Hernán Volpe

s Osvaldo Pugliese might as well have said: «He was a music worker». An indefatigable wanderer that carried his sheet music folders and his piano on his back along the tango roads. That is a good definition of the pianist Ricardo Martínez.

He possessed a style of his own which did not emulate other forms. He knew, according to his capabilities, to create a personal mood, due to his always well-conceived, sober arrangements. He was fully aware of the tango secrets, those licks and that tango dirt that is only learnt by being a member of an orchestra for some time. That made him an outstanding musician in the milieu sought after by important bandleaders and singers.

He was born in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo, in his family house on 958 Uriarte Street where he also spent all his lifetime. He was son of Santiago Martínez and Armanda Bonamino Carocella, both born in Argentina. His father was criollo and his mother was descendant of Italians from Calabria. Don Santiago used to play soccer and had some gigs as bandoneon player but he finally worked as an automobile mechanic. Doña Armanda was piano teacher but she fully devoted to household and raising her children. In the family there was a renowned uncle: Estevita. Who was he? One of the early bandoneonists in Villa Crespo that played with Osvaldo Pugliese. The latter used to remember him in his interviews. His name was Esteban Bonamino Carocella.

At that musical home Ricardo was raised. He firstly studied piano with his Mom and later with the famous teacher Antonio D’Agostino. By that time he was eleven. Time later, when he already was a professional player, his teacher of harmony, composition and orchestration was another well-known musician who devoted himself to education: the violinist Pedro Aguilar. Nearly all the tango musicians have studied with him.

His professional debut took place in 1948 in juvenile orchestras. Martínez treasures the photos of that period which are a historical testimony of a glorious time for tango. In one of those pictures we spotted the bandoneon player Carlos Pazo.

In 1954 he joined the orchestra led by the violinist Alberto Pugliese —brother of Osvaldo’s— and appeared the weekends at the traditional Salón La Argentina. The orchestra was lined up by: Alberto Pugliese, leader and lead violin, the other members of the section were Juan Anocaro and Luis Giardino. The bandoneon players were Víctor Potenza, Héctor Pelaia, Cholo Tiry, Orlando Oliverio and Oscar Molinari. On double bass was Carlos Tabarosi and on piano, Ricardo Martínez. The vocalists were Roberto Beltrán, Carlos Olmedo and Ernesto Rondó.

In 1955 he switched to the aggregation fronted by Oscar Castagniaro, a temperamental bandoneonist that had split with Pugliese to venture out as leader alongside the singer Roberto Chanel. The players were: Toto Rodríguez, Manuel Daponte and Orlando Calautti (bandoneons); Yeyé Rodríguez and Rugnongi (violins); Ricardo Pesce (double bass) and Martínez on piano. The vocalists at different stages were: Roberto Chanel, Héctor Insúa, Horacio Quintana and Julio Martel. They used to appear at the Confitería La Cigale, on 1153 Corrientes Street.

Thereafter he played in the sextet led by Mario Canaro; a tenure in the orchestra of the singer Jorge Casal led by the violinist Julián Ortiz and which had a very young Osvaldo Piro in the bandoneon section. In 1958 he joined the Raúl Garello quartet that backed up Horacio Quintana. He also worked with Argentino Ledesma, Carlos Dante and Oscar Larroca. In 1960, along with Daniel Lomuto, he accompanied the female singer Elsa Rivas.

Another important task he carried out was that of music copyist. It was important due to the responsibility entrusted by different arrangers. He made relevant works like the complete copy of the “Oratorio Carlos Gardel”, requested by Horacio Salgán himself. He also worked for the Aníbal Troilo orchestra when he copied the charts written by Raúl Garello for the three For Export records.

In the 70s he joined the Ernesto Baffa quartet at the well-remembered Viejo Almacén run by don Edmundo Rivero. «Those were evenings full of magic», he told me in one of our frequent tango chats in SADAIC. By that time that mythical venue of a now faraway Buenos Aires reunited the best of tango: Horacio Salgán, Aníbal Troilo, Edmundo Rivero, Ciriaco Ortiz, Leopoldo Federico, Alfredo De Angelis and Osvaldo Pugliese, among others, who were the staff artists.

Ricardo Martínez has made the task of accompanying singers a craft. Planning the arrangements of a suggested songbook, he adjusted himself to each singer he had to back up and always achieved good results. With many of them he succeeded in recording. The releases that stood out were the ones cut along with Carlos Acuña, Armando Laborde, Juan Carlos Cobos, Alfredo Belusi, Oscar Ferrari, Osvaldo Ribó, Carlos Almagro, Carlos Aguirre and Oscar Del Río, between 1960 and 1980.

But the list of male and female singers accompanied by the groups led by Martínez —trios, quartets and even sextets— does not end with the above. We also add Nelly Vázquez and Gloria Díaz among the tango ladies; and when he was pianist of the well-remembered venue Vostango he accompanied renowned figures like Hugo del Carril, Roberto Rufino, Roberto Goyeneche, Alberto Podestá, Jorge Valdez and Alberto Morán. He always tells us that working in Vostango was an unforgettable experience because it was a true marathon of no less than fifteen singers each evening. The owner asked the singers that when they were onstage that had to sing two or three tango pieces at the most but when Roberto Rufino appeared he ended up singing a cappella because he used to sing at least eight pieces! He also recalls that when they introduced Hugo del Carril they did it by playing the chords of the “Peronist March” and he generally sang the tangos “A media luz”, “Si soy así” and “Cambalache”.

Between 1990 and 2000 he traveled to Japan several times with the bandoneon player Santos Maggi on six-month tours. He also visited some cities of France and Greece.

Some of the players that joined his groups for decades were: Osvaldo Sergio and Enrique Quagliano (bandoneonists), Alberto Pando (violinist) and Oscar Cardozo (bass player).

As composer he has filed in the SADAIC record 261 pieces. We can single out “Ñatita decí que sí” and “El viandazo”, recorded by Armando Laborde, and “Tiempo del abasto” (with Carlos Acuña and Ángel Di Rosa as co-composers) recorded by Carlos Acuña and “Taquillero”, with collaboration by Ernesto Baffa and “Vibrante”

Coming back to the personal life of maestro Martínez, we can also add that he married Ana Leonor Bruzzone in 1969 and had two daughters: María Cecilia and María Verónica.

Today, in his full capacity at age eighty, he is member of the Comisión de Música de SADAIC, a task he carries out alongside outstanding musicians like Ernesto Baffa, Carlos Buono and Juan Alberto Pugliano. And also, he goes on with his professional work when some singer needs music charts and a solid accompaniment backed by the experience achieved by this talented artist.