August 5, 2021

Carlos Melero died, a “lover of music and sound” who worked with the greatest figures of jazz

At the age of 87, this Thursday, June 24, he died at his home in Villa Crespo Carlos Melero, the owner of the sound memory of jazz and responsible for having made many of the greatest figures of the genre and other styles sound unbeatable on any stage in our country.

“One time I had to work with Weather Report, and while I was putting in the microphones and putting together all the sound, their keyboardist and pianist, Joe Zawinul, asked me what my profession was. ‘Sonidista’, I told. My answer did not conform “, Melero said in an interview for Clarion, exactly two years ago.

Sitting between a Revox tape recorder and a grand piano in line with his own elegance, he went on with his anecdote: “I see that you do something else, you put the microphones with good judgment, you do things that I have never seen … That is more than just a sound engineer. In our country he is called a sound engineer ”, he remembered Zawinul had told him.

Carlos Melero, between Gary Burton and Chick Corea, two of the jazz greats he worked with.

Immediately, faithful to a humility that was his hallmark, according to those who knew him closely, he confessed to Zawinul that he had never studied sound engineering. “‘Then -added that the musician replied-, must be listed as an untitled sound engineer.”

Music by different means

The truth is that what Melero had tried through the study was to become a musician. For that, he trained with the teachers Virtu Maragno, E. Bosch and Luis Lavia, Washington Castro, Francisco Maragno, Juan Pedro Franze, Jorge Martínez Zárate and Enrique Belloc, after having taken the first steps in his native Santa Fe.

“In all the towns there was a teacher who taught theory and music theory, something that I hated, because it was pure mathematics,” he pointed out in that interview, in which he also acknowledged that his limitations as an interpreter led him to seek another way connection with music.

In his house in Villa Crespo, Carlos Melero housed a good part of the sound memory of jazz in Argentina.  Photo Federico Imas

In his house in Villa Crespo, Carlos Melero housed a good part of the sound memory of jazz in Argentina. Photo Federico Imas

At the end of the 1960s and with equipment supplied by representatives of national and foreign commercial firms, Melero began his apprenticeship in the use of professional sound systems. He used the hall of the now-defunct Embassy Theater as a rehearsal and testing laboratory.

At that time, Melero verified that his solid musical training had not been acquired in vain, and that together with his knowledge of English (the language in which all the technical bibliography was found at the time), they made possible a rapid learning of the trade that, in your case, it was always governed by musical parameters rather than technical.

“I never wanted to show off the equipment, but the musical program. I never defaced a piano tail to put a microphone, but quite the opposite: everything at the service of the instrument “, he highlighted during another interview, published by revista Ñ.

Melero said that one day he realized that as a pianist he had reached his limit, and he sought to connect with music in another way.  Photo Federico Imas

Melero said that one day he realized that as a pianist he had reached his limit, and he sought to connect with music in another way. Photo Federico Imas

That link he was looking for with music came from the artist representative Alejandro Szterenfeld, from the Conciertos Gama agency, who while Melero was working at the Holimar audio house, told him that within a year he would begin to bring the country to great jazz figures and that, if he was prepared, he would count on their services to make the sound of the concerts.

Six months later Szterenfeld was offering to amplify the voices of a symphonic work by the Italian composer Luciano Berio, at the National Cervantes Theater. “Are you up for it?” He said the businessman asked him, and he did not hesitate to say yes.

Five decades with the greatest

That was the starting point of a five-decade journey that continued “with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Michel Petrucciani, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Erroll Garner … ”and the list of genre greats goes on.

When everything was the beginning.  Carlos Melero and Enrique Belloc, who gave him a great hand in his debut as "sonidista" at the Teatro Nacional Cervantes, amplifying the voices of a play by Luciano Berio.

When everything was the beginning. Carlos Melero and Enrique Belloc, who gave him a great hand in his debut as a “sound engineer” at the Teatro Nacional Cervantes, amplifying the voices of a work by Luciano Berio.

But although the history of Melero was fundamentally traversed by the jazz that sounded between the ’60s and’ 90s, it was far from being exhausted there. “I worked for many years with Ariel Ramírez, with Aníbal Troilo, with Piazzolla, the Buenos Aires Tango Orchestra conducted by Raúl Garello and Carlos García ”, he summed up, with a slow tone that still resonates in my memory as the sound frame of his words.

The other frame, the spatial one, was defined by the paintings that surely continue to line the walls of the room with images that they witnessed in real time each of his words. And there he will continue to be with Bill Evans; further on, with the Catalan pianist Teté Montoliu; Also in the photo of Carmen McRae, with a dedication included; and next to Sarah Vaughan.

His prestige also led him to work with the MIA (Associated Independent Musicians) and with Luis Alberto Spinetta. “I had to do Invisible at the Colosseum and I remember that I had no idea what it was, but the rehearsals were very intense, and I realized that I lacked knowledge in the distribution of the microphones. But the recording was phenomenal. “

Carlos Melero, with pianist Bill Evans and his manager Helen Keane, at the San Martín Theater, in 1979. "She was surprised to see a photo of Bill laughing", says Melero.

Carlos Melero, with pianist Bill Evans and his manager Helen Keane, at the San Martín Theater in 1979. “She was surprised to see a photo in which Bill was laughing,” says Melero.

It is that since its inception, Melero took care of recording the concerts in which he had to work, although with no other intention than to be able to enjoy them without the pressure of correctly fulfilling their task. “I recorded them so, after arriving at my house, serve me something to drink and listen to them calmly,” he clarified.

In any case, his restlessness as an “editor” was satisfied in partnership with Iván Cosentino, Nora Raffo and Nelson Montes-Bradley, with whom he founded the Qualiton record label dedicated to Argentine composers and performers and focused -in its beginnings- on the Argentine folk ethnographic musical research.

Record to listen

But his recordings of figures like Stan Getz -for his concert, he had a special stool made to allow him to hide the recorder- Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan, often accompanied by groups that armed only to come to South America but never set foot in a studio, were destined to enrich a personal heritage that he used to share with his more or less close environment.

An archive that testifies to the long career of Carlos Melero making good music sound the way it should.  Photo Federico Imas

An archive that testifies to the long career of Carlos Melero making good music sound the way it should. Photo Federico Imas

Only that environment, judging by personal experience, was expanding to the extent that Melero verified that his interlocutor on duty shared with him a love of music. Above all, for the one made in the here and now of a stage.

“I have analog ears. I recognize that digital technique serves many things, that it transforms and contributes a lot, that it offers more resources to work with and helps to recover things. But we are talking about studio sound, and I was never friends with recording studios, “he said.

Carlos Melero stopped working in 2014, after having been in charge of the sound of the Teatro Gran Rex between 1989 and that year, together with Ángel Itelman. “I left long before my hearing was affected by the years. My work with the sound lasted while they still did not break your hearing with the volume,” he said.

And concluded: “I was in love with music and sound”.

E.S.

.