Daniel Beller
| José Pedro Aresi

Reyes - Interview to a «singer of street corners»

is true name was Tito Cosme Sconza. A nice guy, with a voice full of tango features and also a complete tango man, Tito Reyes even today regards himself as a «singer of street corners». With the easiness of one who knows how to handle the scene, he concentrates on his memories and takes us to follow the road back to his past experiences.

«I was born in Puente Alsina on February 28, 1928 when that area belonged to the Avellaneda district. I was the last vocalist that recorded with Aníbal Troilo, by then singing “El último farol”.

«My mother, Rosario Lardaro, was Neapolitan and my father, Luis, an Argentine that liked traveling met my mother in Naples. They married there and settled in Argentina where they had seven children. I’m the youngest, and there is a great difference in age between me and the others.

«My daddy built a house made of wood and tin in which we lived. It was raised a meter and a half from the ground because at that time Valentín Alsina was frequently flooded. When Homero Manzi says: «Pompeya y más allá la inundación» (P... and farther there: the flood) he is mentioning Puente Alsina, because Pompeya was not reached by floods. There I grew up with my mom and my brothers and my sisters. They all cared after me because I was the youngest.

«At age fifteen, a café was raised two blocks from home and there I cut the umbilical cord from my mother. I began to frequent the café and a club that we had founded and named Resplandor. Precisely I mentioned this club in “Un tango para el recuerdo” which I recorded with Troilo. In fact, the tango lyrics said «Tradición» and when its author, Antonio Cantó, heard me say «Resplandor» he corrected me... «No, Tito, it is Tradición» but I answered him... This tango is yours, but I choose what club.

«By then I swapped between the club in the neighborhood and the café, where on Fridays and Saturdays I used to go to hear singers. Furthermore at home I listened to Gardel’s songs, and he was who taught me to sing. I listened to his recordings and sang along with him. So my voice got used to sing, in that way.

«One evening I went to the café to hear the singers, and Luis Pinto, a boy who was a great dancer, told me... «You that always laugh at everybody, why don’t you sing?» and I immediately accepted. At the beginning there were laughs, but later laughter faded away and finally there was applause. I did not believe that because we used to play jokes by making the singer think that he was doing it well. But the following day my older brother told me that they said that I had sung at the café and my performance was good. So I started to sing in public, in the most natural way for a singer to begin. By that time I used to sing all Gardel’s repertory.

«I sang at different cafés and I was also called for serenatas in the neighborhood. At that same time I had a job. I was a cobbler apprentice, employee at a warehouse of materials for construction and at the metal work enterprise Tamet, where I learned soldering. Other times I worked with my brother that was mason. Even though I like tango and loved going to the café it never drew me away from my job because my father had taught me about the importance of work. Work is something sacred and the time spent at a café must be considered only as an entertainment.

«Time later I made a tour of the interior of the country «begging for alms», accompanied by a good guitarist, Héctor Arbelo. I remember that as soon as we arrived at a town we were taken to the Social Club, but anyhow it was like begging for alms.

«On a January 6, in the early fifties, after the suggestion of a patron of the Munich on Boedo Street, I quit my family name and adopted the sobriquet Tito Reyes.

«On my comeback to Buenos Aires I appeared at variety shows and performed at the El Olmo tearoom in El Once where an outstanding cast appeared. There I appeared alongside Azucena Maizani, a fundamental female singer in our tango, she taught me a lot. I was always lucky of having very important people beside me. With them I learnt many good things.

«After that I began to sing at a tavern located on Talcahuano Street, between Corrientes and Lavalle, it was called El Vinacho and belonged to the Caló brothers. There I met Roberto Caló and he made me join his orchestra. With him I recorded three pieces; the most important one, “Frente al espejo”, was my first professional recording. The other two were: “Tango argentino” and “Nápoles de mi amor”. Thereafter I joined Joaquín Do Reyes with whom I cut “Cuatro pasos en las nubes” and, in duo with Héctor Darío, “Popurrí de tangos” (sic) (medley). Furthermore at that time I had several jobs, because what you earned in a second rate orchestra was not enough to live.

«By then I was already known in the milieu and one day I met the bandoneonist Julio Ahumada and he told me that Roberto Grela wanted to talk to me. I phoned Grela and asked him about it, but he answered to me that the one who wanted to see me was Aníbal Troilo. We arranged a meeting at Grela's home and there Gordo auditioned me and decided to include me in his orchestra to appear at the Teatro Odeón.

«That was my big move. I sang with Troilo since 1963 until 1975 and I have 23 recordings with him. Pichuco always told me that I ought to have been born thirty years before. I don't know what he saw in me.

«I always thought that tango is a cultural movement with a wide span, that is to say, tango is everything, from Ángel Villoldo to Astor Piazzolla, from Carlos Gardel to Francisco Fiorentino, also including the great poets. I think that tango, inevitably, cannot stop because it is an expression of the individual feeling that is expressed through its lyrics, songs and dances.

«I have the same opinion that Troilo had at the time of choosing a repertory, you have to first take into account the quality of the poetry. Worldwide you see that what appeals most is dancing, but for us, those who are in the world of singing, the contents of poetry cast a spell on us. That was the theory Gardel had and it is the same one that Pichuco followed. Troilo never was behind an easy applause, he always chose pieces which would not become disposable. He preferred the tangos written by Homero Manzi, Cátulo Castillo and Gardel.

«By the time I was with Troilo there were not so many dancehalls and the orchestra had to play music to be listened to. My presence in the orchestra meant something very strong for me because I was a sort of «singer of street corners» and I could not forget those ghosts that haunted me, those great singers that performed with Troilo. Pichuco's influence on my personality, unintentionally, succeeded in overcoming my fears, because the mood that the orchestra created to accompany a singer was easily driving me towards what he was aiming for. The Troilo Orchestra had a great virtue: its players never hit their instruments. You did not have to strike on a bandoneon to achieve an effect, or kick on the floor, its objective was simply a good sound.

«What Troilo frequently used, especially by the time I was with him and I think it was what he liked most, were the exaggerated nuances. That is to say, for example, to play a pianissimo when the lyrics was saying something deep to later reach a big finale, something that no orchestra had done before. You could sing mezza voce, with feeling, while the orchestra made a pause and everybody lowered the dynamic level of their instruments. Also when a solo was played the whole orchestra diminished its volume. The tango played by Pichuco had no bravura, it had a balance between forte and pianissimo.

«Troilo was a talent in several aspects. When he was young he fingered well his bandoneon, like the best; as composer he is extraordinary and as leader he is the true Great Orchestra Leader. After Pichuco checked an orchestration he achieved the mood that suited the piece. He erased things that the arranger had written or added others. They say that Troilo had the best orchestrators, but pay attention!, maybe they became the best orchestrators after they wrote for him. It's not a coincidence that today people in Buenos Aires mostly sing Pichuco's repertory; either those pieces he composed or those which did not belong to him.

«During my tenure with Troilo I also cut a long-playing record with Roberto Grela which included very good numbers, always in the same style. Furthermore in May 1971 I traveled to the United States together with a group of artists headed by Troilo and that included Armando Pontier, Violeta Rivas, Hernán Figueroa Reyes and González Rivero as emcee. We performed at the Hunter Hall of New York and later in Washington.

«After I split with Pichuco I recorded a disc with Ernesto Baffa. Lately I am working with Litto Nebbia in his Melopea label, in which I do whatever I want to do. I have recorded numbers that I sing and also poems that I wrote and that other authors have written. I feel very well because for me singing is an expression of the spirit, an inner energy that needs to go out. When I perform I improvise and play a part like an actor and I never sing a tango piece in the same way, but I always try to keep the same sense. With the inner impulse given by the singer the phrase becomes word, expression and song.

«I was and I am a good father, because I always knew how to adequately combine two things: home and bohemia. I have six children, six grandchildren and a guitar that is the extension of my soul. I'm legally married to Laura Moriano, a woman who is not the mother of my children but I live very happily with her now.»

He died on May 9, 2007 at Pirovano Hospital of Buenos Aires, of a lung illness.