Saturday, 15 August 2009

Last Tanda Pugliese

Today I have a DJ question.

On two occasions recently, (I think with different DJs), the last tanda of the event has been a set of Pugliese. Since I get home by public transport I only rarely stay for the very last tanda of an evening so I actually don't know how common this is. It could happen 90% of the time or it could be 1%.

It would never ever have occurred to me to use Pugliese for the last tanda.

Upside: it's very beautiful, emotionally engaging, very distinctive playing.

Downside: It's often very challenging to dance to. A lot of people are extremely cautious about dancing to it at all; a lot of people quite understandably only want to dance to it with the just-right person, a person whose technique and musical response happens to work with their own in the right way.

But at the same time, a lot of people like to follow the traditional practice of dancing the last set with their sweethearts. It is more or less quietly expected. And the problem with this is that there is no reason whatsoever why you would expect the sweetheart and the right partner for Pugliese to be the same person.

Using Pugliese for the last tanda just seems rather cruel. I think I would have done my best to choose something more likely to produce a satisfying dance with a wider possible range of partners. I don't know what that would be, but Pugliese doesn't seem like the outstanding candidate.

Does that make sense?

For my tangoless readers here's an embed of Mr. Pugliese and his orchestra playing (in concert rather than for dancers, but you get the idea). The piece is "Arrabal".

36 comments:

Simba said...

I'd say Pugliese works well fairly late, but maybe not for the very last tanda. Depends on the crowd, obviously. Many prefer to let everything loose at the end when there is more space.

It also depends on what you mean by Pugliese, early 40s isn't that dramatic.

One thing I am curious of: Why don't you think people would like Pugliese with their sweethearts? Very emotional and possibly challenging is a good fit for me and my sweetheart at least :)

When djing myself for a small crowd, I have sometimes had problems timing the last few tandas, as suddenly everybody feels it is time to go home, and I don't get to play the last tandas I arranged to round off nicely.

msHedgehog said...

I'm not saying they wouldn't like it, I'm just saying there's no particular reason why you'd expect it. It might be a good fit for the two of you, but that seems like pure chance. It seems much more likely, to me, to be a bit of a strain; more likely to go wrong than right.

tangocherie said...

For me, the last tango should always be La Cumparsita!

Then everyone knows the milonga is over, and is energized by the music to leave and go home. I just love it when the first few notes of La Cumparsita begin and the dancers break into applause in gratitude for the organizer, the DJ, the milonga. Wonderful custom.

While Pugliese can be romantic and sensual, I don't think it works as the final tanda.

And BTW, the custom is to dance the first and last tanda with the person you came with, so if it's your sweetheart--or not--it's only polite to end the evening with that person, Pugliese or not.

msHedgehog said...

They always put Cumparsita at the end, it's the rest of the tanda I'm talking about.

I had mentally edited the custom into something that made some sort of sense to me, as "the person you came with" has no other obvious possible meaning to me. (We came through the door at the same time? We shared a car? These seem absurd.) I have to admit it's one of the ideas that doesn't translate very well. Or at all, really.

tangocherie said...

The "person you came with" would be your "date," sweetheart or not, wouldn't it? The person who invited you to the milonga or the person who accepted your invitation to the milonga. Not a carpool friend or a simultaneous arrival.

To me, anyway.

msHedgehog said...

Okay. I think the "date" is a US concept without a precise equivalent in my culture. In as far as the there is an equivalent relationship, I would have thought that turning up to a milonga together or dancing last tandas regularly was probably something you'd deliberately avoid while you were in it. But most of what you would call 'dates' are probably just friends, in which case to me, the "with" seems very odd, as does the idea of inviting somebody to a milonga.

ghost said...

There are practical benefits to dancing the first and last dances with the person you shared a car with when you're just friends.

At the beginning of the evening it's a safe, gentle warm-up. You know how each other move and you're relaxed. You also get to show each other off a bit. Through my leading I effectively get to say to the guys watching "look she's a great follow, not doing pesky unled boleos, all nice and connected" which hopefully gets her some dances. And she's all smily and contented and looks great which probably helps my cause too. And it gets us on the floor which I think more and more is pivotal to getting dances in London.

At the end of the night the last dance means you aren't stuck sitting out alone :( Also it's a nice cool-down. A gentle dance leaving you both refreshed for the journey home. It means when you finish you're in roughly the same place so you can get coats, change shoes, say goodbye etc reasonably in sync. And hopefully the connection of the dance lingers enough to make conversation on the way home easy.

But yeah, it's important to keep the distinction between two friends who are relaxed and connected and two sweeties snuggling.

Andreas said...

As Simba said, Pugliese isn't necessarily super-dramatic, but I guess that is what you are aiming at - the ones that leave you slightly exhausted yet flushed and frazzled after the tanda. Which is why I don't play those right at the end - I want something deep and sublime that nonetheless lets people down gently before they have to take off their shoes and go home. What you want at the end is a sense of closure. Usually I play late Di Sarli (even some that are often considered too much over-the-top like Bailemos), some slower Laurenz (Recien etc) or maybe some Canaro tanda containing Poema. Dramatic Pugliese I sometimes play around the final high point of the musical arc a couple of tandas before the end. Other (older) Pugliese can occur at any appropriate time, even possibly as a last tanda. Hmm...

ModernTanguera said...

I enjoy Pugliese fairly late in the night, but usually not as the last tanda. While I do dance Pugliese sometimes with my boyfriend, there are other ways of dancing to Pugliese with other leaders that I also really like ... it would be frustrating to never get to dance it with those leaders.

Lately, I have loved having Di Sarli as the last tanda. It helps that my current favorite Cumparsita is a Di Sarli version. Canaro is also very nice, another favorite orchestra of mine.

Anonymous said...

I know some places or DJs use the last few pieces to play something tiring, too fast, too challenging .. to get people out of the venue so they can clean up and go home.

It makes sense but it's not very nice.

How many places play a nice soft vals? They don't for this reason.

msHedgehog said...

@ghost, I agree about the practical benefits. It's good to have a friend there and to do that very thing, start each other off - though it would never have occurred to me to apply that to the last as well as the first. But you would do that for a friend regardless of whether you'd arrived together in any sense.

@Andreas makes sense to me, it's important to have something that makes people feel good.

@Anon, I think vals would be a tad unfair as well, since there are quite a few people (for example some ex-ballroom dancers) who really don't like vals at all and always avoid dancing it. But something comparatively gentle seems reasonable.

tangocherie said...

What happens here in BsAs is that if we are dancing the last tanda with someone other than our "partner," (I have no idea what is the "English" for "date"), when La Cumparsita begins, we say thanks and dance the final tango with whoeveryouwantocallit.

ghost said...

@MsH - true, but it takes the edge off knowing ahead of time you've got a guaranteed easy first dance :o)

Also the practicalities of finishing together are helpful if you're sharing a ride. You don't have to go looking for the other person and if you're getting changed back into civies together people don't tend to begin long conversations / start hitting on one of you. Also the "up" you get off the last song won't last forever. You usually need to get driving and go home, rather than stay and chat to friends for another 40 mins.

And like most habbits, it just becomes easier to do it as time goes on ;o)

It also prevents a random stranger from crippling the driver on the last tanda.

Speaking personally when the last tanda is announced the evening has mentally finished for me if I'm with someone. I wander over to them and just enjoy the last dances - pretty much the epitomy of what I want tango to be really.

Simba said...

I completely agree with Andreas that rounding it off a bit is much to prefer, but it could in principle be done with (some) Pugliese.

And as I wrote I have accidentally ended some nights with dramatic Pugliese by missing the timing on the climax that Andreas also goes for. Don't know the stopping criterion at the milongas you went to, but it could be a djs mistake.

@MsH: I am still curious, you still seem to believe it is rather unlikely to be a good match, but I see it the other way around. We all seem to agree that Pugliese is somehow 'special', and to me it is mainly due to 1. strong emotional impact 2. very dynamic music. Both make it more challenging. Being a couple in romance as well as in tango will (hopefully) mean it is easier to share a deep emotional tanda with someone special, and partners often dance much together and practice together, so one would believe it to be easier to manage the challenges of the dynamic music. I only have very few data points, of course, but that's my reasoning.

What leads you to the opposite conclusion? (not trying to be difficult, genuinely curious)

msHedgehog said...

@Simba - the only data point I'm working with is that most people find it quite difficult to dance to, so my thought is that you're very very lucky if the person you're with is someone who can dance it with confidence and pleasure. I'm seeing it from the woman's point of view, of course, it's not necessarily symmetrical, it might be or it might not.

In both cases I think, I'm not sure about the first one, it was actually relatively non-dramatic - also less well-known - Pugliese. The second one I had a really nice tanda. So I didn't feel strongly that it was a clear problem and I don't think it was a mistake, I just felt rather surprised in both cases, enough that it seemed worth asking the question.

Game Cat said...

I agree with what most people have said about how important a satisfying last tanda should be.

I also agree with how special Pugliese can be, and (as Andreas said) that ideally it should hit one of the musical climaxes late in the evening (tough job for djs). Imo one needs the right partner, warmed up, relaxed and ready to tune in to the feelings that the music can release in you. Timing is everything, but that's just like life, no?

I have no strong view on why a romantically involved partner would be better/ worse for Pugliese. I care most about whether she likes Pugliese and whether she has the interest and ability to make use of the music.

Finally, as a leader, I especially need to know the Pugliese song or it won't work!

Tango en el Cielo said...

Yes, Pugliese IS commonly played as a final tanda in London, in fact, some London DJs always do that. Why? It's an obvious choice if your thought process goes: Grand finale=emotional high=couples together=everyone else pairs up inspired by the romantic music=everyone goes home happy. (I'm guessing - that's not how I see it.)

When I DJ, I rarely do. Like Andreas, if I am going to play dramatic Pugliese I would build up to it as the final musical/emotional high point of the night, late in the evening but when most people are still there.

To my taste, ending on a dramatic high tends to feel like a cliche. Artificial. Especially when only a few people are left. (But I wouldn't like to say it's never right, just usually not).

I also prefer to bring the mood to calm closure, my favourite being di Sarli, ending of course with La Cumparsita by di Sarli.

Occasionally I might save Pugliese for the final tanda but then I would choose calm, romantic, sentimental music rather than dramatic. For example, Farol, Fuimos, Rondando a tu esquina (with Roberto Chanel) or La Tupangatina. And in that case would conclude with Pugliese's La Cumparsita. I like the tradition of ending with La Cumparsita, but prefer to choose a version that's in keeping with the final tanda, not an abrupt contrast.

Occasionally I might end with Hugo Diaz, if the remaining dancers are experienced and seemingly in the mood to really use it. It's playful, sensual, but in a relaxing not a frenetic kind of way.

And I agree with Andreas that some Canaro could make a perfect last tanda, but, although I love Poema, saving it for the last one seems to have been overdone in London of late so I would avoid that. (another favourite among some London DJs which jars with me is a final tanda of dramatic Pugliese with a sudden switch to Canaro's Poema at the very end!).

Sometimes I play several versions of La Cumparsita, ending with di Sarli or something from the 1920s like Canaro. Occasionally I turn the volume down very gradually during the last tanda, especially if the numbers are dwindling. I think it subtly affects the way people dance and they also talk in quieter voices.

And yes, I think it's important for the DJ to look around to see who is there for the last tanda. Very often, it's not the couples or potential couples (they're already left!), it may be an assorted collection of tango diehards, who may not be regular partners. In that case, I agree with you Ms H, very challenging/emotionally charged music might not be the most inclusive way to end their evening.

Tango en el Cielo said...

BTW, am looking forward to Andreas's music this Friday at Carablanca. I've never heard him DJ before but have a feeling I'm going to enjoy dancing to his selection!

msHedgehog said...

Ooo the comments ended up really interesting, just what I was hoping for.

Poema too late at night drives me absolutely round the bend because I find it's a terrible earworm. It goes round and round and I just can't sleep!

I should say that I thought Ewa Zbrezka did a good job last Friday.

I love the Hugo Diaz. See you both on Friday!

Game Cat said...

Going slightly off-topic, does anybody have any thoughts on the suitability of Troilo for the last tanda? I think a number of his songs can be lyrical, emotionally rich and satisfying to end on. E.g. Farol, Suerta Loca, Quejas de Bandoneon?

Andreas said...

@Game Cat: Hmm, interesting. I've never used Troilo for last tanda so far, but why not? The problem might be making a workable tanda, and certainly I wouldn't mix Quejas and Suerte Loca. For some strange reason I don't have Farol by Troilo, so I can't comment on that. But I will probably correct that situation soon. Maybe I'll accept the challenge and see if I can't use Troilo for last tanda on Friday then. But probably it'll be late Di Sarli.
@Tango en el Cielo: I completely agree that the Cumparsita should be by the same orchestra as the last tanda, or indistinguishable from it, and ideally from the same era (or indistinguishable...). Sorry, there won't be any Hugo Diaz, not while I live and breathe. ;-)
And did I mention I will have a brand-new cortina with me?

Andreas said...

@Game Cat: Update: shortcoming corrected, I got Farol, and how wonderful it is, Fiorentino at the top of his game. The album is rightly titled "Los Gloriosos '40".

Game Cat said...

Andreas - Glad you like that version of Farol. I think there is a more popular version by Pugliese, but it isn't as good at least to my ears.

I agree that QDB doesn't fit with the Farol-type songs. However I think it may be appropriate as the FIRST song of the LAST tanda....somehow to me the strong opening phrase seems to say "okay, for everyone who managed to stay till the end, get ready for the final blast".

msHedgehog said...

@Andreas - Dummmmm .... dadaDaaa dadadadada Dummmmmmmmm ..... I dare you.

Andreas said...

@MsH: Huh? 8-|

msHedgehog said...

The racing music!

Andreas said...

@MsH: You seem to harbour the mistaken belief that I possess memory. But I seem to dimly remember something...

Tango en el Cielo said...

@ Game Cat
Am curious why you asked about Troilo specifically for the last tanda?

Troilo surely recorded music of the widest range and variety of any tango orchestra? So the answer has to be Yes - there is so much good Troilo that one could pick a good tanda for ANY purpose - to start the milonga, end the night, energising, calm, romantic, etc.

Perhaps the question is a bit like asking Can I dance to The Beatles?

I have even thought about playing a whole night of different styles of Troilo, or perhaps 50% Troilo, and would be very curious to see how many people if any realise it is the same man's orchestra! (Haven't actually done it. yet! But it is the one orchestra that I do sometimes play more than one tango tanda of in a night.)

Playing a final tanda of Troilo is an interesting idea - will have a think about possible selections when I have a few minutes.

There is of course plenty of undanceable Troilo too. I've wasted a good few pesos buying stacks of Troilo CDs at random before I was aware of that. The singer is often a good guide. As DJ I wouldn't play Troilo sung by Roberto Goyeneche, for example.

Game Cat said...

Tango en el Cielo:
I agree with you about Troilo's breadth (like OP, earlier works are more danceable in general). I picked him because I think he does have stuff suitable to end the evening on, at least imo.

I only have a small Troilo song collection, but I think the Fiorentino ones are really nice (as Andreas found out re Farol). Need to expand my collection - any thoughts on top 5 songs to get?

What I like about Troilo based on the songs I know is that he can be very sophisticated about how he combines his instruments and vocals (is this called 'arrangement'?), yet at the same time convey such emotional depth.

Andreas said...

Troilo's music is brilliant indeed, and it reveals its brilliance fully when taken out on the dance floor. It is music for good dancers.
Apart from some great instrumentals like Cachirulo, Cordon de Oro and Guapeando I especially love almost all the Fiorentino ones. En Esta Tarde Gris, Tinta Roja, Gricel, Percal, Yo Soy El Tango, Toda Mi Vida and especially Te Aconsejo Que Me Olvides just drive me crazy when I can dance them with the right partner at the right time.
I'll make sure I'll play some nice Troilo on Friday. Looking forward to see y'all then.

Tango en el Cielo said...

@ Game Cat

I know you're still waiting for my reply on the top 5 Troilo tangos. What a question! I've 446 Troilo tracks in my iTunes collection (including milongas and valses) but not including the Troilo CDs I don't like much (eg with Goyeneche) and haven't downloaded. So the 446 are all good ones.
So just thinking of a possible last tanda - well I totally agree with Andreas that you couldn't go wrong with any Troilo sung by Fiorentino. He picked out some great examples. Here are five more of my favourites:

Suerte Loca
Taberna
Lejos de Buenos Aires
Sosiego en la Noche
Malena

Or, especially at Carablanca, No Te Apures Carablanca would be nice as a finale and could replace one of those.

These early 40s Fiorentino songs are so romantic and smooth, with very clear yet softly played rhythms. So just perfect for the end of the night, for melting into the right partner, or stepping business-like on the beat with any partner.

But there's so much Troilo I can't resist suggesting another five, totally different ones, as a final tanda in a different situation.

How about a selection of later instrumentals? For example:
Inspiracion
La Maleva
Pablo
Chique
Quejas de bandoneon

These are for good dancers, so might not be ideal for the less experienced (but heck if they are keen enough to be still there at the end they are probably game enough to dance to something challenging!). What is so wonderful is that these tangos lend themselves to all styles- those who want to dance experimentally or expansively have lots of scope if they use the melody, and those who want to dance rhythmically can also do so all the way through. And Ricardo is proof of that - these five tracks are on a compilation he made for me of his favourites. He would dance pad pad pad with his honey feet on all the beats. Whereas Carlos Gavito might have danced one step per phrase to the same piece of music.

To round off, there are lots of versions of la Cumparsita played by Troilo with his various orchestras. The 1943 instrumental would fit nicely at the end of either of these tandas.

Hope this helps you with your choice! Are you looking to buy physical CDs or individual tracks on the internet?

BTW, Did you enjoy last night's final tanda?

Game Cat said...

Tango en el Cielo:

Thanks for the Troilo song suggestions....you certainly over-delivered with two top 5s! I had asked for suggestions in an attempt to avoid sifting through 400+ songs like you did ;-) The 15 between you and Andreas will form the core of my nascent Troilo collection. Ideally if I can find a CD that has a lot of the 15, I'll get it. Else, it will be individual tracks and the odd CD.

I'm aware there are many songs I like that I didn't know were Troilo (as you had pointed out before). E.g. En Esta Tarda Gris, Te Aconsejo Que Me Olvides. I need to set this right.

Were you referring to the last tanda of Fri or Sat? Enjoyed both (different reasons). For Fri, it ended with D'Agostino - so on principle alone it has to be Yes. On Sat, there was a strange, ancient milonga-like version of La Cumparsita that my partner seemed to like (so of course I kept mum).

Btw must have been fantastic to have danced with the late Ricardo. I had missed all the times he came to London and now it's too late.

Tango en el Cielo said...

@ Game Cat

You'd be lucky to find a single CD with tracks from eras a decade and more apart. If you want to buy a single original CD, then choose either Troilo/Fiorentino from the early 40s or a set of instrumentals from the 50s/60s according to your taste. If unsure then definitely go for Fiorentino. Top choices: Del Tiempo Guapo, El Bandoneon label, no 47. Or Todo Troilo - Fiorentino FM Tango para Ud. Vol 2. Or Vol 1. All the tracks are good for dancing. If you want to go for the later instrumentals, then Aníbal Troilo y su orquesta típica From Argentina to the World has some fantastic tracks but not all of them are great for dancing.

I was referring to the last tanda on Saturday night/Sunday morning 2.30 am. (We already talked on Saturday about Friday's last tanda so we know we both liked the D'Agostino/Vargas finale.) I liked all the music on Saturday night until the finale, so that's why I wondered how it was for you. Near the end, my partner and I were enjoying dancing soft and subtle Demare, thinking what a good final tanda it was, then after two tangos all of a sudden we were assaulted by a thumping d'Arienzo with a crashing piano (Tigre Viejo). We decided to quit while we were ahead and as I was leaving another massive d'Arienzo started (something like Este es el rey except that it wasn't). Apparently the DJ interrupted the Demare to cut into his planned final tanda. Utterly bizarre choice, but most people carried on dancing so our reaction was seemingly not typical. I missed the ancient Cumparsita - wish he'd cut straight to that!

Yes dancing with Ricardo was sublime, and above all we had such fun together. He is absolutely irreplaceable as a dance partner and as a friend.

Ms H, hope you don't mind Game Cat and I filling up your columns with our conversation. Would have gone off-line by now if I had Game Cat's email address.

Is 33 a record?

msHedgehog said...

I don't mind at all, I like it when a clueless post gets interesting comments. Not sure if it's a record - probably. You're very welcome to carry on here if you like, but I'll send him your email address so you can both let loose!

Game Cat said...

Ms H: Maybe 34 is the record? ;-)

Tango en el Cielo: Feel free to email. Checked your website but it was "under construction" (hope I got the right one).

Re Troilo CDs - thanks for the tip! Next port of call is Amazon...

Re last tanda of Sat - the last two songs prior to LaCump certainly had a sharper rhythm (though it didn't occur to me that D'Arienzo had done his own version of Tigre V). I agree it was not an ideal way to end the milonga...but frankly the change of pace came at the right time for me.

Spitalfields this Thur, anybody?

Mike said...

Aloha from Honolulu, and great discussion. Regarding the comments about 'Poema' being over-exposed; for me Lomuto's 'Puerto Nuevo' is a good alternative, with its solo violin intro and mix of lyrical and rhythmic sections.