Néstor Pinsón

tout, rather fat, and a good guy is the description with which those who knew him and gave us their testimony coincided. Héctor Lucci tells us that in his youth, a waiter of a Japanese barroom located on 25 de Mayo Street a few meters from Corrientes, had told him that on several occasions he had seen that on the corner of the street people used to crowd together to listen to some music. Eager to know, one day he went closer and, in the middle of that occasional audience, he saw Fats Bazán playing a long brass trumpet from which a cloth banner with golden letters was hanging. It was the advertisement of Kalisay, an aperitif of that time, which included the classic boy doll with large head that represented an old man.

According to what some people say, some of his compositions were signed with the sobriquet El Mosquetero (The Musketeer). His studies were quite limited: he only attended some grades of grammar school. At age 13 he began to work as typographer apprentice at the workshops of the La Prensa daily paper. But soon thereafter, because of a strike he was fired. However, he managed to continue in the trade. He started to work at El Porteño newspaper which was run by Emilio Morales who later founded La Razón. He also worked for the latter newspaper but was disappointed many times so he decided to take a chance on music. Those who tracked down his steps date that event around 1903. It was a time when the number of tangos was just a handful.

A dancer known as El Tuerto Pedrín (The one-eyed Pete), whistled to his ear the tangos he knew. And so he started. They say that it was at a little hut in the extremely poor, gloomy Belgrano slope, where fishermen and underworld men used to meet. It was known as La Red (The Net) and there he might have made his debut playing flute, trumpet or clarinet, accompanied on guitar by a guy named Félix Castillo, aka El Chino.

Soon later he became a professional, got his first bucks and achieved a friendship for the rest of his life: He met El Pibe Ernesto Ponzio, violinist, composer, and thief who was accused of a murder for which he was later in jail for 11 years. He formed a quartet together with Vicente Ponzio, an uncle of the Pibe, as well a violinist, and El Tano Tortorelli on harp. Soon thereafter they put together another quartet, this time with Eusebio Aspiazú on guitar and Félix Riglos on flute. They appeared at the horse stables of the Bajo Belgrano (lower area) and at some primitive venues: La Fazenda, La cancha de Rosendo (a place near the old horse race track of Belgrano located where today is the River Plate soccer stadium) and La Milonga del Chino Pantalión, where a row caused that the bullet of a gunshot was lodged in one of his legs forever.

By that time Ponzio went to jail and El Gordo, confused, returned to his job as typographer, this time at the La Linterna de Flores, a newspaper published by Juan José de Soiza Reilly, who used to sign his notes with the nom de plume Agapito Candilejas. But he was unable to bear it for long. Music was calling him, this time for good.

Along with the violinist Francisco Postiglione he joined Roberto Firpo that was playing at the El Velódromo, in Palermo. It was in 1906. There the owner of the venue had the idea of placing Bazán at the door playing his instrument and so draw the attention of the parishioners who had to choose between El Velódromo or Hansen’s, a neighboring local. He found it funny, furthermore it was the source of inspiration for his tango “La chiflada” (The whistle). And he accomplished his mission well because Hansen´s decreased so much its audience that its owner ended up hiring him with some of his boys and with a better pay.

As for the music of that call, people say that it was similar to the one used by Villoldo in his tango “Chiflale que va a venir”.

IIn 1910, he put together his own quartet with Luis Bernstein (bandoneon), Tito Roccatagliata (violin) and Modesto Rodríguez (piano). The latter two were replaced later by El Pardo Alcorta and Roberto Firpo. They also appeared at the Café Oriental, on Entre Ríos Street between Estados Unidos and Carlos Calvo. He was linked to Firpo since 1916, playing in his orchestra whenever he was needed. Since then and until his death every time we hear a clarinet in a recording by Firpo we know that it was his clarinet.

In the late 1917, he fronted another aggregation along with Juan Carlos Cobián, Eduardo Arolas and Roccatagliata. Also he joined the theater orchestra of the Vittone-Pomar company in the Carlos Mauricio Pacheco’s play: Cabaret. When a large orchestra was put together by Francisco Canaro and Firpo for the carnaval balls at the Teatro Colón of Rosario, he was among its members.

In 1921, he formed an orchestra with Emilio De Caro, Nicolás Vaccaro, Juan Bautista Deambroggio and Alejandro Michetti. They traveled to Peru. It turned out a failure and they returned with no money. But he recovered —between 1923 and 1927—, when he was an attraction in the summer evenings of the distingué Club General Pueyrredón of Mar del Plata. The advertisement announced the Orquesta Típica Criolla y Americana led by Juan Carlos Bazán and its members were mentioned: A. Fernández on drums (in English because they thought its sound was better than the Spanish equivalent), Raymundo Petillo (piano), José María Bianchi (bandoneon), Bernardo Germino (concertino), Vicente Russo (violin), Pascual Mazzeo (bandoneon). At the venue the popular Casimiro Aín was the dancing instructor. However, his contract was abruptly cancelled when he conquered the heart of a lady, of course quite distingué too. He married the latter even though he was already married.

Fortunately, thanks to the movies we have his image in the first Argentine sound picture: ¡Tango! (1933). For the occasion he formed the Conjunto de La Guardia Vieja, alongside his recovered friend Ernesto Ponzio. We can also see Bianchi (bandoneon), El Pardo Alcorta (second violin), Vicente Pecci (flute), Eusebio Aspiazú (guitar). They play “Don Juan (El taita del barrio)”, an excerpt of “El entrerriano” (at the time El Cachafaz dances), an excerpt of “La chiflada” and, accompanying Tita Merello when she sings “Yo soy así para el amor”.

With the same aggregation he appeared at the Teatro Nacional. And in 1934 he said in an interview that he was resolved to form a group of folk music with Parreño, Navas and the Pérez-Estrella duo. We ignore if that project came true. The following year Ponzio passed away, the tango group disbanded and his career in music faded out like his own life. He died some months after his friend’s death.

With Roberto Firpo he recorded for the Nacional Odeon label some piano and clarinet duets. Our friend and collector Héctor Lucci owns one of them: “Noches orientales”, a waltz written by Ángel Metallo, of 1917 (Nacional Odeon disc 897-A. Thanks to Enrique Binda). It is an excellent recording in which Firpo has the role of accompanist to feature Bazán as soloist. It allows us to enjoy an in-depth listening of his playing.