Horacio Loriente

smart and precise expression by Erasmo Silva Cabrera (Avlis) says: «Carlos Warren was always, due to the capabilities he possessed, in the front line of the Montevidean musicians. He had a background of knowledge, experience and was a tireless fighter for tango».

He was born in Mercedes, county of Soriano, on 16 Alzago Street (today Florida). His father named Carlos, who died at an early age, was attorney, paper man, writer and vice-rector of the Colegio Nacional of Concepción del Uruguay. His mother, Rosa Mernies, taught him his early piano lessons.

Going against his family, in 1908 Carlitos began to play piano in his hometown at cafés and family houses. The first tango he played was “Cololó”. It had been composed by the violinist Santos Retali, also born in Mercedes.

His debut was at the Teatro Casino in his city and he played “La morocha”. Later together with a friend he ran away from home. Firstly he went to Gualeguaychú and thereafter he moved to Buenos Aires. There he found a job at a notary’s office and he also played piano in movie theaters and cheap cafes, but unsuccessfully. Admirer of Roberto Firpo, he learned much from him by appraising his capabilities and also becoming his friend.

In 1913, opposite the cabaret Armenonville where Firpo played, at a venue called La Glorieta, Warren appeared with a small group along with the violinist Pedro Aragón and an unknown flutist.

He returned to Montevideo in the summer of 1914 and worked at the café Petit Salón on Andes Street, in the basement floor of the Moulin Rouge with the violinist Ataliva Galup and Minotto Di Cicco that played a half-toned accordion. In 1915 Warren appeared at the famous café Au bon Marché on Florida and Soriano with Félix Rodríguez on bandoneon and the violinist Padilla. Late that year an incident took place and the small group was fired. Because of that Juan Maglio (Pacho) was hired at that venue soon later.

They switched to the café Juncal where one evening Pacho went to hear his peers. Warren, on that occasion, played the tango “Cielito” to honor the former and Pacho, in return, played Pascual Cardaropoli’s tango “La sonámbula” as a bandoneon solo.

In 1916, with Minotto and Padilla, from the Juncal he swapped to the Moulin Rouge. On the opposite side of the street, in the attic of the Hotel Comercio, Pascual Contursi lived. At intervals, Warren used to accompany him on piano when the former added words to Vicente Greco’s “El flete”, Augusto Berto’s “La biblioteca” and other ones. There an important event took place when Contursi —accompanied by Warren—, sang for the first time “Mi noche triste”.

In Novembere 1916 a regrettable incident ended up in the death of Pancho Zerbino, a frequent customer of the Moulin. This caused the temporary closure of the venue and the disbandment of the small aggregation. The following year Warren and Minotto returned but this time accompanied by the violinists Federico Lefémina and Juan Tróccoli. By that time Gerardo Matos Rodríguez handed Warren a manuscript of “La cumparsita” which was rejected by Minotto, probably, due to wrong notation.

Some months after Eduardo Arolas and his group’s appearance in Montevideo they made a tour of the province of Buenos Aires in 1919. When he was in the city of Tres Arroyos José María Rizzuti and Julio De Caro quit. This forced Arolas to replace De Caro with Miguel La Salvia and soon summon Warren to substitute for Rizzuti. The orchestra appeared at the cabaret Maxim’s for a tenure that lasted until the end of the year. Later it disbanded and Warren and Arolas returned to Montevideo.

Warren again put together an orchestra, this time with Arolas and José Quevedo (bandoneons) and Edgardo Donato and José Pécora (violins) and they appeared in Carrasco and Parque Hotel. In August 1919 they formed the Arolas-Warren team and appeared at the Casino Pigall that was directed by Sarita Davis. By that time Warren began his performances at the Club Uruguay where he played at its seasons for many years. The bandoneon player and the pianist broke up but their friendship would remain unaltered and even they would appear on a special occasion in September 1921 at the Trianón movie theater on Avenida 18 de Julio for the shows known as Viernes Azules (Blue Fridays). The announcements said: «Típica Warren backed by professor Arolas, notable bandoneon player». At the same venue Warren conducted a classical orchestra for some years.

In the early 20s he formed the first jazz orchestra in Montevideo. Its photo appears in sheet music copies of maxixas and other genres. Warren was the leader and pianist, Edgardo Donato and José Pécora (violins), Julián González (drums), Rafael Vinci (sax) and Martín Pons (flute).

In April 1921 he was one of the founders of the Pianists Association that used to meet in the rooms of the disappeared newspaper La Noche. In this institution, that worked until 1929, all the applications for jobs in theaters, cafés, cinemas, etc. were channeled. They were meant not only for pianists but also for musicians in general.

In 1924 Roberto Zerrillo on violin and Alberto Rodríguez on bandoneon were members of his orchestra. Previously, at the carnival balls of 1922, Juan José Castellanos and Edgardo Donato were his violinists and Julián González, the drummer, and they appeared at the Parque Hotel.

In February 1924 he was summoned by the Mundo Uruguayo magazine as member of the board for a tango talent contest. Another member of the board maestro Alfredo Pignalosa. The event awarded the tango “Mundo Uruguayo” written by the young author Juan Bautista D’Angelo as first prize.

On one of his consecrating appearances at the Club Uruguay he was congratulated by the Prince of Wales. He would always remember that occasion with satisfaction and joy.

The disappearance of the Pianists Association coincided with the advent of sound movies in Montevideo. In such a way an important source of job for musicians was gone. The few cafés with box for players turned out insufficient for the work of musicians. Even in the middle of an uncertain environment and against difficulties Warren went on fighting for assembling the musicians in another institution. It was the one that preceded the present Asociación General de Autores del Uruguay. The singer and author Carlos Marambio Catán said about him: «Warren was a true gentleman, kind and right in all he did».

In November 1933 the Típica Warren was a boom at the studios of CX46 Radio América. They played a book that included numbers of a very good taste and its members were excellent musicians: Pedro Casella and Luis Altieri (violins); Alfredo Gianni and Pedro Macchi (bandoneons) and Francisco Pitocco (string bass). Simultaneously, it appeared at the cabaret Alcázar (Tacuarembó 1475) playing jazz and variety numbers, while the tangos were played by Juan Manuel González Prado who headed another group. Among the audience Carlos Gardel was there from time to time.

He also appeared with his orchestra in the incipient national movies. In 1938 he was part of the cast of “Soltero soy feliz” that starred Ramón Collazo, Alberto Vila and Mirta Reid. Two years later he appeared with his orchestra in the differrent stages of the great popular contest organized by AGADU in several movie theaters of Montevideo. His restless spirit drove him to put together a big all-rhythm orchestra in 1941 and made its debut on Radio Nacional with three vocalists: Violeta Gómez, Wilfredo Ferradenz and Jorge Warren, who also played accordion.

His most successful piece is “Siga el tango” that many years later would revive his fame when it was transformed into a candombe under the name “Siga el baile”. Some other titles are: “Porque te quise” —with lyrics by Yonegal, his first recorded tango—, “Compadrito” —with lyrics by Carlos Álvarez Pintos—, “Marcelo” —in collaboration with Félix Donato and lyrics by Miguel Héctor Escudero—, “Alma de milonga [b]” — in collaboration with Juan Baüer—, “Cuesta abajo [b]” —with words by Carlos César Lenzi—, “Qué me importa [b]”.

Until his last day his nice pleasant figure was always in tango events. Undoubtedly, Carlos Warren is a transcendental musician in the history of the River Plate tango.

Excerpted from: Loriente, Horacio: Ochenta notas de Tango. Perfiles Biográficos, Ediciones de La Plaza, Montevideo 1998. Under the auspices of the Academia de Tango del Uruguay.