Abel Palermo

e was a learned musician, refined and intelligent. A faithful follower of the rhythmical school started by Orlando Goñi, to which he added a musical mood with much presence, with a great command of the classical piano techniques. He was a great player of the instrument but only a correct orchestra leader, and accompanist of male and female singers.

Son of Lorenzo Ramón Figari and Cecilia Accialini, he was born in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Telmo. Since an early age he was fond of music. Firstly, he studied piano with a teacher in his neighborhood and later, he continued at the Troiani conservatory.

At age 16 he was summoned by the Sureda brothers to join their outfit. Its members were, besides Antonio and Gerónimo Sureda, Oscar Valpreda and the singer Alberto Tagle, who would later be vocalist of Enrique Mora and of the first Domingo Federico’s orchestra.

In 1937, the outfit disbanded and became Antonio Sureda’s orchestra. One of the strongholds of the group was the young Figari, its pianist, who was then just 20 years old. When Tagle quit in 1939 the new singer was Juan Alessio, who later, when Rodolfo Biagi left would change his name into Jorge Ortiz.

In 1941 he joined the orchestra led by José García: Los Zorros Grises. One year later they recorded for the Odeon label “Esta noche de luna” composed by García himself and Graciano Gómez, with lyrics by Héctor Marcó with Alfredo Rojas on vocals, and the instrumental “Retirao” composed by Carlos Posadas. In the latter Figari already evidenced his style and musical temper.

He as well replaced Marianito Mores on the piano during the periods when the latter, temporarily, did not play with Canaro.

In March 1944, a very important event in the world of tango took place: the Francisco Fiorentino’s breakup with the Aníbal Troilo Orchestra. Immediately the notable singer was called by Orlando Goñi. But the association was short and Fiore decided to put together his own orchestra and then offered the violinist Hugo Baralis, his friend and former fellow player in the Troilo’s orchestra, the leadership of it. But he declined the offering and proposed the young Astor Piazzolla to lead it. They made their debut on Radio Belgrano and at the Picadilly tearoom on 1524 Corrientes Street. This orchestra was lined up by Baralis, Cayetano Gianni, Bibiloni Lucero on violins, Roberto Di Filippo, Angel Genta, Fernando Tell and Piazzolla on bandoneons, José Díaz on double bass and on piano, Carlos Figari.

Three years later, on July 4, 1947 he joined Troilo replacing José Basso. At age 30, the pianist showed he was a complete professional due to his experience in so many orchestras of great level such as those led by José García, Francisco Canaro and Astor Piazzolla. For 7 years he played with “Pichuco” evidencing a polished technique.

At this stage they recorded 96 numbers, among them, two instrumentals composed by him: “A la parrilla”, June 1949 and “Tecleando” in 1952. His capacity as pianist disguised the technical flaws of the TK label.

During this period, Troilo greatly encouraged the early Piazzolla’s compositions and made them widely known through his performances and his recordings. In January 1950 he recorded the tango “Para lucirse” and since then he premiered “Prepárense”, “Contratiempo”, “Triunfal”, “Contrabajendo”, “Lo que vendrá” and “Tanguango”. All these pieces were arranged by Astor and had the important contribution of Figari’s piano playing.

He was with the Troilo Orchestra at the movies and at the theater: El tango vuelve a París in 1948 and Mi noche triste in 1952 and Cátulo Castillo’s play El patio de la Morocha in 1951.

On April 16, 1955 he made his debut with his own orchestra and the vocalist Enrique Dumas on Radio Splendid. The lead bandoneon and arranger was Armando Calderaro (aka Pajarito). I recall that time of his shows at the Confitería Montecarlo and when he recorded for Music Hall. Then he cut his number “A la parrilla” and “Bien jaileife” composed by Vicente Demarco with lyrics by Silvio Marinucci, with Dumas on vocals, among others.

One year later he continued playing on Radio Splendid and was invited by the singer Edmundo Rivero to accompany him with his orchestra on six recordings for the TK label. He was as well in charge of the arrangements. They were: “El ciruja”, “Jamás me olvidarás”, “Por ella”, “Fugitiva”, “Escríbeme” and “Tessa”. Furthermore, he backed the singer in his appearances on Radio El Mundo.

In 1957 he had a tenure for a season at the Adlon tearoom with his new vocalist, Héctor Omar and on radio accompanied the well-remembered Brazilian singer, Carlos Lombardi, with whom later he would tour the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. On his comeback the singer Ricardo Argentino replaced Omar.

In the late 50s he switched to Radio del Pueblo, a radio station that competed with the important ones as for hiring tango figures. The artists there were Aníbal Troilo with Grela and the consecrated soloist, Alberto Marino. Figari appeared with the vocalists Enrique Dumas and Aldo Fabre.

During the following decade tango fell down into a deep depression and Figari decided to reduce his orchestra. He formed a quartet and accompanied Tania at Cambalache, on 832 Libertad Street, a venue run by the female singer.

In 1961 he teamed up with Dumas and recorded for the Disc-Jockey label. They both continued on Radio del Pueblo, which thanks to its art and music directors, Antonio Maida and Miguel Nijensohn, became the last tango stronghold on the radio. He appeared as well on television at the program Esquina del tango with his new singer Alberto Marcó.

In 1966 the Argentine zarzuela Juanita la popular, written by Enrique Cadícamo was premiered at the San Martín theater, Sala Martín Coronado. The musical direction was in the hands of Figari. At the play, among other actors were featured Homero Cárpena, Juan Carlos Altavista and Elena Lucena.

In the late 60s he became a staff member at the El Viejo Almacén, owned by his friend Edmundo Rivero. Furthermore he cut wonderful recordings with Tita Merello on the Odeon label.

Gradually, the passing of time was depriving of charm his work. A television program from time to time, but nothing more.

his portrayal was written intending to rescue from oblivion an excellent tango pianist, today unjustly forgotten.