José Basso

Real name: Basso, José Hipólito
Nicknames: Raúl Román
Pianist, leader and composer
(30 January 1919 - 14 August 1993)
Place of birth:
Pergamino (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Jorge Palacio (Faruk)

is professional quality, his inner self, fond of tango and wildly hot, those hands that run on the piano, undoubtedly, words are that bring back José Basso’s figure; Pepe for his friends. A man deeply imbedded in the tango roots that touched even the innermost fibers of the lovers of our city music.

According to the opinion of those who know everything, he is one of the leaders with the toughest stamina and deeply rooted in tango of the latter times and that, together with Osvaldo Pugliese and Alfredo De Angelis, led his orchestra uninterruptedly for over fifty years.

Basso was born in Pergamino, a city 200 km west from the city of Buenos Aires. His first musical experience was with a quartet lined-up by kids. In 1936, when he was only 17, he joined the orchestra led by the Emilio and José De Caro brothers, replacing the pianist Héctor Grané. The following year, he switched to the aggregation led by bandoneonist Francisco Grillo and later, that of his colleague José Tinelli.

After the military service, in 1938, he joined the Gallardo-Ayala-Basso Trio, later switching to the orchestras led by Antonio Bonavena, Anselmo Aieta and Alberto Soifer. It’s interesting to make a stop here.

When he was pianist in the Alberto Soifer orchestra, this excellent musician conducted the orchestra of the radio program Ronda de ases, the best that existed in its genre. The then mythological program began to be broadcast in 1942, from the big A studio of LR1 Radio El Mundo. But the attending audience was so numerous that more than its half was unable to be admitted. For that reason it was then aired from the Teatro Casino.

On that tango radio program, week after week, the most important leaders of the epoch paraded: Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Fresedo, Carlos Di Sarli, Ricardo Tanturi, Julio De Caro, Edgardo Donato, Ángel D'Agostino and Juan D'Arienzo, among others. Furthermore, tango contests and competitions for orchestras were organized. Soifer, besides conducting his orchestra, to interpret his winning tangos, wrote the musical arrangements when the four fashion groups played together. At each program they played a number and the big ensemble was conducted by a different maestro.

In that orchestra led by Soifer the vocalist was Roberto Quiroga. A curiosity, he recorded for RCA-Victor a disc that on one side was “Mi Buenos Aires querido” as a tango piece and on the other, the same composition in a waltz version. The same treatment, for the tango “Alondras”.

The clinical eye of Anibal Troilo was interested in the style and quality evidenced by Pepe Basso when he saw him playing in Soifer’s group. He was looking for a pianist because Orlando Goñi (El pulpo / The Octopus), had already told him about his decision of putting together his own group.

And it was so; in September 1943 he joined Pichuco’s ranks. The first recording of the pianist with the orchestra was the Expósito brothers’ composition, the tango “Farol”, made on September 30 that year.

José Basso remained with Troilo until 1947, and during that time he was at 88 recordings, the last of them was a record that on one side was “Flor de lino”, sung by Floreal Ruiz and on the other side, “El milagro”, with Edmundo Rivero’s voice, on April 29, 1947.

Because of having had Troilo as leader for so long time, for his wide spotlighting in his solos and with such discography on his shoulders, José Basso was already in the best condition to lead his own orchestra. To replace him, Pichuco called another great pianist, Carlos Figari.

To put together his orchestra, Pepe reunited the best musicians of the time and when the group was ready he presented it to the public. In the bandoneon section were Julio Ahumada, Eduardo Rovira, Adolfo Francia and Andrés Natale; the violins were Mauricio Mise, Francisco Oréfice, Rodolfo Fernández and Domingo Serra; the violoncello was played by Leopoldo Marafiotti and the double-bass, by Rafael Del Bagno. Later, players of great value like the violinist Hugo Baralis, the bandoneonist Juan Carlos Bera and the bassist Omar Murtagh were members of his orchestra.

It's obvious to say that the expectations it provoked surpassed all what was imagined. Basso's debut was a smash hit and a triple stint: Radio Belgrano, the Marzotto café of Corrientes Street, the Ocean Dancing, a cabaret placed on Leandro N. Alem avenue.

The first pair of singers included Ortega Del Cerro and Ricardo Ruiz. The basis of the musical style of the brand-new orchestra had Troilean features, but gradually it succeeded in achieving a modality of its own, of inquestionable quality in the arrangements like in the ones of “Se han sentado las carretas”, “Guardia Vieja”, “El estagiario” and “Ahí va el dulce”, his trademark.

Furthermore, he was one of the band leaders that best interpreted the Astor Piazzolla's avant-garde tangos, making them suitable for dancing. His recordings of “Para lucirse”, “Prepárense”, “Triunfal”, “Contratiempo” and “Nonino” are impeccable.

By that time, it is well known, that not anyone had the chance of entering a recording studio. Before the recording company managers agreed to hire a certain artist, the latter had had to work hard and to show that he really had public recognition, because the public were the would-be buyers of records.

After two years of bringing crowds to the ballrooms, of appearing on stages and of being an outstanding figure at the disappeared tearoom Ruca, only then he had the opportunity to make a recording. It took place in the early 1949 with four numbers for RCA-Victor, with no commercial purpose, but as a test recording. Ortega del Cerro was no longer with them, he was replaced by Francisco Fiorentino. The numbers which were not released were: “Mi noche triste (Lita)”, sung by Fiorentino; “Sentimiento gaucho” with Ricardo Ruiz; “Se han sentado las carretas”, instrumental and “Dos que se aman”, by the Fiorentino-Ruiz duo.

Pepe had no time to be disappointed due to his scarce luck at the recording company, because a week later he was called by the Odeon label to sign a contract.

The first record released was “Claveles blancos” sung by Ricardo Ruiz and “El bulín de la calle Ayacucho”, with Fiorentino on vocals, that as everybody knows had been one of the great hits by El Tano in the Troilo orchestra. His recordings are 257 commercial recordings.

José Basso performed a great career on Radio Belgrano, alternating this labor with appearances at balls held at clubs, shows at tearooms, tours throughout the interior, shows at the Sans Souci boite, etc. Soon after the beginning of the recordings, Fiorentino and Ricardo Ruiz split. The former, to sing with the Alberto Mancione orchestra and, Ruiz, to do the same with Ángel D'Agostino orchestra. To replace them, he summoned two very good singers: Jorge Durán and Oscar Ferrari.

The other vocalists that joined his orchestra were: Rodolfo Galé, Floreal Ruiz, Alfredo Belusi, Roberto Florio, Alfredo Del Río, Héctor De Rosas, Carlos Rossi, Luis Correa, Juan Carlos Godoy, Alberto Hidalgo, Aníbal Jaulé, Enrique Ojeda, Eduardo Borda and some other that appeared temporarily.

He appeared at the fist stage of the Argentine television, on Channel 7, at the program Hit parade, which was broadcast on Sundays. It was the year 1959 and most artistic numbers were performers of foreign music. Audiences voted weekly and at the end of the month the number and the song chosen by the public who watched TV was selected. A tango orchestra appeared only once a month. When the time came for José Basso orchestra to play, for the first and only time, either the tango piece as well as the aggregation, turned out to be the choice of that month by a great number of votes in the poll.

The orchestras led by José Basso, Aníbal Troilo and Juan D'Arienzo, were the ones most requested by television producers. The reason was that either Pepe, Troilo or D'Arienzo, knew well how to take advantage of image. Troilo, because of that way of falling asleep on the bandoneon; D'Arienzo, because he moved his body from one side to the other, exaggerating his gestures of conductor; and Basso, due to his habit of striking the piano and conducting the orchestra playing, most times, standing up. He appeared at the principal TV programs: Grandes valores del tango, El club de las caras felices, Armenonville, Amistangos, La botica del tango, Sábados circulares, etc.

He also appeared at the most important night venues: Caño 14, Relieve, El Viejo Almacén, El Rincón de los Artistas, etc.

He traveled to Japan in 1967 hired for a month and he was so successful that he had to stay for eight months more, visiting nearly all the cities. In 1970 he made a new tour with the orchestra lined-up in the following manner: piano, arrangements and conduction, José Basso; bandoneons, Roberto Pansera, Juan Carlos Bera, Eduardo Cortti and Lisandro Adrover; on violins, Osvaldo Rodríguez, Armando Husso, José Singla, José Fernández with the addition of Japanese violinists; and on double-bass, Francisco De Lorenzo.

In the late days of his career he continuously played at every milieu, and on June 29, 1990, at an important event carried out at the Salón Dorado of the Teatro Colón, due to the official creation of the Academia Nacional del Tango, the maestro, together with other distinguished interpreters, was appointed Académico de Honor.

Out of his work as composer we highlight the following instrumental tangos: “Once y uno”, “Pecachi”, “Brazo de oro”, “De diez siete” and “El pulga”; the waltzes: “Celeste lluvia”, “Nuestro vals” and the milonga “La camalela”. Among the pieces with lyrics: “Me están sobrando las penas”, “Amor y tango”; “Rosicler” and “Anteayer”, with Francisco García Jiménez; “Pena copa y tango”; “Atrévete” with Luis Botini; “Un tango para La Falda” with Juan Carlos Mareco; “Dónde estás japonesita” with Norberto Aroldi; “Siempre en mi amor”; “Yo te canto novia mía” with Héctor Stamponi; “Porque sí” and “Cuerpo y alma”, with Juan Pueblito; “María la del portón” with Andrés Vitale and Abel Aznar; “Mundana”; “Tu beso y nada más” with Ángel Cabral and Floreal Ruiz; “Una historia más”. He as well composed the milongas: “Payada criolla” with Enrique Maroni; “Milonga de Albornoz” and “Milonga para los orientales” with Jorge Luis Borges; “Milonga cheta” with Jorge Palacio, “Viejo café” with Julio Porter; “Pobre negro” with Francisco García Jiménez and “Milonga del siglo quince” with Dante La Rocca.

The famous tango by Juan Canaro and Osvaldo Sosa Cordero, “Ahí va el dulce”, was always José Basso's introduction number before starting a ball, a recital or a television program. When listening those last vibrating notes of the melody, we are then ready to spend a very nice time, reminiscing all the pianists of the old stream.