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Argentine Tango Composer, Miguel Calo

Miguel Calo was one of those Argentine bandoneon player, composer and orchestra leaders who lived through the so-called “Golden Age of Tango” and is one of the genre’s most popular musicians. Calo was born on 28 October 1907 in Balvanera in Buenos Aires. The young Calo studied how to play the violin and bandoneon.

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In 1929, at the age of 22, Calo formed his first orchestra, which he later dissolved to join the orchestra of Catulo Castillo. Calo and the pianist and poet toured Spain together. They were also joined by musicians Ricardo and Alfredo Malerba and the singer Roberto Maida. When Calo returned home to Buenos Aires, he formed a second orchestra of his own, this time with the bandoneonist Domingo Cuestas, the violinists Domingo Varela Conte, Hugo Gutiérrez, and Enrique Valtri, the contrabassist Enzo Ricci, and the pianist Luis Brighenti. Once more, Calo left the group to join another, Osvaldo Fresedo’s, and go on tour abroad to the United States.

The first stage of his musical evolution is considered to have been around 1934, when Calo yet again formed another orchestra. His style at the time has been compared to Fresedo’s and the sound reminiscent of Carlos Di Sarli. The group’s pianist was Miguel Nijensohn and Carlos Dante lent his vocals on occasion, doing 18 recordings with them. Other singers included Alberto Morel and Robert Calo.

It was in the 1940s that Calo showed his maturity as a great director. He assembled talented and professional young musicians, all of whom would later organise their own groups. His style during this era was highlighted by violins, a rhythmic bandoneon section and the piano. The latter was played in the first year by Osmar Maderna, who was then replaced with the return of Nijensohn.

Other notable musicians who became part of the line-up included Domingo Federico, Armando Pontier, Carlos Lazzari, Eduardo Rovira, Julián Plaza, José Cambareri (bandoneons), Enrique Francini, Antonio Rodio, Nito Farace (violins), Ariel Pedernera and Juan Fassio (double bass). He helped debut great singers like Raúl Berón, Alberto Podestá and Raúl Iriarte.

Although he’s a great orchestra leader, his compositions are considered as not entirely remarkable. However, some beautiful works of his are “Jamás retornarás” and “Qué te importa que te llore,” both sung by Raul Beron. Other popular songs of his are “Dos fracasos”, with lyrics by Homero Expósito and the milonga “Cobrate y dame el vuelto” whose lyrics were by Enrique Dizeo.

In 1961, Calo reunited with some members of his old line-up from the 1940s. These included the bandoneonists Armando Pontier and Domingo Federico, the violinists Enrique Francini and Hugo Baralis, on piano Orlando Trípodi, and the singers Raúl Berón and Alberto Podestá. The group was called Miguel Caló y su Orquesta de las Estrellas (Miguel Calo and his All-Stars Orchestra). They played on one of the most powerful radios in Argentina, Radio El Mundo.

Calo passed away on 24 may 1972. Still, his influence lingers. In 2016, nearly 45 years later, the record “Siguen Los Exitos de La Orquesta de Miguel Calo” placed in the Top Ten in the Latin Pop Albums, number 48 at Top Latin Albums, and 25 on the Jazz Albums charts.

Argentine Tango Composers eBook
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