Oscar Zucchi

Pizarro - His memories of Paris and Europe

t the Tabarís of Marseille we made our debut accompanied by French musicians under the name: Orquesta Genaro-Pizarro. We had a warm welcome but the fifty francs offered were a poor pay. When I talked to the impresario Lombart, he told me that after the end of the contract we would be free. But it was still one year ahead of us.

«Genaro wanted to return, but as I had saved some money I took a train to Paris and told him to hold that I would call him. In Paris I began with our consulate and continued with the cabarets looking for Celestino Ferrer and company. I met Vicente Madero who guided me well and the encouenter took place.

«Madero, the consul, helped me with the owner of the Princesse, Mr. Volterra who gave me a chance. My friends had formed a trio and switched with a twelve-piece jazzband; it was too much contrast. Ferrer and Güerino Filipotto were weak players, they played by ear and in an old-fashioned style; because of that they did not catch the novelty of the milonga beat I used to play.

«I asked Volterra to put together a ten-piece orchestra. I called Expósito; we were five Argentines and I included five French musicians of the jazz group. They were good professionals, but each one in his stuff, they were not good for tango. We had a lot of rehearsals. We had to teach them to play pizzicati with three fingers. Classical violinists play it with one finger. Because of that in tango the pizzicato produces an effect like a roll or peal. They also had to learn to use the heel of the violin bow, but there was no technical resource possible, the only thing that helped was imitation: to mark the beat or the phrasing of the melodies on piano or bandoneon and tell them: You have to play like that!

«When some Argentine arrived that, of course, did not occur. By 1922 or 23, the later famous Juan José Castro played in my orchestra. He did it to be able to pay his studies in Paris. Then the day of the debut and the time to be onstage came. I had a knot in my throat, when the lights went out there was silence and many applauses. I heard Vicente Madero shouting: Hurrah for Argentine tango! and all the present compatriots imitated him.

«We began with “La morocha”, we had to play it eight more times, later “El choclo”, “La catrera”, “Derecho viejo” and I don’t remember what else. As El Garrón opened at ten in the evening, in the afternoon we appeared at the Sans Souci, which was run by a guy named Alexander who turned out to be the famous shark Stavinsky, the one cited by Discépolo in “Cambalache”. Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear was the ambassador to France and when on October 12, 1922, was appointed president, he asked me that I would accompany him on the steamboat Massilia so that I would play in the evenings during his returning voyage. I did it with my brother Domingo, a guitarist. Because of that honor I dedicated to him the tango “El estandarte”. I thought that twenty days were enough for me. But in Buenos Aires Lomuto asked me that I would accompany him on the cruisings of the Cap Polonio to Tierra del Fuego. I played with an orchestra in the evenings.

«There were three cruisings and a fourth to Brazil. Four months out of Paris. Filipotto had stayed as leader of the orchestra and when I returned I took it over again. In the twenties it was estimated that 4.500 Argentines were based and in transit in Paris. My name was spread and I brought my remaining brothers, so there were five Pizarro Orchestras playing simultaneously. About Arolas? Yes, it’s true that he had a big imbroglio with some pimps and they beat him but he died of tuberculosis. Furthermore he ate nothing, used to get drunk, and was always at a bar with his glass of Mandarine. I myself took him to the Bichat hospital. Along with Ferrer, Filipotto, other Argentines and some French friends we accompanied the coffin to the cemetery.

«My brother Domingo brought me José Remondini, (El cieguito), the best of his time, technicaly speaking. A very good ear, besides he was a concert pianist, but as all the blind musicians, a little monotonous in his interpretations. He never came back to Argentina. Yes, I mediated to make possible Gardel's debut in 1928. I talked to the impresario Paul Santos (Santolini), known as the Napoleon of the night venues of Paris. His debut was at the Florida.

«I was ten years at El Garrón, I was lucky and I was owner of several locals. At one of them Gardel performed for a week: The Montecarlo. When I was about to pay him, he asked if I was crazy: «How do you think I'm going to charge you with the help you gave me?»

«I appeared in Spain, London, of course throughout France, several cities of Germany, in Geneve, in Belgium but in 1939 the war came. I decided to leave France. From the bank I was allowed to withdraw only 50.000 francs. It was nothing in comparison with my savings.

«With some of the boys we played wherever we were able to, so we appeared in Alexandria, and Cairo, but it was also complicated. They were five months of ordeal, from one place to another, until we, in the Christmas of 41 we sailed on Egyptian cargo ship. On April 11, 1942, after many difficulties, we arrived at our port.»

In 1951 he came back to Paris and, on a visit, he was in Buenos Aires in l970 and 1974. In a final interview he said: «I'd like to believe that what I've said has turned out my best contribution to make known what is Argentine in Europe, thanks to tango. To make possible that our music would be known and enjoyed not only in high-class salons but also in popular places».

In another portion of his chat, he added: «The only tangos of mine known in Argentine are those that Gardel recorded».

The Zorzal Criollo recorded: “Noches de Montmartre”, “Todavía hay otarios” and “Una noche en El Garrón”.

He composed numerous tangos. About thirty stand out because were widely spread and were committed to disc. There is a great number of recordings he cut and it's very difficult to establish a complete list of them.

Along his career he had a great number of vocalists: Alina De Silva, Luis Mandarino, his brother Domingo Pizarro, the Spanish singer Eva del Erso, Francisco Todarelli, Roberto Caldas, Roberto Maida, Juan Giliberti, Luis Scalon, Gracia del Río, Aída Galán, Celia Gámez, Jorge Linares (the former vocalist of Pedro Laurenz), Marival, Juan Raggi and El Pelado Díaz —Pizarro did not remember his name—. He was referring to Rodolfo Díaz. But the latter, in an interview, said that Manuel Pizarro made him a proposal he did not accept.

Roughly, we can define his style of playing bandoneon by his preference for playing legato and with a soft sound, a pleasant timbre, with simple embellishments. With a steady beat, too isochronic, that with the years of playing and the contact with phrasing bandoneonists was becoming less rigid.