Luis Adolfo Sierra

nequalled name, with more than six decades of unaltered force throughout two generations, is Alfredo Gobbi's. When that indefatigable pioneer of the difficult beginnings of the tango conquest, called D. Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi, culminated his prolonged artistic performing career, his son, Alfredo Gobbi as well, was sticking out towards consecration, as the proper continuer of an illustrious popular artistic tradition of ours.

The multiple facets of Alfredo Gobbi's personality —composer, violinist, arranger and orchestra leader— granted him a well-deserved and indisputable recognition among the most qualified and important music interpreters of tango. Because Alfredo Gobbi —The Romantic Violin of Tango— not only bore the responsibility of an inherited prestigious artistic name. He brought the very personal creation of a tango style. So he established a different way of feeling and expressing tango. He brought in his original esthetic conceptions, of evident innovative character, reminiscences of an old time, framed in the exact balance of the evolutionist values, that allowed him to crystallize one of the most colorful, deep, dense and authentic expressions of the instrumental tango. It has been accurately said that «in the modern musical clothing of Alfredo Gobbi, the last example of tango with long hair was dying down». That was his tango. The unmistakable tango of Alfredo Gobbi, of academic musical structure and outskirts-born deep sensitivity.

His far-reaching contribution to the style of the genre, has something so much his own, and at the same time so difficult to define, something of De Caro´s school, something of Di Sarli (that is not either the fusion of two tendencies so different), something of the tango of always. Of Alfredo Gobbi´s tango, that in the expressive language of jazz would be called swing, and which has no verbal equivalent among us.

Admirable stylist, creator of a very personal modality, the temperamental image of Alfredo Gobbi's tango is evidenced with unequivocal features, in the style of his orchestra. All the configurative aspects of this exceptional popular musician are present in the way the orchestra plays. Without excessively academic braggadocio, but within a harmonic treatment of highly polished musicality, Alfredo Gobbi made use of a very singular rhythmic division for his orchestra, achieving a type of tango preferably slow and stressed, with an appealing use of rubato, of syncopation and of the subtle nuances of interpretation which give sound beauty and hierarchy to the artistic manifestations of that quality. The instrumental solos always find a preferential and exact placement in his orchestral designs, allowing the instrumentalists´ showcasing, with specific predominance of his inimitable romantic violin. The romantic violin of Alfredo Gobbi, with small vibrato, of expressive portamento, of legitimate Decarean lineage. Furthermore, it has an overwhelming influence on the interpretative styling of Alfredo Gobbi, the treatment of piano as driving axis of all his orchestral structure, always following that tangoistic way which has been called marcación bordoneada (a type of left hand comping), and which was virtually created with Orlando Goñi, in his long years of close comradeship and fraternal friendship, united in their unrepentant bohemia by a unconcealable artistic affinity.

Alfredo Julio Gobbi was born in Paris, on May 14, 1912. His parents were there —Los Gobbi, one of the vocal duets most celebrated of the period— supporting the foundations of our tango in Europe. His godfather was Ángel Villoldo, who shared with the former the romantic adventure of making tango fashionable in the old world.

Later based in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Ortúzar, Alfredo Gobbi began his musical studies at the age of six, being the violin the instrument he was assigned to.

Very soon the inborn musical capabilities sprang up in the young player, showing an inclination for tango, in spite of the tough opposition of his father, who always had the hope of making of his song a concert player.

At thirteen he made his professional debut, joining modest trios at dancing rooms. In 1927 he played in the orchestra of the Teatro Nuevo, conducted by the maestro Antonio Lozzi. He later made his debut in qualified tango outfits, alongside Pacho's legendary bandoneon. He joined in 1930 —together with the then unknown Aníbal Troilo— that memorable sextet led by Elvino Vardaro and Osvaldo Pugliese. His performance as first violin of Pedro Laurenz orchestra (1935), and a very qualified authorial output —“Desvelo”, “Mi paloma”, “De punta y hacha” and “Cavilando”— which placed him among the most remarkable composers, opened then the possibilities for Alfredo Gobbi to break through with his different tango style, artistically beautiful, authentically pure, unmistakably his, assembling his own orchestra in 1942.

In May 1947, the orchestra of Alfredo Gobbi, definitively incorporated to the most representative expressions of modern tango, started its discographical labor in RCA-Victor, which was to last exactly a decade (1947 - 1957), in whose period are comprehended the interpretative releases which best define the way of expressing tango by the late artist. There is a RCA-Victor LP with 14 instrumental numbers, which in its time I had the privilege of selecting for the recording company which, undoubtedly, stands as the best synthesis and the clear testimony of one of the musically most interesting expressions of tango of all times.

Director's Note: The 14 works selected by doctor Sierra for that discographic recording were: “La viruta”, “Jueves”, “El incendio”, “Orlando Goñi”, “Racing Club”, “Chuzas”, “Pelele”, “La catrera”, “El andariego”, “Nueve puntos”, “Camandulaje”, “El engobiao” and those truly instrumental jewels, models of interpretation and arrangement which are “Puro apronte” and “Independiente Club”, the latter, one of the most beautiful pages by Bardi, ignored by most people.

In each version of Alfredo Gobbi's orchestra we can always find a renewed motive of interest, because of its rich gamut of rhythmic and harmonic resources. Either in his notable refurbishing of old and everlasting pieces —“El incendio”, “Chuzas”, “Nueve puntos”, “La viruta”, “Pelele”, “La catrera”— always treated with careful respect of their original contents, or in the performance of his own and musically evolved tangos, “Orlando Goñi”, “El andariego”, “Camandulaje” (which contrarily to what could be thought of, he composed on the piano and not on the violin), the esthetic values that prevail in Alfredo Gobbi's way of interpreting are evidenced.

The importance conferred upon the solo players of his orchestra, allowed Alfredo Gobbi to count, among others, with instrumentalists so qualified as César Zagnoli, Ernesto Romero, Lalo Benítez, Roberto Cicare, Osvaldo Tarantino (pianists); Mario Demarco, Edelmiro D'Amario, Cayetano Cámara, Alberto Garralda, Tito Rodríguez, Eduardo Rovira, Osvaldo Piro (bandoneonists); Juan José Fantín, Omar Sansone, Alcides Rossi, Ramón Dos Santos, Osvaldo Monteleone (double bass players), Antonio Blanco, Bernardo Germino, Hugo Baralis, Ariol Gessaghi, Miguel Silvestre and Eduardo Salgado (violinists).

That complete artist, that authentic Buenos Aires man, that sentimental and roving bohemian, named Alfredo Gobbi —prematurely dead on May 21, 1965— shaped with the unmistakable features of his outstanding personality, one of the definitive and unyielding forms of instrumental tango.

Originally published in the magazine Tango y lunfardo, Nº 73, Chivilcoy, 31 March 1992.