Osvaldo Fresedo: tango for the upper classes
If proof were needed that tango appealed to all sections of society, then listen to the smooth, elegant, tango of Osvaldo Fresedo.
Born in the barrio of La Paternal in the upper class Barrio Norte (north side), far from the poverty of the river areas such as La Boca on the south side, known and immortalised simply as Sur, Fresedo developed a style that would appeal to high society.
Fresedo had a long career, his recordings being punctuated only by the great depression. This hiatus is accompanied by a change in style, and when he returned to the studio in 1933 it was to record the polished salon tangos - perfect for a tea dance - which is today associated with his name. However, if I had to choose, then without hesitation it is the last of the earlier recordings which I would take to my desert island. They alloy the charm which he always has with more rhythm and more feeling than is present in his later work. This is reflected in his popularity. Whilst in the 1930s and 40s he was certainly successful, in the late 1920s he ran five orchestras simultaneously. Even at the height of his success, D'Arienzo only managed three.
I'm on a budget - I only want I only want one album of Fresedo
From his return to the studio in 1933 - long before the legendary fame of Troilo and Fiorentino - Fresedo had already introduced a singer into his orchestra who was much more than just an estrebillista. This was Roberto Ray, perhaps the greatest of his singers, who remained with him until 1938. Together they had a strong of hits, many of which are regularly played today. They effortlessly evoke the elegance of an upper class tea dance, complete with waiters in evening dress and potted palms.
If you must have English sleeve notes and can afford the extra, or live in Spain (where these CDs are produced and are available more cheaply), then get the El Bandoneón cd shown at right. Otherwise, get the cheaper offering Tangos de salón on the Argentine label Tango Argentino
I'm a DJ or collector - I want more
Fresedo in the 1920s
You must hear Fresedo's guardia vieja recordings from 1926-1928. Fresedo recorded prolifically at this time - almost 400 recordings - and the quality is uniformly high. This is a very different Fresedo to the sugary late recordings: strongly rhythmic, almost crisp, this is outstanding dance music.
It's not so easy to hear this music. Astonishingly, none of the Argentine labels have reprinted it; and this despite the Japanese private label Club Tango Argentino having produced five CDs more than a decade ago. (I am on still on the hunt for volumes I and III - if you have then contact me!). I used to refer you to the excellent cd Arrabalero on Blue Moon's label Maestros del Tango Argentino. However, it's gone out-of-print and at the time of writing it's available.
So therefore we turn to Blue Moon's double cd from their label Los grandes orquestas del tango.
Like the other albums in this series, BMT 607, mixes up tracks from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s in a way that personally I feel is not the best way to explore or enjoy an orchestra, but it's still a good album. It's also the only way to hear this material at present.
At the beginning of 1939, Roberto Ray quit Fresedo's orchestra, dissolving their hugely successful partnership. Fresedo would never again find a singer that suited him so well. His replacement was Ricardo Ruiz, whose recordings range from the sublime (such as the virtually unobtainabale Buscándote) to the ridiculous (Plegaria, which is so bad, I gave away the FM Tango cd with it on. I know, what was I thinking).
Carlos Mayel joins as second singer to try and plug the gap left by Ray. Notwithstanding some good recorsings, things improve for the orchestra in 1942 when both Mayel and Ruiz are replaced by the young Oscar Serpa. You can hear the best of the recordings from this period on Colección 78rpm EU-17013, although unfortunately there's not enough of Oscar Serpa and Buscándote is missing.
There is an album of Fresedo with Oscar Serpa on Reliquias, but the fidelity is disappointing.
1950 inaugurated a big change for Fresedo - as it did for many orchestras. Fresedo recruited Roberto Pansera as his arranger, and he made big changes, with some fast paced milongas and a few arrangements of Piazzolla numbers. You can here these on the Fresedo album in the series From Argentina to the World