Néstor Pinsón

Sáez - Interview to national singer of our days

f we talk of a trend that recovers our roots in tango, its top male figure is Alfredo Sáez. This concept appeared in an article about tango written by the journalist Julio Nudler the day after I made this interview.

Alfredo Sáez was born on July 19, 1958 in the locality of San Martín in the large suburban area surrounding Buenos Aires.

A singer of Gardelian style, with baritone range, good intonation, with a tranquil way of saying, he does not need to turn to false tics —supposedly winner’s— to express his feeling, he only appeals to the genuine resource of his voice and his good taste.

«I always had two passions: singing and “hardware”, for that reason today, besides what I can earn by singing, I have enough to live by working as a motor-car mechanic.

«I began, like most singers, singing folklore in school. I learnt something about guitar playing thanks to a schoolmate that studied guitar and gave me his teacher’s address. Then I was able to accompany myself in my early songs. Later I learnt a little so as to sight-read music and to be able, for my private joy, to play a bit of piano. A group of singers was formed with the kids at school, a little embassy that performed at other schools, at some geriatric institutions and at other places where we were invited.

«In 1980 I started to go often to coteries and at one of them, run by the singer Orlando Medina, I had the chance to be showcased frequently. He helped me by giving me songs with its chords that I rehearsed at home.

«That same year came my takeoff with tango. A friend of mine, without asking me, filled my application for a contest that was held at the Villa Pueyrredón club. I won and there I came to know Raúl Videra, who later became a close friend. He was connected to the TV channel 13 and thanks to his help I performed on several important programs.

«I won some other contests, thereafter I was second in Rumbo a la Fama, emceed by Leonardo Simmons on TV. Much later I was invited to appear at the vault of the Café Tortoni and Donato Racciatti’s agent suggested me to join the orchestra. My tenure lasted a year and when I was about to record, Racciatti got ill and returned to Montevideo.

«I continued hanging around and in 1986 and in 1989 I was awarded the Gardel de Oro and at the award ceremony I found myself surrounded by important figures of the music business. At that time there was another singer called Pablo Javier with Racciatti.

«Now I recall that before approaching tango I had sung with the folk group Los Inca Huasi from 1978 to 1980. One evening after a show, some friends of mine introduced me to an elderly man: “D’you know who he is?”. I answered that I didn’t. He was Charlo. He congratulated me and gave me a subtle piece of advice. I used to wear the wedding ring on one hand and on the other, another ring and a small bracelet. “If you like, wear them —he told me—, but only on one hand, otherwise it may deviate the audience’s attention”.

«I was a kid when my uncle made me hear a record. “Who’s he?”, he asked me. Immediately I answered: “Ignacio Corsini”. “No —he told me—. He’s Enzo Valentino”. I became a fan of his before knowing him. Years later, I had a stint at the old Salón La Argentina and was accompanied by an orchestra led by a guy called Maury. Once the speaker interrupted the show to announce Valentino’s presence, and then he sang several numbers. It was touching for me. Time later we appeared several times together.

«Much later I met a group of people that belonged to the civil personnel of the Air Force. They were putting together a tango group. Certain Mr. Pedro Mancini was the leader and as they were looking for a vocalist, they made me join it. The appearances took place at ceremonies and different events for the Air Force personnel. And they dared to release a cassette.

«As for recordings I released another cassette in 1991, but this time it was entirely mine. I titled it "Vamos tango todavía" and it had a better airing, though always on my own. Here I was backed by the singer and guitar strummer Carlos Ríos and the bandoneon player Choli Soria.

«The guys of the group of collectors, Bruno Cespi, Héctor Lucci, Antonio D'Agostino, always helped a lot. One day the latter called me because a Brazilian that he knew had seen me performing at the venue Aquel buzón carmín, where the main attraction was Beba Pugliese. He wanted to find me. His name was Luis Addé, a guitarist and organizer of shows based in the city of Pelotas. Finally I traveled three times and appeared there to great acclaim, I even sang Argentine folk tunes because in the south of Brazil people are very fond of Argentine traditions.

«In 1993 the Municipalidad de Buenos Aires (City Hall) called me for a theater play at the Teatro Alvear: El chalet de Gardel. It was quite original because it began at the theater hall among the public who was about to enter. There I sang accompanied by some mimes on a scenery that depicted a place in the early years of the twentieth century. Later we entered and it continued on the stage. The play was directed by the actor Carlos Moreno. Because of this, some months later Bruno Cespi told me that an Argentine dancer based in Valladolid, Spain, had seen the show and wanted to do something similar here. His name is Carlos Sanjo. We finally appeared in Spain. Cespi -with his music sheets, so attractive because of their covers and with his collection of photographs- traveled as well. The show was titled Patio de conventiyo and was staged at the Teatro Zorrilla, in front of the Plaza Mayor.

«In 1996 For Ever Tango came for me, thanks to Luis Tarantino who suggested me to Luis Bravo, the boss of the company. The orchestra was conducted by Lisandro Adrover. The bandoneonist Víctor Lavallén was among the boys. I was with them in the United States, later in Canada: Toronto and Vancouver, and thereafter in Boston. It was a one-year tenure.

«In the year 2000 my first CD was recorded thanks again to the Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires that was releasing a series that included different rhythms because they were needing precisely tangos, waltzes and milongas. This time I was backed by four guitarists led by Roberto Calvo. César Angeleri and Gustavo Margulies were among them. Due to the record the newspaper Clarín, in its annual art review, appointed me as the tango revelation of the year. For this reason I was called from several radio stations and TV channels, even from the province of Córdoba, where they gave a commemorative plaque... quite nice!

«As for Gardel, I always say that I am not his imitator, a pretension that would be impossible, but only studious to analyze his singing. He was the teacher, the creator of tango song and, consequently, you cannot do without listening to him attentively all the necessary time. His school, his phrasing, the melody, his way of breathing. Gardel was unique. To study him helps to solve difficulties that seem impossible. That is the principal reason why I include his songs in my repertoire.

«When I have to choose a new number, first I have to like it, then I read it until I thoroughly know the character trying to find out why the singer who previously recorded it liked it. I very much like singing with guitar accompaniment. Because of that some articles appeared in journals classify me as a national singer, but I recognize that a guitar group is a handicap for an arrangement or for the choice of a repertory. Of course that with an orchestra is better, but the financial aspect is a limitation.

«In the latter times I had some gigs at the Tortoni and as well at the Café Homero, at the café and bookstore Clásica y Moderna for a time and in the new Caño 14 for the time it lasted. I would have liked to «play» with Troilo. And I say to play because the singer has to be regarded as one instrument more of the aggregation.»

And so we end this portrayal of this excellent singer who keeps the essence of the best tango and who is one of those we prefer.