Norberto Chab
| Néstor Pinsón

Frontera - Interview and a spicy contribution

austo coments: «I was born in the downtown area of the city: Cangallo (now Presidente Perón) and Talcahuano, but at age three my parents took me to the neighborhood of Flores. At age six they gave me a small violin and pretty soon I had lessons with Vicente Ponzio (an uncle of Pibe Ernesto’s) and, also, at the Santa Cecilia conservatory.

«Later after quitting for some years due to illness —when I was a kid I was quite weak—, with the guys in the neighborhood we exchanged our rudimentary musical knowledge and used to play some things together. I also had a good ear and so I learned to play pieces more easily than my buddies. I remember that we played “La morocha”, “La catrera” and “La sonámbula”.

«My first time in front of an audience was at an end of party—I was about 12 years old— at the arena of the Circo Rafetto. We were conducted by a guitar player known as El Negro Justo. His name was Justo Rodríguez. There were other kids with me, among them was Pedro Maffia.

«Soon thereafter Ricardo Brignolo summoned me for a replacement at the cinema-Cafe El Capuchino. The local was called that way because you did not have to pay a fee to enter but there was a minimum which was ordering at least a cappuccino coffee. The venue was on Boedo and Carlos Calvo. It was only a three-day tenure.

«In 1912 I had entered the Otto Krause industrial school but the following year there were some problems and I was expelled. I dreamed of becoming a naval engineer. In the early 1914 I had the chance to sail. It was a voyage to Europe and the orchestra which was to play in the evenings was without the violinist. I took advantage of it and so I arrived at Marseille. Despite my young age I had practiced enough and as I knew how to read music it turned out easy for me to satisfy the passengers with numbers of different genres. On my own I went on to Paris. There Vicente Loduca was with his musicians, but I did not get in touch with him and I began to work on my own and furthermore I devoted myself to get acquainted with the city, its museums and theaters. I was in Italy, Spain, nine months in Lisbon and I returned.

«Soon I began to work hard, playing music at weddings and at other types of parties and joining a great number of not quite outstanding groups. Then I put together my own first orchestra when I was 17. I debuted in a barroom in Flores with Juan Ghio on piano, his brother on bandoneon, Juan Rosario Marmón on flute and I. We stayed for two years at that place. Soon thereafter we found a gig in another café. It was located on Garay Avenue: across the street was the 3rd regiment of Infantry —you can guess how many years ago!— I added a bandoneon player, Toggi, and I also summoned Ismael Aguilar.

«Almost simultaneously I was member of the groups led by Maglio, Aieta, Geroni Flores, Cobián, also in the aggregations of the Victor company, but in 1916 I played at the cafe La Morocha, with Eduardo Arolas.» (In another interview he said that his stint with Arolas was at a café on Pozos Street, in front of a military garrison that today has disappeared).

«By that time I composed my first tango to which I did not give a title and so it remained. The following year, the second: “Art Noveau”. That was the name of a horse of the race track. It was published and I dedicated it to its jockey Francisco Arcuri. I returned to the neighborhood of Flores to appear with a quartet at the Minerva cinema theater. Later at the San Martín and the Rex theaters. It was important because we signed a contract for thirty days and we had a nine-month tenure. It was a sextet with Geroni Flores, Germino next to me, Juan Guido and Famiglietti on bandoneons. I recall that Adolfo Pérez “Pocholo” was also with us.

«With the pianist Pirucho Villella I played at a salon of massage-therapy for women: Vogue's. I formed another group to work at the Basile’s beauty parlor on Corrientes and Lavalle. Over 20 people assisted the customers. Daily from 4 pm to 8 pm I was backed by José Caso and Domingo Santa Cruz on bandoneons and Juan Santa Cruz on piano. There I composed another tango: “Te la regalo”. With the boys of the beauty parlor we appeared on the radio station of the neighborhood, the famous LOY Radio Nacional (later Radio Belgrano).

«I was with Cobián until the latter left on a tour and Julio De Caro later adopted his school, because in fact there is no Decarian school. It was previously shaped by us, Cobián, Petrucelli, Maffia, Constanzo and I.

«I played for distinguished families and even in embassies. I had the best musicians and I paid them very well. I even had the pleasure to have the lead violinist of the Teatro Colón, Luis Gianneo, with me for one gig. For playing three pieces I paid him one hundred pesos. When he saw them he told me: «I have no change». He did not understand that I was paying him what he did not earn in a fortnight.»

The outstanding times of Fausto Frontera career were: when he played with Juan Maglio, also in 1924 as art director of Radio LOJ El Abuelito, owned by the actress Angelina Pagano and when in 1928 he joined the orchestra of the Teatro Nacional. His activity did not decline until 1932 when an ilness made him quit the job. He returned in 1935 with the Francisco Lomuto Orchestra for a very short time because body ailments caused him problems with his hands and then he had to quit the business .

As a composer we can name the following: “Cortando camino”, “Puesta de sol”, “Gran señor”, “Tradición”, all them with lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo; “Hilos de plata”, with words by Ismael Aguilar and Martinelli Massa; “Campo ajeno”, a shimmy, “¡Oh la la!”; “Mi traje de novia”; “Rey de copas”; “Qué torcido andás Julián” and “Recóndita”, the piece he liked most. Finally, the two tangos that Gardel recorded: “Callejera” and “Tabernero (El tabernero)”.

It’s obvious that his two greatest hits were the latter. But about that, a testimony of that time denies that he was the composer. In the case of “Callejera”, the composer was Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores that sold it for thirty or forty pesos, according to what Enrique Cadícamo told my informer. As for “Tabernero (El tabernero)”, it would be a melody that Miguel Cafre —who was unable to write music— brought from Cuba and that Rafael Rossi transcribed into the music staff. This episode was told by Rossi himself.

But this does not have to scare us. As my friend Chula Clausi says: «This used to be commonplace at that time. Do you know how many tangos composed by José Martínez or Chon Pereyra bear the signature of somebody else?».