I’m a long time student and teacher of tango guitar. This series of articles is for tango guitar students and guitarists interested in pursuing tango. Contact me for more information on lessons and workshops.
So far we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the nuts and bolts of playing tango guitar – essential stuff, for sure – but let’s always keep in close contact with the music. One of the best ways to do that is by listening to classic recordings.
During my first couple of months of tango guitar, the maestro Aníbal Arias told me to bring him a blank cassette so he could copy an old LP for me. When he gave me my new tape, I looked at his lettering that said ‘Anibal Troilo & Roberto Grela’ as he told me ‘this is the best tango music ever recorded.’ I listened over and over again, and gradually added some other recordings to my collection: Carlos Gardel with guitars, a compilation of classic orchestras (all on cassette) and finally a CD of Troilo’s orchestra with the singer Floreal Ruiz.
Years later I discovered the singer Edmundo Rivero (who recreated Gardel’s vocal/guitar concept) and the singer Roberto Goyeneche. The great duo between Horacio Salgán (piano) and Ubaldo De Lío (electric guitar) was another milestone, along with all of Salgán's output: his orchestra, and his great Quinteto Real.
Since my journey began in the pre-internet age I had to seek out recordings through friends and make journeys to record stores and spend hours sifting and deliberating. If you’re learning about tango today you no longer have to wait to listen to recordings, most of which are immediately available to anyone with Internet.
The challenge these days is separating out the music that is worth your while and concentrating on that. So today I’m going to create a playlist of classic recordings that I consider essential. If you are new to tango music and tango guitar this will send you in the right direction. It is, of course, music that I love. As you continue your journey, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards the artists and songs that get your attention.
So, I’ve created a Spotify playlist that samples recordings by classic tango artists. I’ve categorized these artists by ensemble type, and the full list is below.
When you hear something you really like, you’ll want to hear more. Before you know it you’ll start having favorite artists and favorite recordings. Enjoy the journey!
Guitar Ensemble with Singer
Ensembles including guitar
Cuarteto Troilo Grela
Cuarteto Federico Grela
Salgán - De Lío (Horacio Salgán & Ubaldo De Lío)
Quinteto Real (and Nuevo Quinteto Real, both led by Horacio Salgán)
Ciriaco Ortiz & Ubaldo De Lío
Carlos Di Sarli
Julio De Caro
Astor Piazzolla (1950’s)*
Roberto Goyeneche (1950's - 1970's)
Roberto Rufino - Bandoneón de mi ciudad
Ensembles (no guitar)
*I’ve included Astor Piazzolla’s ‘1946 Orchestra,’ which was the traditional tango orchestra Piazzolla led before moving on to create his own style of music, which moved away from traditional tango language and into a more ‘universal’ space, using a style that was very personal and has gotten a lot of exposure in the music world. Chances are you’ve heard Piazzolla’s later music, but not this orchestral project, which is rooted in tango tradition but shows the beginnings of Piazzolla’s dextrosity and innovation as a composer.