Alberto Gambino

Real name: Gambino, Alberto
Bandoneonist, violinist, bandleader and composer
(28 July 1899 - 8 June 1987)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Oscar Zucchi

e was born in the city of Buenos Aires. His early childhood was spent together with the one of the De Caro brothers, their families lived next door. His father was music teacher and taught him his early lessons of music theory and the technique of violin playing. With this instrument he began his professional career.

By that time he was attending high school that he soon quit. It was in 1911 when he held a bandoneon in his hands for the first time. His father had opened a tearoom in which a tango orchestra played and bought a bandoneon because the player hired did not own one. Soon later the bandoneon player quit and the instrument was placed in a corner of the house. When Alberto discovered it, imitating what he had seen, started to play some notes. His enthusiasm led him to practice eagerly.

In the meantime he was violinist of the group led by Antonio Gutman aka (El Rusito) at a café on San Juan, between Maza and Boedo. It was then when he asked the leader to teach him to play bandoneon. Gutman was neither a technically accomplished player nor a patient teacher and he only showed him the chords he already knew and had learnt by ear.

The first piece he learnt was “La payanca”. Fate made him meet the composer of that tango at that venue. Augusto Pedro Berto, after hearing him, invited him to join his orchestra but as violinist. He played at the carnival balls of 1914 and also at the Hippodrome. In 1915 he appeared at the Teatro Coliseo and he played there until 1921 as member of tango orchestras and as well in those that played a classical repertoire.

From 1925 to 1928, he became an itinerant musician in the Patagonian region where he played either instruments. At the same time he studied to polish his bandoneon playing technique. He was gradually giving up violin playing. His last work as violinist was on his comeback when he replaced Alejandro Scarpino.

As bandoneon player he joined the cast of LOY Radio Nacional (later named Belgrano). He played with the Típica Muraro at the restaurant El Tráfico on Alvear Avenue. Later he was member of the orchestra headed by the violinist César Petrone that appeared on LS9 La voz del aire. In 1930 he was conductor of the orchestra of Radio Nacional for the popular radio soap opera Chispazos de Tradición.

When he put together his own aggregation in his ranks he had Héctor Varela, Alberto Marino in his beginnings and, in 1938, Ismael Spitalnik as lead bandoneon and Argentino Galván as arranger. Furthermore, for a period Ernesto Famá was his vocalist and recorded two numbers.

As composer his output was not very prolific, around 20 numbers. Among them we can highlight: “Acacias”, with his own words, recorded by Francisco Lomuto with Fernando Díaz and also by Mercedes Simone, “A qué mentir ni jurar”, lyrics by Ivo Pelay, recorded by Gambino with Famá, “Callecita de ensueño”, lyrics by J. L. Menache, recorded by Roberto Firpo with Príncipe Azul, “Melenudo”, words by Pablo Rodríguez, recorded by Mercedes Simone, with guitars, “Mi carnaval”, lyrics by Francisco Laino, recorded by the Típica Ciriaquito led by Ciriaco Ortiz with Carlos Lafuente; “Mosterio”, recorded by Lomuto with Fernando Díaz, “La porfiada” (ranchera) recorded by Firpo with Príncipe Azul, “Pedile permiso”, lyrics by Jesús Fernández Blanco (humorous polka), recorded by Francisco Canaro with Roberto Maida, “Fuegos de artificio” (march), lyrics by Pelay, recorded by Gambino with Famá.

Excerpted from his book El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes, Volume II, Corregidor Editions.