Enrique Binda

The first recording of an «Orquesta Típica»

pproximately, as from 1905, that is to say a few years after the so called «Repertorios Criollos» began, the recording industry already included tangos in them. The instrumentals were played by Bands like the Real Militar, Souza’s, the Spanish or the Republican Guard of Paris. There were also tangos played by piano soloists such as Manuel Campoamor or by Rondallas. Obviously, these aggregations did not include the bandoneon sound.

An orchestra with such an instrument succeeded in recording somewhat later. The first was the one led by the bandoneonist Vicente Greco, who coined the name «Orquesta Típica Criolla» to distinguish it from the above mentioned kinds of outfits then in vogue.

Generally it is said that this event happened in 1911, according to Francisco Canaro’s book Mis bodas de oro con el tango, on whose page 417 he says that «... with the Greco brothers we cut the first recordings for the Columbia label back in 1911 or 1912», mentioning the name given to his orchestra on page 76.

However, consulting the weekly magazine Caras y Caretas we found an advertisement published by Casa Tagini —a Columbia’s branch— dated July 23, 1910, about the release of discs corresponding to the series Episodios Nacionales (national episodes) performed by Eugenio Gerardo López. Soon later, on July 30 they announced the release of «...a selected repertoire of all new tangos, played by a Orquesta Especial Típica Criolla», but without specifying either the repertoire or the name of such orchestra.

The mere mention of this labeling, leads us to say that it was probably Greco’s group, because of what we have said above. But if there is any doubt, acknowledging Canaro’s sayings and various publications by other authors who accept 1911 as the year of such recordings, it can be proved by means of documents.

In fact, the Greco’s takes encompassed from matrix nr. 55.400 with the tango “Rosendo”, by Genaro Vázquez, up to nr. 55.420 with “Polilla”, by Rosendo Mendizábal, while on the said advertisement of July 23 were specifically included López recordings reciting “Jura de la bandera”, “Batalla de Chacabuco” and “Batalla de Maipú”, whose matrices were 55.489, 55.495 and 55.488 respectively.

As we can see, these patriotic discs specified on the advertisement bore matrix numbers higher than the Greco’s series. Then we can infer that the orchestra, in fact, recorded before the date of the advertisement. Taking into account the time necessary to send the matrices to the United States, the process of manufacturing of the discs and its journey back, such recordings were made in the early 1910 —or even in the late 1909— and not in 1911 as is generally said.

Furthermore, it is generally given as the most likely line-up of that orchestra the one which included Juan Labissier as second bandoneon, Francisco Canaro and Juan Abatte (Palito) on violins, Vicente Pecci (El Tano) on flute and Domingo Greco on guitar.

It’s worthwhile to highlight, however, that Canaro himself in his memoirs included a photograph of this outfit on page 236, but saying that it worked under the name «Greco-Canaro» during the carnival balls of 1914 at the Teatro Nacional Norte.

As we can see, this event happened four years after the recordings at issue. By that time the line-ups lasted briefly, because they were put together in order to fulfill specific engagements of performance or recording, then we cannot reasonably think that it was the one in the records.

Furthermore, a careful listening allows us to distinguish a quartet including a bandoneon, violin, flute and guitar. As for the identities the flutist still has to be identified, because Canaro says he played himself along with the Greco brothers.

Because of what was said above is definitively and by means of documents cleared out when so important landmark in the discography and the history of tango took place.