Norberto Chab

Pecci - Interview to Juan Pecci

is case reaffirms the old saying which says “such father such son”. His father was Vicente Pecci, an Italian, flutist of the old trend that was member of the first tango orchestra led by Vicente Greco back in 1911. His son raised in a favorable environment for the “growing” of tango, turned out to be like his father expected. At the beginning he played violin. Later, Juan Pecci, he learned to play bandoneon. In America or in Europe, a leader or sideman, on records or at theaters, would always has a trademark. A trademark that only those that are representatives of our tango may have and last through time.

«I was born on 1075 Rincón Street, in the neighborhood of San Cristóbal. And there itself, in a courtyard, he studied violin with Ernesto Ponzio. The latter was my father’s buddy and my godfather. I was around eleven when he taught me the first lessons. He taught me how to play pizzicato, staccato and the canyengue style. But the “old man” was quite jealous and did not allow me to play until the time I played well. Many friends used to come home, listened to me and told him that I was doing fine. But he said: «Not until the time I say yes». Only when I was fifteen he connected me with Domingo Santa Cruz. With him and with “the one-eyed" Camerano we put together a trio to appear at the Bar San Martín of that locality. So I got started...»

—You also appeared in Montevideo, didn’t you?

«Yes. My old man took me to play at the Tupí Nambá café on 18 de Julio and Paysandú. Later we played at the Café Japonés on 33 Sarandí Street. It was a period when I spent more time in Uruguay than in Argentina. My father used to put together his groups and always made me join them. No less than Eduardo Arolas who played at the Café Zunino used to come to hear us at this Café Japonés. After a strange event he had to migrate to Europe. There he found that Manuel Pizarro was the one that dominated that milieu. Years later, when Eduardo Bianco arrived tango then had two bastions in Europe.»

—But according to you, before Bianco, there were others...

«Yes. On my comeback, two years later, my father introduced me to Juan Maglio. He was at the Café El Nacional; that was my first experience downtown. My true professional debut. There I played second violin to Elvino Vardaro. The latter was already a classical violinist and, his father, don Antonio, used to tell me: «Col tango non fa niente». He didn’t like that his son devoted himself to tango. But we persuaded him. We used to work hard from one in the afternoon to one in the early morning. Twelve hours a day! It was a five-month tenure. After that I joined several orchestras. I was with Juan D'Arienzo, who paid me eight bucks for replacements, with Anselmo Aieta and with José Servidio, among others.»

—Until you met Eduardo Bianco...

«I was around eighteen. I was with Rafael Rossi at the Confitería Quilmes in Tucumán. Bianco was at the París. With us another good violinist was playing: Abraham Neibur. Bianco used to come in the evening to hear us. And one day he approached me: «Look, Juancito, I want you to come with me on a tour of the provinces and, later, of Europe». Suddenly he had to travel with only Teresita Asprella as female vocalist and Agesilao Ferrazzano as violinist. I stayed in Buenos Aires. We agreed that he would call me. When I was in the military service I received a cable from Paris which summoned me. Then after my service I departed together with the bandoneonist Ambrosio Lotito.»

—In Europe another stage of your career began...

«Yes. There I stayed twenty-five years alongside Bianco. We appeared at the most important theaters of the world. With us played Héctor Artola, Domingo Maida —friends since grade school— and other boys. We went to Russia, but not due to ideologies. We went there just because Bianco liked going everywhere...»

—What kind of tango did you play? Was it an European-like style?

«We tried to play a Di Sarli-like style. But, logically, as not all of us were from the Río de la Plata area, it was not easy our idiosyncrasy for all the musicians. But we tried to. Furthermore, Bianco was always looking for Argentines but no one liked to leave the country! When I came back Troilo told me: «You did really have the lucky pleasure of making a debut at the Scala of Berlin». But he could have also been there! But the thing was that nobody wanted to stay away from Corrientes Street. With me it was another thing. When a was a kid I used to go to the dock to see the vessels. I liked traveling, it was my dream. Then I traveled with Bianco. There I switched to bandoneon. With us was Horacio Pettorossi. One day he told me: «Leave the “tarasca” and catch the bellows, because there are few». I followed his advise and went on with this instrument.»

—Was there a rivalry between the orchestra led by Bianco and the one fronted by Pizarro?

«Both were “strong”. And widely known. But always there was a rivalry. For example, if one of them placed an advertisement with glasses the other would break it. They were never friends. Despite the market was big enough to allocate the two. But maybe because of that, instead of helping each other, there was that challenging situation. And it reached Arolas’s grave itself. To pay the expenses of his burial a money collection was organized. It was likewise when Ambrosio Lotito was killed by an automobile. Gardel began by raising some money. He then gave me the money and I was getting something among the Pizarro and the Bianco people. Finally, they ended up by arguing about who had had the iniciative of organizing the collection.»

—Had you met Gardel previously in Buenos Aires?

«Curiously, I hadn’t. I met him in Paris by the time he was appearing there. We were appearing at the Empire: we were the first Argentine orchestra that appeared there. And every evening, after our performance, we met at the Café Gabernein, on rue Fontaine and rue Pigalle. There we used to meet with Maida, Irusta, Fugazot, Demare, Giliberti, a bandoneon player and I. Gardel used to enter the barroom and the first thing he said was: «News? Mess? Some quarrell, some strange thing?» He liked to know the news. Thereafter I met him again at the Ventimiglia-Niza border but on quite different circumstances. I was spending my holidays. He was detained there because his passaport had expired. Then I was called because an Argentine had been detained. When I saw him I was surprised. I asked him what was wrong. And he replied: «These loons don’t let me pass». He asked me to renew his passport and to leave a message to Madame Wakefield who lived in the Villa Cimiez. I went to the consulate where the consul Olazábal issued a new passport for Gardel (on which I had to leave my own fingerprints) and then I went to Madame Wakefield’s house to tell her that Carlos was detained. It was 1931. As in the Villa Cimiez people were waiting him for a big celebration he wanted to let them know of his situation. Fortunately, soon everything was cleared up.»

Américo Bianchi, Pecci and Fiorentino, Hamburg (1939)."/>

—Finally you split with Bianco...

«He was seriously ill. He had to undergo a very delicate surgery. There was no job then. And I put together a group. No less than with the brothers Astor Bolognini, Remo Bolognini and Ennio Bolognini. With the three of them, a pianist and the Italian singer Carlo Moreno we worked and recorded in Athens. This was in 1940, after I quit Bianco, who stayed in Hamburg. I was for fifteen years in Greece. I wrote a number that translated into English means “Sweet nostalgia”. It was sung even by school children. We made our debut at the Teatro Omonia. Thereafter we appeared at the most important venues of that country. We used to perform a show with international music because we did not play only tango. And in 1954 I returned. And I never traveled again.»