Luciano Leocata

Real name: Leocata, Luciano
Bandoneonist, leader and composer
(25 September 1915 - 5 June 2012)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Anamaría Blasetti

guess that since he was in his mother’s womb the art of bandoneon playing was a gift he has already been given by God and life. One day his father, Salvador, his mother Maria Giuseppa Recúpero and their 14-year-old son, Salvador, decided to leave Sicily to go to Argentina in 1890. They settled in the neighbourhood of Almagro. Salvador soon found a job paving streets with cobblestones.

In this land Graciana, Luciano and, later, Sebastián were born. The latter, in his teens, also studied bandoneon playing like his brother. At the same time he began his studies at the Corvalán school, where now the Santojanni hospital is located.

Maestro Leocata tells us that Santoyani was the owner of many plots of land. Among them there were ten blocks which were subdivided and offered for sale; the payment in instalments —he added— was, in this case, 23 pesos a month. The piece of land had at least 70 meters long; his father, with his humble job supported his family, paid the plot of land and was building the house. Leocata recalls this part of his life with a deep emotion: «I remember the orchard my father had built, the lemon tree, the fruit trees, my mother with her hand-embroidered apron and my brothers and sister running around that plot of land which when we were kids thought it was so big!

«One day —he recalls— my father received a letter that told him that Mr. Santoyani had died and that the latter in his will had decided to cancel the debts of all the buyers of his lands. What had happened was like a miracle and my mother, moved, never ceased to bless this land.

«When I was around 13, by night, I used to hear somebody playing an instrument: it was a bandoneon. I was charmed by hearing that person whom I did not even see from my house but that sound conquered me».

His brother Cayetano became acquainted with a violinist of the Teatro Colón: talked to him and with him, Luciano began to study sight reading for a year. When he finished he told him he would not teach him any more because he already had learned the complete method: «Tell your brother he had to look for someone else to teach you», he suggested.

And of course he did! His new teacher would be José Lopresti. With the latter he studied one year and a half, and once again the same phrase is repeated: «I can’t teach any more, but crossing the street there’s a friend, Juan Barraco, with him you’ll finish your studies».

His peaceful but restless spirit had already made his dream come true: he was beginning to play at cafés and neighborhood clubs with the Juan Pedro Castillo Orchestra. The listeners themselves spread the news that there was «a kid» that played bandoneon very well.

So José Tinelli heard the news and he himself went to the café to clear out his doubts. When the show was over he approached the young Leocata and told him if he would like to go to Radio Stentor to play with him and his orchestra. Of course, Leocata agreed and five days later he went to rehearse with: «No less than with maestro Tinelli at his place! Tinelli on piano and I on bandoneon».

Just one day was enough for the bandleader to recognize his capabilities; so much so that when he said goodnight he handed him a folder with all the charts the orchestra played, and told him these unforgettable words: «Kid, study this and later we’ll practice with the orchestra». With his capacity in less than a month he learnt all the repertoire.

Those five weekly shows on Radio Stentor were highly successful and the listeners requested him, identifying him with the Tinelli’s orchesta. With the latter he also appeared in theater between 1934 and 1935, firstly at the Apolo with the play Virgencita de madera whose playwrights were the Ratti brothers. And in 1936 he switched to the San Martín theater on Esmeralda Street. The comedy was called Espionaje en septiembre. The leading actor was the popular Pablo Palitos.

«I’ll never forget that first aggregation with 4 bandoneons, 3 violins, double bass and piano with maestro Tinelli, and of course, the vocalists Rodolfo Martínez and Chola Bosch. The latter became Tinelli’s wife time later. Meanwhile all was aired on Radio Stentor and my popularity was beginning to grow».

He married Aída Emma Gagliardino on January 16, 1943 and she was his companion throughout life. They met around 1940 when she was 17 and he was 24. They had two daughters, Elba and Susana, and five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

After that beautiful two-year tenure he joined the Florindo Sassone Orchestra to which he contributed with his artistry for more than fifty years.

By that time Sassone was orchestra director of Radio El Mundo and, consequently, exclusive artist of that radio station for fifty years!... With him he toured the country staying for over thirty days in each province. People in the provinces were enthusiastically amazed; furthermore, Radio El Mundo was heard throughout the country, and thanks to it the artists were widely known. These tours were so tiring that only three or four a year were made.

Leocata from the beginning was a composer. In 1948 he presented “Y volvemos a querernos”. Of course, it was premiered on Radio El Mundo with the singer Jorge Casal. It was a smash hit and maestro Osvaldo Pugliese, exclusive artist of Radio Belgrano, decided to record it and was premiered with Alberto Morán on vocals. Look this funny thing: the new tango was simultaneously premiered on two different radios, at two different times, by two different orchestras and by two different singers. In the afternoon on Radio El Mundo by the Sassone’s outfit, and on Radio Belgrano, by the Pugliese’s aggregation in the evening.

But there’s another curiosity: when Leocata and Aznar tried to file in the SADAIC record that tango under the name “Volvemos a querernos” it was rejected because there was a piece with the same name that made it impossible; then they added the conjunction “Y” (and) at the beginning, so starting a series of numbers with the same features: with Aznar he filed “Y mientes todavía”, “Y no te voy a llorar”, “Y todavía te quiero”, “Y te tengo que esperar”, “Y todo es mentira”, “Y rogaré por vos” (waltz), “Y no te creo”. The same trick he used in “Y uniremos nuestro amor”, with Dastrom; “Y yo tenía quince años”, “Y te acordás que fue una tarde”, and “Y no me cuentes tu tristeza”, with Damián Tucci; “Y fue en aquel mes de mayo”, with Montecchio and Roberto Collia; “Y este es el amor”, with Collia; “Y quiero estar a tu lado”, with Margarita Vasollo; “Y la vida sigue igual”, and “Y para qué seguir fingiendo”, with Oscar Fresedo; “Y mentira fue tu amor”, with Félix Arena; “Y no pudieron separarnos”, with Alfredo Dalton; “Y fue un sueño imposible”, and “Y le canto a mi ciudad”, with Juan Luis Ricardi; “Y estás desesperado”, with Carmen Bove; “Y quiero que vuelvas a mí”, with Diego Schillaci and Miguel Salamó; “Y deshojando el tiempo”, with Selva Pérez; “Y vivamos nuestro carnaval”, with Jacinto Alí; “Y hoy vuelvo a revivir”, with Norberto Roldán; “Y no fue sin querer”, with Jorge Fernández; “Y la quise con locura” (waltz), and “Y pretendes que empecemos otra vez”, with Enrique Mora; “Y fue tan solo por amor”, with Jorge Fiorentino.

Others of his numbers: “Milonga de Buenos Aires”, with Oscar Fresedo; “Fayutelli”, and “Luz y paz”, with Shillaci and Collia; “Decís que soy muy celoso”, with Sebastián Leocata; “No quiero perderte”, with Horacio Palmeiro; “Muchacha porteña”, with Sebastián Leocata and Jorfer; “Aquel regalo” (instrumental).

Bur let’s go back to the 40s when the famous Alberto Castillo decided to put together his own orchestra, and Leocata was summoned to join it by Enrique Alessio who would be the leader of the group. His ten-year tenure in it was from 1944 to 1954. Later the soloist Héctor Pacheco summoned him as his accompanist. They appeared at radio stations, saloons, dancehalls for four years and because of that acclaim, Leocata decided to form his own orchestra. His debut was on March 3, 1959 on Radio Belgrano where he stayed for six years; by that time he also appeared at the Cabaret Marabú, also at the El Avión de la Boca. He played at the Sans-Souci on 800 Corrientes Street, in front of the El Nacional Theater. By then his pieces were heard everywhere and what he wrote became hits. He cut 50 recordings for the Music Hall and Vaivén labels.

Oscar Macri, Roberto Chalean, Norberto Roldán and Norberto Natale were among the singers that accompanied him.

In his last days this glory of the Argentine popular music was director of the SADAIC Museum.