Ricardo García Blaya

ot long ago, in the mid- 2000, I went out to lunch with my friend Oscar Himschoot to a restaurant on Montevideo and Sarmiento and there we met maestro Carlos García. We invited him to our table, talked a bit of everything and, all of a sudden, I had the idea of asking him whom he considered the best tango pianist. With his usual gentleness he made a revision of the greatest players of the instrument and so the names of Carlos Di Sarli, Osmar Maderna, Rodolfo Biagi, Luis Riccardi, Orlando Goñi, Horacio Salgán and many more were appearing. The guy did not choose anyone in particular and described their different features and styles highlighting the virtues of each one of them. The issue did not seem to be cleared out and the conversation changed to other topics. When we finished eating and we were about to say goodbye, he put his hand on my shoulder and in a condescending voice he confessed to me: «Imagine how great pianist Salamanca had to be to be able to struggle so long time with D'Arienzo! How difficult it had to be and furthermore, to do it so well.» There was his answer.

Undoubtedly, Fulvio Salamanca was one of the greatest players of that instrument, but he was as well an excellent leader and arranger that released unforgettable recordings. According to Horacio Ferrer: «His interpretations had the trademark of a peculiar syncopated rhythmical beat and the use of passages in the high and extremely high register for the string section». In fact, he showcased his technical skill and virtuosity, capable of following the rhythmical unrestrained motion of D'Arienzo and adding beauty to it. When he put together his own ensemble he imposed his great personality on it and, without missing his dancing aesthetics, he displays a harmony and a model of orchestration that were a perfect foil for the musicality of the numbers, with strength, but without false stridence.

He was born in the province of Santa Fe, in the locality of Juan B. Molina. In his early childhood his family moved to Las Varillas, province of Córdoba.

At age six he began his musical studies and he graduated as piano teacher at age twelve. In 1935 he formed his first orchestra with young kids of the area. They named it Orquesta Mickey. With it they toured all the province playing tangos, waltzes, milongas and other fashionable beats.

In 1938 the Juan D'Arienzo Orchestra made its debut in San Francisco, a Cordoba town near the border with Santa Fe, so the boys from Las Varillas went to see him. The evening show was a failure because the audience were a few people, but they had the chance to meet some of the members of the most important orchestra of the time and listening to the famous Rey del Compás.

Only the following year it was when D'Arienzo came to know and heard Fulvio. In fact, due to a tour that included Las Varillas, someone told him about the young pianist. The kid made a good impression on the leader who invited the former for an audition in Buenos Aires. It took place in March 1940 and the result was successful. So started a relationship that would last seventeen years.

By that time D'Arienzo was putting together a new orchestra and the one in charge to pick up the musicians was the lead bandoneon and arranger, Héctor Varela. Finally the orchestra was lined-up, among others, by the bandoneon players Varela, Jorge Ceriotti and Alberto San Miguel, Salamanca on piano, the great violinist Cayetano Puglisi, alongside Jaime Ferrer and Blas Pensato, the bassist Olindo Sinibaldi and the vocalists Alberto Reynal and Carlos Casares. The latter would be later replaced by Héctor Mauré.

During his stay in the orchestra he recorded 380 numbers. The first one was “Entre dos fuegos” composed by López Buchardo on April 12, 1940; the last: “Sin barco y sin amor” by Erma Suárez and Enrique Lary on March 13, 1957.

He was strongly convinced of his political ideas that linked him to the Communist Party, so he began to have trouble and more than once, the man was sent to a dungeon. Armando Laborde told us that the day he had an audition with D'Arienzo, the latter left him waiting because he had to take Fulvio out of the police station.

Undoubtedly his cycle with D'Arienzo was fundamental in his career, not only because of his playing in an orchestra so popular and successful, but also because of the experience achieved alongside the leader.

In the early months of 1957 he decided to put together his own orchestra with the help of the bandoneonist Eduardo Cortti. The debut was on Radio Splendid in June with a bandoneon section lined-up with Cortti, Luis Magliolo, Adolfo Gómez and Julio Esbrez. The big surprise was the presence of the great violinist Elvino Vardaro, backed by Aquiles Aguilar, Lázaro Becker, Jorge González and Edmundo Baya. The bass was played by Ítalo Bessa and the first two vocalists were Jorge Garré and Andrés Peyró. A few days before he had made his first recording for the Odeon label with two classic numbers "Chiqué" by Ricardo Brignolo and "Alma en pena" by Anselmo Aieta.

During the year some musicians were changed and the singer Andrés Peyró split. He was replaced by the one who would turn out the emblematic vocalist of the orchestra, Armando Guerrico. The latter released very good renditions of the tangos "Flor del valle" by Barbieri and Garrós, and "Recuerdo" by Pugliese and Moreno, the latter in duo with Luis Correa.

He gigged in Montevideo and in 1961 he toured Uruguay and Chile.

His problems with the different governments are frequent and he was banned from radio and television in Argentina.

In the late 1960 he put together a trio with the bandoneonist Julio Esbrez and the bassist Alberto Celenza, at first and Ángel Alegre, later.

In 1966 and later in 1968 he recorded in Buenos Aires two records requested by Japan and released by King Records. They included European tangos, the first, and Japanese folk tunes in a tango style, the second.

In 1975 he made an important tour of Japan that lasted nearly three months. He appeared at the most important cities and recorded 24 numbers for the Japanese Victor label.

Finally, in 1987 he put together a sextet, in which sometimes was guest artist the bandoneonist Carlos Niesi. With it he recorded his last LP for the Almalí label.

His discography is not very long: for Odeon he made 36 recordings between 1957 and 1963; for Philips 11 in 1961. Later he recorded 60 numbers for Music Hall (1964-1969). The first record of the four LPs he made for this label has an excellent rendition of Eduardo Arolas's "Maipo". To this summary we have to add the 48 recordings abovementioned for Japanese labels and the last ten he made for Almalí. All this adds up to a total of 165 recordings.

Through the ranks of his orchestra passed brilliant musicians like the bandoneon players Osvaldo Rizzo, Osvaldo Piro, Oscar Bassil; the violinists José Carli, Fernando Suárez Paz, Simón Bajour, Alberto Besprovan, Leo Lipesker and the double bass players Rafael del Bagno and Mario Monteleone, among others.

Besides those already named Jorge Garré, Andrés Peyró y Armando Guerrico, other singers of his orchestra were: Julio Rodolfo, Mario Luna, Luis Roca, Luis Correa, Alberto Hidalgo and Carlos Nogués.

Out of his irregular output as composer are standouts the tangos "Tomá estas monedas" that we wrote in collaboration with D'Arienzo and has lyrics by Carlos Bahr; "Matraca", "Viento sur" and "Muñeco saltarín", instrumentals; "Amarga sospecha", also with Bahr and the cashbox boom "Se-pe-ño-po-ri-pi-ta-pa", paradoxically his greatest hit but the one with the lowest quality, as well with the team D'Arienzo-Bahr. Also are his the milonga "Ana María" with lyrics by Nolo López and the waltz "Eterna" dedicated to his wife, with lyrics by Carlos Bahr.

He was a great musician and a good man that never abandoned his ideals either in politics or in art. He did not understand the mass phenomena that Peronism meant, but he never betrayed either the national values or the just claims of the people.