At the age of 87, this Thursday, June 24, 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 in such a way, died at his home in Villa Crespo. unbeatable in any setting in our country.
“Once I had to work with Weather Report, and while I was putting the microphones and putting together all the sound, their keyboardist and pianist, Joe Zawinul, asked me what my profession was. ‘Soundman’, I told him. My answer did not conform ”, Melero said in an interview for Clarín, exactly two years ago.
Sitting between a Revox tape recorder and a grand piano in line with his own elegance, he continued with his anecdote: “I see that you do something else, you put the microphones with good judgment, you do things that I never saw… That’s something more than sound engineer. In our country he is called a sound engineer ”, he recalled Zawinul saying.
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. “‘So,” he added, the musician replied, “you have to 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 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 to connect with music. music.
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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 found 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 his case, it was always governed by musical parameters rather than technical ones.
“I never wanted to show off the equipment, but the musical program. I never distorted a grand piano to put a microphone, but quite the opposite: everything at the service of the instrument ”, he highlighted during another interview, published by Ñ magazine.
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 who, if he was prepared, 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 career 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.
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 summarized, with a slow tone that still resonates in my memory like 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 testified in real time to 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 with 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. “
It is that from the beginning, 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 his 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 musical research Argentine folk ethnographic.
Record to listen
But his recordings of figures such as 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 they stepped on a studio, they were destined to enrich a personal heritage that they used to share with their more or less close environment.
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.
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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 ear with the volume, “he said.