There is not old tango and new tango: the tango is one.
Troilo is amongst the most enduringly popular of all tango musicians. More than any other orchestra Troilo placed great emphasis on the singer and the early sides with Francisco Fiorentino, with Orlando Goñi on piano, are timeless.
Troilo's bandoneón playing is widely considered the best ever. I am sure that the modern European listener would choose Pugliese's first bandoneón, Osvaldo Ruggiero. By contrast, Troilo's playing is understated and his subtle interventions do not call attention to themselves.
Another huge innovation was the piano of Orlando Goñi, who created a whole new way of playing that has been described as the antithesis of the sharp, nervous style of Biagi in the D'Arienzo orchestra. Goñi's rhythm is fluid and elastic, with wonderfully decorated base figures that we, in search of a name, nowadays describe as marcación bordoneada.
In general, Troilo's popularity in the tango revival is nowhere near what the quality of his music deserves. His music has more depth than, say, D'Arienzo or Tanturi and, like a good wine, takes longer to appreciate.
Troilo's output divides into five periods.
- 1938: Odeón sign Troilo and they record two sides, but Odeón aren't interested in developing their new artists and nothing more appears - ever. These two sides are available only on El Bandoneón
- 1941 - 1949: RCA (later RCA-Victor) - extensively re-issued by BMG
- 1950 - 1956: TK - re-issued by EURO records as Archivo TK
- 1957 - 1959: Odeón: re-issued on EMI (also licensed to DBN)
- 1960 - 1970: RCA-Victor again
Whilst remaining true to the traditions of tango Troilo was not afraid to innovate. His early 50s output in particular is really interesting for the connosieur. Piazzolla is the main arranger and Troilo experiments freely in a way that makes D'Arienzo from this period feel very backward-looking. There are some quite daring versions of Piazzolla compositions.
In 1963 Troilo became the second beneficiary of RCA's "Tango for Export" programme, using the new stereo technology to promote tango to an overseas market, recording the classic album Troilo for Export.
There are so many Troilo albums that it's impossible to get through them all in this brief review, but we'll try to point out the most important ones.
What sort of buyer are you?
- I only want one or two albums of Troilo
- I'm a DJ or collector - I must have everything
- I don't want to have everything, just all the good stuff
I only want one or two albums of Troilo
Well, you must start with the 1941 sides with Fiorentino. The best place to get these is on BMG Argentina - volume 1 of their 26 volume reissue of Troilo's complete works on RCA-Victor is one of our essential cds.
If you live in or visit Spain, you can also get these sides quite cheaply on El Bandoneón. You can get EBCD-1 and then maybe EBCD-47 later on. El Bandoneón makes a poor platform for extending your collection later on because some of their other Troilo albums are a little poor but, if you're not planning on a big collection, this is not a problem. Even so I would advise anyone considering this route to get instead the 4 cd boxed set on El Bandoneón EBCD-305, which includes the two sides Troilo recorded for Odeón in 1938, Comme il faut and Tinta verde.
Troilo formed a quartet with the leading guitarist of his day, Roberto Grela which made two delightful albums. The first was released on TK in 1955. Like everything released on TK, re-issues have been few and far between - the best was on the defunct Disco Latina. At present you can't get these sides anywhere.
However we can hear their second lp on RCA-Victor from 1962 because it's been reprinted by BMG.
Duos, trios and quartets based around bandoneón and guitar have become increasingly popular, but this is the original, and the best.
I'm a DJ or collector - I want everything!
All the material on RCA-Victor is available on BMG. Their epic 16 album master work, Obra Completa en RCA (Complete work on RCA) with sleeve notes by José Gobello was a wonderful series for collectors but it's now been withdrawn. In its place is a new 26 cd issue Troilo en RCA Victor using the original lp covers.
Turning to TK, unfortunately they went bust and rumour has it that the masters are locked away in a vault somewhere (although I did read somewhere that the rights to the TK catalogue have actually been acquired by Universal). Some of this material was re-issued by Music Hall in the United States and Orfeón in Mexico from some old LPs. The fidelity on most of these discs was variable, although the disc with Raúl Berón was okay.
In 2006 - after the copyright expired - all Troilo's 50s sides on TK were printed by Euro Records Archivo TK but in 2013 that was all deleted as well.
In 2011 the small Argentine label Diapason released this CD of Troilo's early 50s sides, although it took us a while to find out about it.
The sound fidelity is excellent and so are the selections.
The version of Quejas de bandoneón is Troilo's best, for my money.
Fuegos artificiales is excellent, but even better is Ojos negros,
whose arrangement and interpretation is so fresh that it's hard to believe that this tango dates from c.1909.
This is the only place to get this material now that Euro have stopped production - essential.
- Quejas de bandoneón
- Fuegos artificiales
- Taquito militar milonga
- Bandoneón arrabalero
- Que risa
- El choclo
- La cumparsita
- Ojos negros
- El Marne
- El entrerriano
- Roberto Goyeneche (5)
- Angel Cárdenas (6,12)
- Raul Berón (7)
In his brief period with Odeón Troilo recorded 24 tracks. Only 6 are instrumental, but just look at the list: Inspiración, Retirao, Lo que vendrá, La Bordona, Danzarín, and Quejas de bandoneón. Unfortunately none of the available albums include all 24 tracks; EMI's From Argentina to the World offering is the only one with all the instrumentals. Most people overlook these in favour of the Troilo for Export recordings because the latter are high fidelity stereo recordings, but these versions are fresher.
I don't want to have everything, just all the good stuff
Okay, first let's define "all the good stuff". For me, it's all of his '40s output, then the instrumentals from the later period.
To pick up all the 40s material you can simply buy the fourties volumes of Troilo en RCA Victor". However there's an alternative: this material is also available on DBN/Tango Argentino.
There are three albums of Troilo/Fiorentino, two of Troilo/Marino, one Troilo/Ruíz, one Troilo/Rivero, and two instrumental. That's eight albums, and they're also a little cheaper than those on Troilo en RCA Victor" but, whilst it's nice having the material grouped together in this way, 20 tracks per album means that we don't quite get everything. In particular, we only get 20 of the 32 instrumentals from this period.