Oscar Zucchi

e was, as a performer, a player with a very good technique and a great command of his instrument. Although he had a tendency to use some gimmicks to impress his audience and used to play many embellishment notes —known in the milieu as «verduras»— his musicianship is not under suspicion. One way in which he displayed his skills was playing two bandoneons, one with each hand, which were vertically placed on the floor.

They were three brothers devoted to bandoneon playing. The eldest, José Scarpino —was an intuitive musician and was always associated to Alejandro— and Domingo Scarpino was always on his own.

As it was customary by that time, the financial situation was difficult so besides attending grade school he had to help his father who was a cobbler in the afternoon and in the evening he had to shout out the sixth edition of the newspapers in the streets. In spite of the hard times he was little by little collecting cents to buy an accordion with only eight bass notes which he learned to play. Then he and his brother José —who had a good voice— went out to play serenades around the neighborhood.

His father introduced him to a man that had just arrived from Italy and who was a violinist that read music. The latter was his first music teacher. Later he achieved more experience when he met an itinerant musician that had come from Tucumán who simultaneously played guitar and harmonica. For a time they teamed up and appeared at several drinking parlors. This time his partner was José Luis Padula.

At age eighteen he was beginning to be recognized. Then he became acquainted with a thoroughly trained Italian pianist who was member of an operetta company. His name was Guillermo Césari. They teamed up and put together an orchestra which they co-led. They named it La Unión. His brother José was one of the members of the bandoneon section and also the refrain singer. Another member was Juan Caldarella that played the musical saw. By that time he and his brother José composed their first tango, “Llanto de perla”.

The Parque Goal, a kind of resort that pretended to be a tearoom, founded in 1917 and located on Avenida de Mayo 1473, was the meeting place for payadores and folk singers. Some of them were renowned like Francisco Bianco who appeared with the sobriquet Pancho Cuevas, Juan Pedro López, Américo Caggiano, the Ítalo Goyeche-Néstor Feria duo and others.

Tango entered that venue when «Scarpino y su conjunto» appeared with a repertoire that also included the then called light music which were famous excerpts of classical music pieces. The owners of the venue awarded him a gold medal for his performance.

Many had been intrigued about the name Parque Goal and, of course, it has a soccer origin. In order to draw people’s attention, among other entertainments, the attendants were allowed to shot five penalties to a goalkeeper of the house (his name is not known). We think there was a prize for the one who was able to score all the goals.

1924 is busy for him. He appeared with his boys at the famous Café Nacional. Always with his brother José as sideman and Enrique Sciarretta on string bass. By that time also he was member of a trio with Carlos Di Sarli (piano) and Lorenzo Olivari (violin). They appeared on LOX Radio Cultura. The radio broadcasting had just begun.

Soon thereafter, now with his orchestra, he switched to Radio Nacional estación Flores, on Boyacá Street, the predecessor to Radio Belgrano. And again he appeared on Cultura which broadcasted his performance along with his great friend Juan Caldarella. The latter was formerly guitarist but now he was playing the musical saw.

The following year he appeared at a café of La Boca —Noce—, the place where Scarpino might have composed his famous tango “Canaro en París”. The composer himself, in a radio interview, said that it was a number with no title. But one day when he was on a streetcar in the Última Hora newspaper he read a headline: «Canaro arrives in Paris». Those lines inspired him and soon later, before the creation of SADAIC, on May 6, 1927 he filed a record —as it was costumary then— at the Biblioteca Nacional as «Gran tango de salón para piano», with lyrics by his brother José. Later Juan Caldarella was mentioned as co-writer of the music. This was regarded as a gift from the composer to his friend.

One of the features of the tango that is welcome by the audiences is the section with the final variations to showcase the bandoneon players. There are several hypotheses about its creation but our friend Gabriel Clausi who was present at the back of a café, a small backyard in the open air, commented: «The mad Caldarella caught a comb, wrapped it up with a cellophane paper and began to play the tango with the variation he devised on the spur of the moment».

At the Café Nacional he stayed —with breaks in between— until 1930. He also appeared, among so many venues, at a café of Villa Urquiza and in 1927 he included a singer named Juvenal.

Another of his compositions was “No llore viejita” with lyrics by Julio Aparicio. The latter was a guitar strummer and singer that had teamed up with Juan Carlos Marambio Catán (under the sobriquet Núñez). The song was sent to Carlos Gardel by Guillermo Barbieri and El Morocho recorded it in 1930.

Therefter he began to teach bandoneon playing. In 1947 he formed the Cuarteto Espectacular Buenos Aires. Its members Scarpino on bandoneon, Francisco Di Rosa (piano), Juan Pedro Castillo (violin) and Mario Canaro (double bass). His career had no break. In 1954 the singer Ángel Vargas, as soloist, asked him to form a small group for his accompaniment. It was Scarpino himself with two guitarists. They recorded: “Muchacho”, “El espejo de tus ojos”, “Ayer”, “La bruja”, “Cartas viejas” and “No aflojés”.

In 1959 he appeared for a season on Radio del Pueblo. Then his singer was Néstor Núñez (later Ricardo Guzmán). In 1962 he devoted entirely to teaching and trade. A little before his death he composed the tango “Era sólo para ti”.

He composed around 200 pieces. Many of them were never committed to disc and the remainder ones were of an uneven quality and scarcely aired. But with “Canaro en París” and even with “Seguime si podés” it would be enough to take him into account.

Excerpted from his book El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes, Volume IV, Corregidor Editions.