Santos Lipesker

Real name: Lipezker, Salomón
Nicknames: André, Vincent Morocco, Valentino
Clarinetist, bandoneonist and composer
(10 October 1918 - 30 June 1978)
Place of birth:
Rosario (Santa Fe) Argentina
Julio Nudler

t the times Leo Lipesker, his brother, was member in the Pedro Maffia orchestra, in 1934, the former persuaded the latter to include Santos despite his instrument was the clarinet. However, on his own and almost secretly, due to his great versatility, he had achieved command of the bandoneon. Troilo said that he was «the perfect harmonizer» when he heard him play “La casita de mis viejos” and “Los mareados” as bandoneon solos.

According to Horacio Ferrer, Homero Manzi had heard him in Rosario (probably at the Salón Ideal) and encouraged him to go to Buenos Aires. But according to Santos himself, Manzi had been sent by Maffia to bring him to the Capital for an audition. The Maffia’s orchestra used to practice at the Lipeskers’ home, on 2300 Bartolomé Mitre Street.

In 1939, he was member of a quintet alongside Sebastián Piana (piano), Pedro Maffia (bandoneon), Abel Fleury (guitar) and Alfredo Corleto (double bass). This outfit premiered “Milonga triste” with Alberto Gómez on vocals. However, by that time he had been already playing jazz for three years as saxophonist rather than tango.

For the remainder of his career, until his death in the winter of 1978 (eight years after Félix’s death and fifteen months before Leo’s), he devoted himself to a busy activity in all the possible ways of commercial music. Tango was not the exception and, as André y su Conjunto, he played an easy listening kind of tango, paradoxically summoning players of high level like the pianists Jaime Gosis and Dante Amicarelli and the guitarist Ubaldo De Lío. Though they extensively recorded, all that output was absolutely forgotten like the large body of Santos’ compositions, which contrasts with the survival of other more genuine contributions to the genre. However, the soccer fans still today, unknowingly, turn to his melodies for their chants. Furthermore, Santos conducted the staff orchestras of Radio El Mundo and TV Channel 9.

He was, in fact, a prolific composer that went on writing tangos till the end of his life. In 1938, when he and the singer Martín Podestá performed with Pedro Maffia, they dedicated the romantic tango “Tristezas” to the latter and all their fellow players in the orchestra. In 1940 he composed “Sólo una palabra” with words by Carlos Bahr.

As time went by, the pieces written by Santos, the most popular member of the Lipesker clan, were deviating towards striking extremes of opportunism. In 1948 he released the unfortunate “Una carta para Italia”. This tango highlighted the happiness of an Italian immigrant that, when writing to his mamma, countered a heavenly Argentina with the misery of his fatherland. Although he did not mention Juan Perón, this tango was clearly a sort of propaganda. One of the rare exceptions within the political disregard of the genre.

A previous piece and, despite its light mood, a much more satisfying collaboration with Yiso was “Bolero”. It was a satirical tango that narrates the opposition of a porteño that hates the intrusion of that beat and that Osvaldo Pugliese recorded in the late 1947 with Roberto Chanel, a singer with a great histrionic capacity.

In 1957 Santos composed the tango “Jacobo Gómez” with the humorist Aldo Cammarota and the actor and impersonator Délfor to be broadcast through La Revista Dislocada, a comic radio show that was greatly successful on Radio Splendid. The lyrics repeats like drone, a descending scale from C to D, the question «Cómo que no poide ser?» (Hey, why can’t it be?). It portrays the character of a Jew (ruso [Russian] or moische, according to the most common names given) who was desperate for making his daughter marry but who later behaved like a miser at the time of organizing the wedding. Apart from the use of the valesko in some merry numbers of the 20s, no tango with a wide spreading ever made fun of the Jews. But that was customary in movies, theatrical revues and on radio. It was a resource widely and sometimes carelessly used to great advantage by actors like Adolfo Stray and Tato Bores.

One year before he composed “Petitero”, a tango equally burlesque and somewhat coarse that criticized the fashion of that time which had its epicenter at the elegant Petit Café, on Santa Fe and Callao. From the remainder of his tangos we can rescue “Hablemos francamente”, composed in 1953 with words by the popular poet Héctor Gagliardi, and especially “Concierto al arrabal”, an instrumental of 1955.

As it is difficult to ponder the Lipeskers as popular artists, because in them the musical talent is mixed with the commercial objectives, they also were open-handed. Leo used to invite to dine a whole orchestra and never allowed any other to pay. Leo and Santos were epicures and their pleasure was winning fortunes and wasting them almost at the same time. Santos, so Pantagruelian like Luis Rubistein, did not hesitate in flying to Montevideo with all his musicians to celebrate some successful performance with a feast at a restaurant of his choice.