Ricardo García Blaya

e was a complete musician, a virtuoso player with an incredible ductility either on piano, his favorite instrument, or on bandoneon. Furthermore, he knew how to play double bass and was a renowned arranger; an aspect in which he achieved great prestige by writing charts for the main orchestras of his time: Enrique Mario Francini, Francini-Pontier, Aníbal Troilo, Astor Piazzolla, Juan D'Arienzo, Roberto Caló and Leopoldo Federico, among others.

He was born in the city of Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Constitución, but his long career in tango began in La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires, where he moved with his family at age nine.

As a child he was interested in music, firstly with his father’s bandoneon and later with piano, an instrument he liked more and which became his definitive tool.

When he was only 12 years old he was alumnus of Eduardo Rovira who taught him the secrets of the instrument and the first notions of harmony and counterpoint. We can rather say that he was a precocious child. In many fields during his learning process he surpassed the adult disciples of the teacher. Thereafter he studied harmony with Ernesto Rossi (Tití).

Due to his gifts he started to work as a professional at a young age. When he was a teenger of thirteen years old he joined the orchestra headed by Ricardo Pérsico, the composer of the tango “Hoja seca” which was recorded by Mariano Mores and his sextet.

Later, several members that split with that aggregation gathered to form the Típica Florida, a quintet put together by young musicians of the city in which he lived. He was indeed its leader. They appeared on TV channel 7 which had been recently opened in 1953.

Thereafter, the following year, an important leap in his show business career took place. One afternoon Ángel Allegro, who was bass player in the Horacio Salgán orchestra, heard him and as he, with other fellow members, was splitting with that aggregation summoned him to join a new one. They named the new line-up as Los Embajadores del Tango.

He played with Mario Canaro and was substitute pianist in several orchestras. Once he had the especial chance to play in the Osvaldo Pugliese orchestra when he was only nineteen.

After his military service he put together his own oufit and it was in La Plata. It was known as Quintango and it appeared on diverse radios in Buenos Aires, clubs, television and at the most prestigious tango venues, among them: El Viejo Almacén.

His orchestra had a very popular style but evidenced traces of the avant garde trend that appeared in the mid- fifties. Let us remember that he was instrumentally trained by the maestros Rovira and Rossi.

In 1965 he was awarded the first prize at the Festival de La Falda in the province of Córdoba where he appeared fronting an aggregation that exclusively included players of La Plata city. He played the piano in the quintet of Hugo Baralis for which he wrote several arrangements, including his tango “Ciudad noche”.

Along with Néstor Marconi on bandoneon and Héctor Console on double bass he put together in 1971 the Vanguatrío. They recorded two long-playing records for the Tonodisc label.

Very often he was in the recording studios in Argentina as well as in Japan where he was one of the pioneers of our tango. In that far distant country he established a music conservatory and wrote over 400 arrangements for Japanese musicians. His output comprises around 70 long-playing records and twelve compact discs.

He traveled for the first time to Japan as bandoneonist of the Francini y Pontier Orchestra. And later his following experience in Nippon lands was as leader of his own orchestra that featured the singer Jorge Hidalgo and thereafter, on many more occasions, performances that always included in his aggregations young players born in La Plata.

He worked with a large number of singers and backed them up on recordings. Among them we can mention Roberto Rufino, Virginia Luque, Alberto Podestá, Silvia Del Río, María Garay, Carlos Rossi, Héctor Darío, Reynaldo Martín, Ana Medrano, Enrique Lear and Claudio Bergé.

In his obituary, the El País newspaper commented diverse aspects of his career and his personality: «His disciples and his peers remember him as a very enjoyable person, with a strong character but frank and fully aware of his artistry».

And included the artist’s own words: «Tango has never undergone a crisis. It is very well known that what in fact happened was a problem with the recording companies that put aside quality in order to get bigger profits.

«In his latter years, with humility, he shared the stage and sponsored new singers of La Plata and transfered his knowledge and experience to them. He passed away yesterday at 1 p.m. in a bed of the Hospital Español after a ten-day fight against pneumonia. He was seventy years old».

Lastly, it is worthwhile to highlight from his output as composer, his first instrumental trilogy with “Ciudad noche”, “Ciudad de tango” (1969) and “Nace una ciudad” (1970). Time later the following tangos would be added: “Alegría de un teclado”, instrumental; “Amanece [b]” with lyrics by Carlos Rossi; “Frente a tanto amor” and “Me lo dirás un día”, both with words by Leopoldo Díaz Vélez; “Tristeza de un teclado”, instrumental and the milonga “Nací milonga” with his own lyrics.

As a finale I want to highlight the beauty of his piece “Alegría de un teclado” (Joy of a keyboard) that, I think, summarizes all his gifts as player, composer and arranger. I do invite you to listen to it here in Todo Tango.