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Poetas
Hector Gentile
Bandoneonist, bandleader and composer
(2 March 1911 - 1996)

More Gentile:

e was born in the neighborhood Cordón, in Montevideo. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most important tango figures in Uruguay. With a passion for that music and bandoneon since an early age, he only had six months of training which, however, enabled him to later discover the secrets of such a difficult instrument.

When he was a teenager he formed a trio headed by Juan Baüer (Firpito) and that also included the Argentine violinist Federico Lafémina. Later, teaming up with Juan Granese, he joined the orchestra fronted by the violinist Roque Pietrafesa, with Juan B. D’Angelo (piano) and Rochetti (drums). Then he switched to the orchestra that appeared at the Café Avenida, with Luis Rolero (piano), Joaquín Barreiro (drums), Arturo Bettoni and Rochetti (violins), Luis D’Andrea and “Ratinho” (brass) and his fellow bandoneonists Héctor María Artola and José María Mendizábal.

This aggregation was a kind of prologue to putting together the famous Donato-Zerrillo orchestra that successfully appeared on several venues and attracted the attention of the impresario of the Select Lavalle in Buenos Aires, Mr. Álvarez. By the late 1927 the latter hired them and so they all traveled to Buenos Aires. The members were Edgardo Donato, Roberto Zerrillo and Antonio Piovani (violins); Héctor Gentile, Juan Turturiello and Juan Spera (bandoneons); Osvaldo Donato (piano); Ascanio Donato (cello) and José Campesi (double bass).

Gentile played in the orchestra for a year and then he returned to Montevideo. He appeared in the 1929 season at the Hotel Carrasco when Alberto Alonso and Juan Baüer were the leaders of the three orchestras that used to perform there. Thereafter, under the conduction of Alberto Alonso he appeared at the balls held in the Teatro Urquiza and at the Cabaret La Bombonière, on Convención Street.

In 1930, without previous rehearsals, several Uruguayan musicians traveled to Buenos Aires to make recordings for the Odeon company. The outfit was named after Ramón Collazo. They recorded six historical numbers and its lineup was: Ramón Collazo (piano), Raúl Bordoni and Alcides Ayala (violins), Héctor Gentile and Juan Spera (bandoneons), Héctor Liacci (cello) and Guillermo Peña (singer).

The following year Gentile decided to put together an orchestra with which he played for the first time at the Hoteles Municipales. Soon later, by mediation of a friend, he signed with Mr. San Román to appear at the new Café Tupí Nambá, on Avenida 18 de Julio, between Río Branco and Julio Herrera y Obes. They appeared in three performances a day to great acclaim. Because of that, Visconti Romano summoned them to appear at the Royal. The orchestra included: Lalo Etchegoncelay (piano); Emilio Pellejero and Nicolás Agapios (violins); Gentile and Isidro Pellejero (bandoneons) and Pedro Terrón (bass). Two weeks after the opening performance Romeo Gavioli replaced Nicolás Agapios.

In 1932 he formed a new aggregation and traveled to Brazil. Firstly, they appeared at the Cabaret Asirio, swapping later to the Copacabana. We think it is fair to mention the lineups to highlight the good musicians of Montevideo. At the beginnings those who played in Rio de Janeiro were: Víctor Terrón (piano), Juan José Pereyra and Víctor Puglia (violins), Gentile and Isidro Pellejero (bandoneons), Pedro Terrón (string bass).

The Victor recording company of Brazil hired them and they cut several discs that will remain in the tango history as an excellent outfit in the best Decarian style. Lely Morel recorded the first refrains and was later replaced by the famous Malena de Toledo. Soon before returning to Uruguay, the pianist Terrón and the violinist Puglia were urgently replaced by two excellent professionals: Armando Federico and José De Caro who had to travel from Buenos Aires.

The Cancionera magazine announced their comeback to Montevideo in its edition of August 23, 1933 and the orchestra appeared almost immediately on Radio Carve. There is a very important graphic evidence that shows several of its members in the famous photo of Carlos Gardel’s performance. Gentile and Terrón —the latter seated— are seen between a lady and the great singer.

In September 1934 the Gentile’s orchestra again appeared in Buenos Aires at the Cine París and later, in theater, by mediation of Claudio Martínez Payva when the play “Ya tiene comisario el pueblo” was staged. Romeo Gavioli achieved a great acclaim by impersonating famous singers of that time. As Gavioli was forced to return due to family reasons, Gentile dismembered the group and, together with Terrón, joined the Pedro Laurenz orchestra. They appeared at the famous café Los 36 billares with this extraordinary lineup: Armando Federico (piano), Pedro Laurenz, Armando Blasco and Héctor Gentile (bandoneons), Alfredo Gobbi, Samy Friedhental and Francisco Oréfice (violins), Pedro Terrón (double bass).

By the mid- 1936 a Polish musician summoned Gentile and Terrón to appear in Europe. At the beginning they had not thought very seriously about this but by the end of the year they got the tickets and in December, with the Argentines José Cacopardo (violinist) and Antonio Langelotti (bandoneon) they embarked to Oslo, Norway, where their debut was under the conduction of that Pole that was named Bernardo Alemany and played violin. They cut records in Paris and Gentile, after splitting with the group, joined the ranks of the Eduardo Bianco orchestra.

What follows it is unnecessary to detail because we should have to mention a large number of places in the world —he even reached China– receiving acclaim for his bandoneon playing. He was in Luxemburg when World War II broke out and ther he married. After the war he toured Europe with the group led by Rafael Canaro and later, he settled in Germany with Fioravanti Di Cicco.

In 1949 he returned to Montevideo and put together an orchestra that appeared on CX14 Radio El Espectador to great acclaim. The charts were written by Héctor Stamponi, Argentino Galván and Ismael Spitalnik. The lineup was: Walter Beretervide (piano), Gentile, Isidro Pellejero and Armando Blasco (bandoneons), Ramón Panedas and Alfonso Escamés (violins), Néstor Casco (double bass) and Tito Etcheverry (vocals).

He was not an outstanding composer but there is a good tango he wrote which was recorded by the orchestra of the Copacabana and was named “¿Me querés?” by Malena de Toledo when both were having a brief love affair. The lyrics were never written. He also composed: “No la traigas” (with words by Reinaldo Yiso), “Budinazo” and “El calaverón” (with lyrics by Dante Gilardoni), “Si nos queremos todavía” and “Mi colegiala” (waltz) (with Ángel Di Rosa) and the waltz “Como la margarita” (with José Rótulo).

Originally published in the book "Ochenta notas de Tango. Perfiles Biográficos", Ed. La Plaza, Montevideo 1998. Sponsored by the "Academia de Tango del Uruguay".