Néstor Pinsón

Mancione - Interview to Alberto Mancione

isten, I never quit music. Less than a month ago I finished my season at El Farolito. The tango decline was already easily noticeable around 1965. A couple of years before I was regularly playing on Radio El Mundo, and as well touring but later we had to become smaller, big orchestras were impossible to afford. I put together a quartet in 1968 to perform at several shows in areas not far from the Capital and, when I came back for the carnival season, Argentino Ledesma suggested me to accompany him. We appeared at twenty-three shows during those months, after that each one returned to his own business.

«In fact, I studied very little. What I did was pure intuition. At age fifteen I was already going around with my bandoneon. Of course that was not enough to make a living so I had several jobs. One of them was carrying and delivering beef to butcher’s shops; we had a fixed schedule. I always had a strong complexion and so far I’ve loaded on my shoulders a great number of beeves. My first job as musician was in 1934 with José Figueroa and his trio. He was also a bandoneon player. They not only played tangos, but also played chacareras and other things. He had engagements for a tour and to appear on Radio Mitre as well. So he called me to put together a sextet.

«Thereafter I was in the orchestra led by Armando Baliotti, later a brief tenure with Roberto Firpo —when Cayetano Puglisi and Carlos García played with him and the vocalist was Ignacio Murillo— I also was with José De Caro some months at a boite (night club) in Olivos known as Las Brujas. I was also with Donato, when all his players quit because of a conflict, but I did not record for him.

«In 1938 I had an offer to perform at the Palermo Palace, then soon I put together a group, I called it Típica Armenonville. They introduced me to a boy named Carlos Martel who would be the vocalist. Do you know who he was?... Floreal Ruiz. This venture lasted exactly what the contract said, just three months.

«In 1939 I teamed up with another bandoneon player, Bernardo Álvarez and we put together the Tango Orchestra Los Dados Blancos. Yes, of course, a queer name. As I had ordered a tailor to make some shirts with a fancywork but finally on the left side of them they embroidered a design representing dice, then the idea of the name came from that. We played for about two years.

«My agent was Julio César Curi and it was him who persuaded me. It was about time to lead an orchestra of my own. So it happened and on April 25, 1942, Troilo and I opened the Tibidabo. It was on 1244 Corrientes Avenue. I played in the afternoon show and he was in the evening, except Saturdays that I played all the shows because Pichuco played at dancehalls.» (That first orchestra was lined up by Mancione, Jorge Gutiérrez, Juan Salomone and Antonio López on bandoneons; Doroteo Guisado, Rodolfo Fernández and Casanovas, on violins; José Cimarro on piano; Pablo Piazza on double bass and the vocalist was Horacio Torres).

«During the tenure at the Tibidabo the vocalist Torres quit. You don’t know who comes, do you? Floreal Ruiz, yes sir! He stayed for six months until one day he told me: “Look, Gordo (Fats), De Angelis called me, it’s a good opportunity.” I told him not to worry about it that I would find a way.

«I had good musicians: the pianists were José Cimarro, José Orrego, for some months Juan José Paz, some years Osvaldo Requena, also José Aguilera, Arnaldo Medialdea and, even one of my bandoneon players was pianist: Jorge Gutiérrez. A violinist, a kid, was Julio Zeitlin, who later switched to viola. He studied medicine and when he graduated he quit music. He became a renowned professional.

«If I have to make a choice of a fellow instrumentalist I have no doubt, Troilo. There would be some who were technically better... but how the Gordo played! He played with his heart!... He's my choice. He played two little notes and drove us crazy.»

«Listen, I'm gonna tell you something and I'm not pretending to be boastful. It's about Héctor María Artola. We were playing on Radio El Mundo and during an intermission he entered the studio, he stayed listening on one side and later came up and told me: “Mancione, what happens with this orchestra?...” I don't know —I told him—. “But do you know the way this orchestra sounds?... What a sound, what a strength, what's the mystery?”. There's... no mystery, we all play with feeling —I told him—. He had a look at the charts, congratulated me again and left. It was very pleasant for me.»

«In 1944 and until 1946 I belonged to the Radio Splendid music staff. And from 1948 until 1963, to Radio El Mundo's.»

«When I was on Splendid I had my style, but later on El Mundo I realized I had to change, I needed another sound. Then I began with more polished arrangements, to be more careful about details... the passing of years teaches you and my association with Roberto Vallejos was quite important, because he started to help with the writing. He permanently was writing and we achieved a deep identification among all the players. I relied mainly on Vallejos, Mancini on the violin and the singers, especially Jorge Ledesma, and Héctor Alvarado. Vallejos was my music partner, I owe him half of my popularity in the 50s.»

«My way of approaching rehearsals was splicing the aggregation into sections, bandoneons in one place, strings in another and piano and contrabass in another place. We spent three hours a day and when, approximately, we had the number ready, only then we played it at the cabaret or at dancehalls. When we had learnt it by heart we played it on the radio and later it was ready for the recording session.»

«My signature tune was “Ventarrón”, the arrangement is mine. Even today the public ask it once or twice. “El cencerro” was arranged by Vallejos but the variation is mine and I also made some changes in the harmonization. “El refrán” was arranged by its composer: Roberto Pepe. Vallejos arranged “Lágrimas”. In “La cumparsita” I added a few things, the pizzicato in the strings, the bells effect with the piano as well and the variations.»

«Yes, “Astorpia” is rare...isn't it? The composer brought it to me. A friend of mine, Varela Nusotti, a fan of Piazzolla. I think that the original instrumental arrangement of the tango piece was by Astor himself. I erased many things, not because they were wrong but because they did not match my style. In spite of that it never satisfied me. The only recorded version is mine.»

«You didn't like “Te aconsejo que me olvides”, did you?... Maybe. Fiorentino was not well. Let me tell you. He was in Mar del Plata and I phoned him to come for a recording date. We agreed the day but he arrived late at the airport and missed the plane. But that flight was tragic because it fell down right after the departure at the town of Cobos. Only a little girl saved her life. He arrived the following day but he was quite impressed and that is noticeable in the recording.»

«Curi brought Fiore to me. It was in March 1950 and it was a boom. He sang in the orchestra but at the balls he appeared as soloist, because the audiences asked it, he had to sing from four to six numbers and it was far convenient for us. One night he praised me, he very enthusiastically got down from the stage: “Gordo, nobody has accompanied me like you do...” Stop joking, what about Troilo and Basso and Piazzolla? “Ok, Ok... but none like you!” He had signed for two years with me but after the first one he apologized. He had an offer for an important tour of Central America and he wanted to buy a house so that his children would have a place of their own. Finally the tour was not made and he became jobless.»

«I toured nearly the whole country. But very few trips abroad. I was in Uruguay and, in 1956, in Chile, nothing else.»

This interview was made in his apartment on 4370 Bartolomé Mitre Street, 2 J, on January 24, 1991. About this note written in October 2003 I asked the opinion of Osvaldo Requena and he reminisced his memories of the leader: «My tenure with him was about three years, from 1955 or 56. I was not an exclusive member of his orchestra, but he had priority when he needed me and I was free. He was a very good person, with a pleasant temper, not at all impulsive, and this was the reason why he was somewhat put aside when he was in his heyday. The sound of the orchestra was quite good. Curi was his agent but Mancione came second, first the former signed for Juan D'Arienzo and after that he got a gig for him. He could have reached further beyond.»

«His style stemmed from Troilo, and he was even closer to Orlando Goñi, because he told the pianist to play legato with the left hand —like Goñi did—, while the bandoneons played stacatto four to the beat. So the music went out smoothly, very agile, a quite clear sound. He also depended much on the lead violin that marked the slurs, the expressions. He has grown accustomed to correct the arrangements given to him. “Ventarrón” is his own writing and has a great creativity. This is admirable because he had not studied and it's very difficult to arrange guided only by intuition. His rendering of “La cumparsita” was regarded in Japan as the best of all. While playing at balls he very often played wrong notes, as if he were not paying attention, he was absent-minded. But his performances on radio and at recordings was perfect, he did not miss a note.»

«Would you like to hear an anecdote? It was the only time I saw El Gordo mad with anger. We were playing at a risky place in the southern area near Valentín Alsina. The singer was Jorge Miró, also known as Ojitos (Winking Eyes) because he used to wink his eyes at women, anywhere, whether they were alone or not. While he was singing at that show, he winked an eye at a girl in the audience. Suddenly her partner appeared. He was a stout man that approached the stage with a hammer in his hand. The singer did not realize it until the guy stroke the hammer against his foot. He didn't hit higher because the stage was tall. The song was ended and a big row was started and consequently it made El Gordo very angry.»

Alberto Mancione's oeuvre as composer is not very extensive: with lyrics by Ángel Di Rosa, the milonga “Señores, permiso” and the tangos “Dolor de huella” and “La luna, el cigarrillo y yo”; with Eugenio Majul: “Pobrezas”; with Julio Curi: the milonga “Para el pueblo” and the tangos “Lo que tú llamas amor” and “Yo te condeno a vivir”. Lastly, his instrumentals: “Moderno”, in collaboration with Roberto Vallejos; “Total” in collaboration with Juan Salomone; “F.F.” dedicated to Francisco Fiorentino and the milongas “Canyengue y tristona” and “Fiel milonga”.

Besides the above mentioned Horacio Torres, Jorge Miró and Floreal Ruiz, we add José Torres and Carlos Reyes, among those who passed through the ranks of his orchestra but did not record with him. The ones who succeeded in recording were: Jorge Ledesma with 18 numbers, Héctor Alvarado with 7, Ángel Varela with 4, Francisco Fiorentino with 3 and Luis Correa with one.