Alberto Alonso

Real name: Alonso, Alberto Domingo
Pianist, composer and leader
(12 April 1893 - 27 September 1974)
Place of birth:
Montevideo Uruguay
Ricardo García Blaya

e was born in Montevideo (Uruguay). He was one of the major promoters of tango in his hometown at a time when its growth was very slow in comparison with what was happening on the opposite bank, in Buenos Aires –where the genre was in full expansion-, as Alonso himself says in his essay «Así nació La cumparsita»:

«Montevideo was coming behind in the tango race that had so promisingly started on the neighboring bank and was developing with quite defined features. Even though since the turn of the century some milonga guitar players had appeared here, strictly speaking, there were no tango musicians».

In the early years, according to the way tango was spreading in the city, he played piano at the La Pensión de Ema, on Durazno 868, near Andes Street. It was one of the many boarding houses (places frequented by whores) that opened their doors to local musicians and also to Argentine ones.

His career was long and fruitful. He carried out a work that placed him among the authentic forerunners of tango in his country. Furthermore he also contributed to the genre with many successful numbers like the instrumental tango "La cachimba" and the tango with vocals "Como la mosca" with lyrics by Roberto Aubriot Barboza that Carlos Gardel recorded in December 1930.

In 1907 he finished his piano studies and made his professional debut at the Esmeralda movie theater on Jackson and Lavalleja Streets where he played salon music. Those were the early days of silent movies.

He played in two popular societies for dancers: La Trufa and La Piedra. When he was very young he traveled for the first time to Buenos Aires where he was hired to appear at the renowned cafes with waitresses in the neighborhood of La Boca.

On his comeback to Uruguay he replaced his peer Harold Phillips at the cabaret Moulin Rouge on Andes Street and later he teamed up with the bandoneonist Minotto Di Cicco who was beginning to appear in the tango venues.

Throughout 1916 they appeared at several venues like the Bar Chichilo and the Café Nuevo on 18 de Julio Avenue and Ejido.

It was a quartet that was lined up by its leaders, one on piano and the other on bandoneon and the violinists Luciano Aturaola and Federico Lafemina.

They went to Buenos Aires in 1917 to cut a series of numbers for Victor records. Among them was the famous rendition of "La cumparsita" which for a long time was regarded as the first recording of that tango but later it was discovered it was not. That honor was for Roberto Firpo who did it one year before and only one month after he premiered it at the Café La Giralda.

When the Alonso-Minotto Orchestra was disbanded he continued his career as independent leader and also as piano soloist. He settled in Buenos Aires between 1918 and 1923.

In 1928 he conducted a classical orchestra and one year later he swapped between his job as soloist and his work with a new aggregation with Juan Baüer (Firpito). He kept on playing music until 1937 when he quit show business.

Finally he had a short return in the fifties. With Alberto Casablanca, Dante Sciarra and Tito Demicheri he formed the group Cuatro Pianos para el Tango, that appeared on radio, television, played concerts at theaters and even cut some recordings.

The fact of having written the history of "La cumparsita" which was published in 1967 makes him one of the few musicians writers of Uruguay together with Pintín Castellanos and Jaurés Lamarque Pons.

Besides "La cachimba" –that Alonso recorded as piano solo- and "Como la mosca", he composed the tango "Puro cuento" with lyrics by Francisco Ruiz París. It was recorded by several interpreters, such as: Charlo, twice, with Francisco Canaro (1928) and with Francisco Lomuto (1929); Trío Irusta-Fugazot-Demare in Barcelona (around 1930) and the vocalist Armando Laborde with Juan D’Arienzo (1964).

We can also mention other numbers of his oeuvre like: "La alborada", "Leña seca", "Nobleza criolla", "Pebetita", "Quereme nena", "Yuyos", "Pobre negro", with Aturaola, "Despertar", "Tres de oro" and "Pobre hijo". I don’t know any recording of these pieces. He also wrote a zarzuela criolla, "Flor de trapo (b)".