Carlos Di Sarli earned the nickname ‘The Lord of Tango’ (‘El Señor del Tango’) when his career rose along with the ‘Golden Age of Tango.’ Known for his signature pair of glasses, Di Sarli was a prolific orchestra leader, composer and pianist during his time and well after.
Born on January 7, 1903 in Bahia Blanca in Southern Argentina as Cayetano Di Sarli, he was the eighth child of Italian immigrant Miguel Di Sarli and Serafina Russomano, who was the daughter of the tenor singer Tito Russomano. Di Sarli was exposed to music at an early age. Aside from having a singer grandfather, his brothers were musically involved as well. Domingo was a music teacher, Nicolas became a baritone, and younger brother Roque would become a pianist. Carlos himself took piano lessons.
Their father, Miguel, was the owner of a gun shop and while working here, Di Sarli suffered an accident at the age of 13, costing him an eye. Since then, he could always be seen wearing dark glasses concealing his eyes. Much to the horror of his father and his piano teacher, soon after he recovered from the injury, the young Di Sarli went on tour with a zarzuela company.
In between running away and making his debut, Di Sarli ended up in the province of La Pampa, where he played the piano to silent films for two years. He eventually went back to his hometown and in 1919, Di Sarli made his debut as orchestra leader at a tea room called the Cafe Express. His orchestra toured for some time, but in 1923, Di Sarli and his younger brother Roque made the move to Buenos Aires.
For the next few years, Di Sarli joined a couple of orchestras. First, Anselmo Aieta, a bandoneonist group. Then, a group led by the violinist Juan Pedro Castillo. In 1926, he joined Osvaldo Fresedo’s orchestra. Fresedo had such an influence over Di Sarli that his tango ‘Viejo Milonguero’ is dedicated to Fresedo.
In 1927, Di Sarli formed his own group, a sextet with José Pécora and David Abramsky on violin, César Ginzo and Tito Landó on bandoneón and Adolfo Kraus on bass. By 1934, Di Sarli left his group and moved to Rosario in Santa Fe province, where he joined a small band with the bandoneonist Juan Cambareri. However, in 1938, Di Sarli returned to Buenos Aires, reformed his band, and made their first recording in 1939. The recording included ‘Corazon,’ which is considered a classic. For the next decade, Di Sarli and his music flourished, recording 155 sides and being popular amongst tango dancers.
However, Di Sarli was not the easiest person to get along with. He has been described as eccentric, reserved and was very much a perfectionist. Due to his eccentricity, there was superstition surrounding his music with some believing that saying his name out loud will bring bad luck. In 1949, his orchestra members walked out on him. But Di Sarli continued recording until illness forced him to retire in 1953. This did not stop him, however, continuing to record until his final side in 1958.
Di Sarli’s musical style has been widely lauded, often described as simple, but elegant and full of nuances. He led his last concert on March 8, 1959 at the Podesa de Lanus club in Buenos Aires. He died of a terminal disease on January 12, 1960.