Gaspar Astarita

he fertile Rosario school created by Abel Bedrune has given us the worthy personality of this refined stylist, with clear roots in Pedro Maffia's aesthetic direction. He began his career in Rosario, in his teacher's orchestra, alongside Antonio Ríos. The characteristics of his style are his elegant handling, his clean sound -soft and velvet-like-, his delicate phrasing and his musicality.

When he was just twenty he arrived in our Capital city and settled at that mythical boarding house on Salta 321, called Pensión La Alegría. The house, by some rare design, hosted, almost at the same time, a number of musicians who later had an important reputation. Such was the case of Enrique Francini, Armando Pontier, Héctor Stamponi, Antonio Ríos, Ernesto Rossi (Tití), Cristóbal Herreros, Enrique Munné, Argentino Galván, Homero Expósito, Emilio Barbato, Alberto Suárez Villanueva and others. The encounter with Galván meant very much for Ahumada, who later would be the lead bandoneon in all the outfits of the excellent arranger.

In Buenos Aires he began his professional career with the Roberto Zerrillo's orchestra. Later he joined the ones led by Alberto Soifer, Nicolás Vaccaro and Lucio Demare's orchestra.

In the late 1943 when Emilio Balcarce again put together an orchestra to back the singer Alberto Castillo, he was summoned to head the bandoneon section. Of the recordings made, his bandoneon solo in the tango “La que murió en París” stand out, among others.

In the mid- forties he joined the staff orchestra of Radio El Mundo, while also he was member of the orchestras led by Galván, Héctor Artola, José Basso, Joaquín Do Reyes and he as well played in the Enrique Francini's orchestra. While he was in the latter orchestra, with his partner Miguel Bonano, they devised and, later put together, an orchestra of their own: the Típica Ahumada-Bonano which had a short but outstanding career.

In 1957 when the septet Los Astros del Tango, arranged and conducted by Argentino Galván, was formed the best of Ahumada was possible to be heard in its 38 recordings on which he is featured to great advantage and so we can grasp his conception. There he left the evidence of all his qualified musical substance. It is the summary and the undeniable sample of his artistic, technical and temperamental dimension.

In 1960 the idea of recording for Music Hall the Historia de la Orquesta Típica was born. Galván was the arranger and conductor, of course, and Ahumada played with another 42 outstanding musicians. This recorded history consisted, by means of 34 pieces, in a journey throughout the different tango orchestras and styles, in which the players made an imitation of each one of them.

That same year, Galván formed a new orchestra and again Ahumada was included. They appeared at the cinema theater Ópera and, before they split, they cut a recording which spotlighted his formidable bandoneon solo in “Nunca tuvo novio”. Thereafter a voyage to Japan was to follow but it did not came true. The great arranger died on November 8, 1960.

Ahumada had to continue without his friend and, in 1964, he formed Cuatro Para el Tango, with Eugenio Pro on double bass and the guitarists Marsilio Robles and Juan Mehaudy. They recorded some numbers for the Spacial label.

Two years later, as arranger and leader, he teamed up with the bassist Hamlet Greco for a series of recitals at the disappeared Teatro Apolo. The duo, plus the pianist Carlos Parodi and the violinist Aquiles Aguilar, cut some recordings released by the Tini label, also accompanying the renditions of the singer Carlos Olmedo.

Gabriel Clausi required him to cut a disc for his own label, Chopin, together with Enrique Cantore, Alfonso Bernava (violins), Enrique Munné (piano) and Mario Monteleone (double bass).

The prestigious musician Juan José Castro honored him when he chose him as the sole bandoneon of a 40-piece symphonic orchestra for the premiere of the Three-penny Opera at the Teatro Alvear.

Dino Saluzzi formed his “Pen Tango” with Ahumada. The latter soon thereafter and, for a long tenure, joined the staff orchestra of the well-remembered El Viejo Almacén run by Edmundo Rivero. At that local, when the Carlos Figari's sextet appeared he was the lead bandoneon and arranger.

In February 1980 the Orquesta del Tango de la ciudad de Buenos Aires made its debut conducted by Carlos García, and he was one of the four bandoneonists. His partners in the section were Saluzzi, Marconi and Antonio Príncipe. In the early repertoire of the aggregation was his tango “Pa' mama” in his own arrangement.

He was nearing the end of his life when, in the last months of 1983, from Japan he was asked to send recorded material to be published. He put together an orchestra which, among others, included Marconi, Julio Pane, Colángelo, Leopoldo Federico and Hugo Baralis. Time later those recorded numbers were available in our country. Ahumada's playing at the Alberto Tavarozzi’s tango “Media noche” is a standout.

As composer he did not leave a large oeuvre. Besides the above mentioned “Pa' mama”, recorded by Leopoldo Federico, Ahumada-Bonano and the Orquesta del tango de Buenos Aires, we can name: “El gurí”, recorded by Francini, “A Anselmo Aieta”, “Tangueando en el contrabajo”, in collaboration with Rafael Del Bagno. With Figari he composed “Dulce y romántica”, “Amor y soledad” and “De mis sueños”.

Finally, he had a great satisfaction in 1969 —when tango already was in full decline— and the Odol company organized a contest with finals held at the Luna Park stadium, always crowded. With lyrics by Julio Camilloni he presented “Hasta el último tren”, which was awarded the first prize. The second prize was for “Balada para un loco”, written by Piazzolla and Ferrer.

As an curious information, Carlitos (the one who was bandoneon player in the Leopoldo Federico Orchestra, the Japanese Yoneyama, today impresario in his own country) learned the licks of his instrument used in tango with Ahumada. For the former he was Tata Julio (Dad Julio). The latter, at age 68, passed away and left for us the sound of his unforgettable bandoneon.