Gaspar Astarita

ne of the few orchestras that remained working after the end of the famous forties was that of Joaquín Do Reyes, because it went on playing in the subsequent years with an outstanding success on the Buenos Aires radio stations, especially on Radio El Mundo, and all its discographic work precisely began in 1950 and lasted until 1962.

His name and his orchestra, in spite of the quality of its interpretations, were of a low profile, using an expression much in vogue at these times to qualify certain personalities that perform their task disregarding the importance that promotion has in every kind of activity.

The orchestral style of Joaquín Do Reyes was of a strongly Decarean influence. With a severe judgment for choice, he required for his outfit the collaboration of talented instrumentalists, to many of which he entrusted the arranging of the most outstanding renderings of his repertoire.

The precise execution of the orchestra, its sound density, the prestigious soloists and collaborators that surrounded him, shaped an artistic entity which ought to be taken more into consideration by the exegetes of tango.

Joaquín Do Reyes was born in Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of Mataderos, on January 26, 1905, and after studying bandoneon and other music disciplines, he started to play professionally when he was twenty years old. He played in Francisco Lomuto's orchestra, for a short time, and also brief was his stay in the first orchestra of Juan D'Arienzo and later in Alberto Gambino's.

He was thirty and had been playing for ten years as professional when he put together his first outfit, with which he played at the Chantecler cabaret, a place where precisely his tango “Yo no sé llorar” was born, whose lyrics belong to Celedonio Flores.

And in like manner, with some interruptions, his career and his orchestra went on. Radios and night locals were his narrow field, since at that time his work failed to reach the higher levels of popularity achieved by other leaders. However, he went on persevering, until 1950 when the brand-new recording company TK required his inclusion in its catalogue, together with the major names of Edmundo Rivero, Aníbal Troilo, Argentino Galván and Horacio Salgán, among others. His first numbers recorded for the label were “Trece” and “El amanecer”.

That important step, to be convoked by the label TK, had further encouraged him to go on polishing his orchestral style, requiring the collaboration of instrumentalists of the level of Julio Ahumada, Eduardo Del Piano, Mario Demarco, Máximo Mori among the bandoneons; Elvino Vardaro and Roberto Guisado among the violinists; César Zagnoli, Juan José Paz and Osvaldo Manzi among the pianists. All this increased his self-confidence and although tango and the spaces for its wide-spreading were less every day, Joaquín Do Reyes orchestra, even though discontinuously, kept on playing on radios, in the interior of the country, including a tour of Montevideo. And recording: for TKrecords, he committed to disc twenty-four numbers, until 1954. For Victor he recorded six numbers, between 1960 and 1962.

Besides all these recordings, many broadcast takes are known, that, in a perfect state, circulate among collectors. Of all them I want to highlight one, that the specialist Oscar Zucchi included in the volume 2 of his Historia del bandoneón. I am referring to the tango “Pensativo”, composed by Máximo Mori, arranged by the composer himself and with a wonderful violin solo played by Elvino Vardaro, it was interpreted by the orchestra of Do Reyes through Radio El Mundo.

Of his work as composer we can name the already mentioned “Yo no sé llorar”, besides two beautiful instrumental tangos: “Decareando” and “Don Rosendo”, dedicated to Julio De Caro and Rosendo Mendizábal respectively, pieces that he recorded for the Victor label. To these we can also add another beautiful instrumental tango of his, “Rastreando”, recorded for TK in 1953. Other tangos composed by him were “Cuatro pasos” en las nubes and “No me digas que no corazón”, both with lyrics by Reinaldo Yiso.

Joaquín Do Reyes died in Buenos Aires on June 8, 1987.

Published in Tango y Lunfardo magazine, Nº 128, Chivilcoy, 16 May 1997.