Raúl Garello; “Trasnoche de ilusión”, also with the latter and his brother Rubén Garello in the words; “Tu amor y tu olvido”, with Roberto Pérez Prechi and lyrisc by Ángel Di Rosa, “Bardiana” with Enrique Munné; “Un tango para Bochini” with Roberto Vallejos; “Al amigo Daniel Scioli” with Daniel Lomuto; “B.B.” and the exquisite “Par de dos”, both with Berlingieri.

In 1992 he was appointed Ciudadano Ilustre de Buenos Aires (Illustrious Citizen of B.A) by the Buenos Aires legislature. Furthermore, he was member of the Selección Nacional del Tango and, heading his Ernesto Baffa Trio, he keeps on delighting us at the Café Homero.