Laureano Fernández

e was born in Rojas, province of Buenos Aires, where he spent his childhood and the early days of his youth. His father was Francisco Garralda, a Basque from Pamplona and his mother, Clara Debote, an Argentine with Italian parents.

At age eleven he began to study bandoneon playing with Alberto Martínez with whom he also learnt music theory and sight reading. Still in Rojas he had some basic studies of piano playing. When he was a teenager he joined the local orchestra led by Juan M. Casco.

In 1943, he travelled to Buenos Aires and, in 1944, he joined the Juan Carlos Caviello orchestra with which he appeared on Radio Argentina and at different barroms. While in that aggregation he came to know Carlos Pellegrini, vocalist of the group, who later would be known as Jorge Maciel. In 1945 he joined the ranks of the outfit fronted by Juan Canaro that by that time had José Márquez as pianist. On suggestion by the latter, Garralda joined the Orquesta Argentina that included former members of the Fresedo Orchestra. Some of them were Armando Lacava (piano), Nadalini (violin) and Juan Carlos Miranda (vocalist).

Thereafter he was summoned for his military service. In 1947, he began to carry out his position as lead bandoneonist in the aggregation headed by the violinist Alfredo Gobbi. The bandoneon section also included Mario Demarco, Roca and Mauricio Schulman (The Buddah). This anthological orchestra has achieved outstanding tango renditions mostly written by the leader himself and by Mario Demarco. His tenure in this group was until the late 1950, when Mario Demarco decided to split with Gobbi and form an orchestra run jointly by its members. The members of this new aggregation headed by Demarco were: Ernesto Romero (piano), José Carli, Luis Piersantelli, Cabrera and Antonio Blanco (violins), Demarco, Garralda, Tito Rodríguez and Ricardo Varela (bandoneons), Luis Adesso (double bass) and the vocalists Raúl Quirós (Donato Tramontano) and Jorge Sobral.

In 1951, he joined the Julio De Caro Orchestra. By that time the bandoneon section was lined up by Carlos Marcucci, Cristóbal Ramos, Arturo Penón, Alfredo Marcucci and Alberto Garralda. In 1953, after Jorge Maciel’s suggestion, he joined again the orchestra fronted Gobbi. In 1954, Maciel quit and Alfredo Del Río and Tito Landó were included. By that time the bandoneonist, composer and arranger Eduardo Rovira joined the aggregation. Thereafter, in 1959, Osvaldo Tarantino and Dino Saluzzi joined the group. The great Taranta, due to his independent behavior, did not like to stay in a group for a long tenure and some time later was replaced by the pianist Alberto Giaimo.

I think it is interesting to include here two anecdotes that Garralda told me about the Tango Romantic Violinist which evidence the way the bandleader trusted him. One of them refers to the fact that Gobbi sent Garralda to listen to Osvaldo Piro to ponder the capabilities of the young bandoneonist as player with the intention of his future inclusion, instead of auditioning him personally. His opinion was favorable but the leader took his time before including him in the orchestra. The other took place on a tour: Gobbi sat beside Garralda on the bus and told him: «Look, kid, I’m going to fire several members ‘cause the thing is not working».

In 1959, Garralda was summoned by Miguel Caló and with that orchestra he made a tour of Brazil. His partners on the tour were, among others, Tarantino on piano and Luis Maggiolo, Gómez and Jorge Ceriotti on bandoneons.

In the 60s when Ángel Condercuri split with the orchestra that accompanied Alberto Castillo, the pianist Jorge Dragone called him for a tour of Venezuela.

Around 1967, he returned to Venezuela because Miguel Montero told him about a tango coterie that the bandoneon player Musaccio (known as Di Maggio) and a singer named Alonso ran. With them he signed a contract for six months. Alfredo Attadía, based there several years before, was his connection for gigs and recordings. He also appeared accompanying Agustín Irusta.

In 1968 he travelled to Colombia and along with José Márquez, that lived there, made recordings with local musicians. They backed up a Córdoba singer named Maldonado and the vocalist Alberto Garda in appearances on TV and at intermission shows at movie theaters. Together with Márquez, on their trip back to Buenos Aires, he played for a short season in Ecuador. In 1970 he came back to Argentina.

Here, from time to time, he accompanied singers like Alberto Marino, Roberto Rufino, Alberto Podestá and Alberto Morán. The latter, from 1975 to 1986. By that time he played at the venue Vos Tango located near the Autopista Dellepiane (Highway) and Murguiondo.

In the 70s I had the chance to be acquainted with Alberto. It was when we travelled with him to play in Rojas, his hometown. Then, along with Carlos Carlsen on bass and Jorge Rutman on piano I had the pleasure to play, as guitarist, with this tango legend. We played some instrumentals and some tangos that were sung by Rodolfo Almar, also born in Rojas and close friend of Garralda’s.

His recordings as leader are: Mensaje a la ciudad, LP released in 1975 with notable instrumentalists like: Eduardo Walczak, Reynaldo Nichele, Fernando Suárez Paz, Mario Abramovich, Tito Besprovan, Mauricio Marcelli (violins), José Bragato (cello), Osvaldo Tarantino or José Colángelo (piano), Bartolomé Palermo (guitar), Enrique Díaz (double bass). In 1978, the long-playing record: Latido de Buenos Aires. In 1983, the record Puntualmente and in 1998, the CD Los duendes nocturnos in which he is accompanied, among others, by Fernando Suárez Paz, Osvaldo Berlingieri, Héctor Console, Horacio Malvicino, Ángel Sanzó and Eduardo Walczak.

As from 2000 he had appearances in cultural programs of Buenos Aires city with a quintet with piano, guitar, flute, electric bass and bandoneon. He has composed a large number of pieces and we can mention: “La zapada” (recorded by Mario Demarco), “Sin vuelta de hoja” (Alfredo Gobbi’s recording), “Latido de Buenos Aires”, “Mensaje a la ciudad”, “Mi ángel rubio”, “Sucedió un verano”, “Desnudando la ciudad”, “Reposo del porteño”, “Decantación”, “Tema sobre Si bemol” (Piece in B flat), “Concierto para bandoneón y cuerdas” (Concerto for Bandoneon and Strings) (2005) and “Concierto astral” (2010).

After many years I met Alberto Garralda again. I thought he would not remember me but, luckily, that did not happen and because of that I still keep on visiting him in the apartment on Reconquista Street where he lives now and where I wrote this note in which he reminisces his career with simplicity and humility despite he is already part of the history of tango. It was an honor for me writing these lines and sharing his rich experiences.

This true tango man, kept his activities until his last days, with projects, writing and playing. I think he was truly an example.