Adolfo Carabelli

Real name: Carabelli, Adolfo Leandro
Pianist, composer and leader
(8 September 1893 - 25 January 1947)
Place of birth:
San Fernando (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Héctor Ángel Benedetti

1947 came to an end the life of one of the musicians of most complete training that appeared in the tango field but also one of the most underrated and by that time already blurred into oblivion; the latter circumstance maybe due to his own decision. The one who had been the brilliant pianist Adolfo Carabelli died alone at his home in the city of San Fernando.

In that same locality of the province he was born on September 8, 1893; in the same San Fernando which was already the cradle of the poet Verminio Servetto and which soon later would be the birthplace of another great musician: Francisco Pracánico.

Since an early age Carabelli studied piano, composition, harmony and counterpoint, always with an exclusively classical orientation (the only one taught at the conservatories by that time) and fortunately the lessons were given by the best teachers of each specialty. Around age fifteen, turned into a virtuoso of first level and having appeared for several concerts in Buenos Aires theaters, his instructors thought that they had no more things to offer to him and so they advised him to travel to Europe to polish his instruction under the tutelage of the great Italian maestros of the period.

He was admitted as student at the Lyceum of Bologna and it meant agreat benefit for the vocation of the young man. There he learned with Alberto D'Erasmo, Luiggi Torti and Ferruccio Busoni, composer of the opera Doktor Faust. Graduated as Master in Composition at age twenty, an outstanding future awaited him as composer and concert player in the Old World; but the imminence of the Great War forced him to return to Argentina and back again in his country he complemented his academic knowledge with lessons by Gianneo and Schiuma. The latter were other two renowned teachers in activity by then.

In 1917 while he was member of the Trío Argentina which performed classical music, he got acquainted with the pianist Lipoff (who had arrived in Buenos Aires as accompanist of the dancer Anna Pavlova) and after this encounter his career underwent a substantial twist. Lipoff had a wide knowledge of jazz music; Carabelli was marveled with this expression and he devoted to it definitively. He put together an instrumental team, firstly with Lipoff and later with the Danish pianist Friederickson; from then on Carabelli applied all his classical knowledge to the North American rhythm. The first orchestra he led was named River Jazz Band.

Later he led, on request of a Buenos Aires radio station recently opened, an orchestra which already bore his own surname. With it he recorded discs for the Electra label. Due to the defective sound of this label (the concept of edition of its owners may seem «primitive¦ for a time in which technically advanced recordings as those issued by Victor or Nacional Odeon coexisted), today it turns out difficult to fairly appreciate the characteristics of this first recording made by Carabelli; however, they represent an authentic document in sound of the jazz music of that period which goes until 1925 approximately.

The real amplitude of Carabelli's capacity is evidenced as from 1926 when Victor hired him as artistic director of the label, and at the same time commissioned him to form an orchestra which would play either jazz or tango music. Thanks to Carabelli, since then the Victor staff reached a higher hierarchy, achieving the inclusion of notable musicians and choosing an attractive repertoire. Similarly, the development of the orthophonic recordings reached an unexpected sound quality just a few months before.

However, in the Carabelli's orchestra jazz and other beats were played more than tango; and it remained that way until the early thirties when tango recordings began to be issued on a regular basis. Around 1931 his was an outfit completely identified with Buenos Aires, having players like Federico Scorticati, Ciriaco Ortiz, Luis Petrucelli and Carlos Marcucci on bandoneons; Elvino Vardaro, Manlio Francia and Rossi on violins; his brother Orlando Carabelli on double bass; and himself on piano, conduction and arrangements. From time to time other instruments to reinforce certain sounds or to achieve some effects were included. Also Vicente Gorrese, Humberto Costanzo, Renato Zaffignani and Héctor Presas Cachito passed through its ranks, just to mention a few more.

Among the vocalists were Charlo, Mercedes Simone, Carlos Lafuente, Luis Díaz, Alberto Gómez (under the pseudonym Nico) and the Gómez-Vila duo, among others.

Some discs were published as Adolfo Carabelli y su Orquesta, others as Adolfo Carabelli y su Orquesta Típica and others as Adolfo Carabelli y su Jazz Band; this label was indistinct for the aggregation, whether theinstrumental outfit was widened or not to include drums, trombone, fagot, musical saw, etc., according to the needs of one or other recorded beat.

Among the best well-known tangos of his tango orchestra (orquesta típica) are the most authentic creations he made of “Mi refugio” (1931); “Cantando” (1931, with the added vocals by Simone and Alberto Gómez as a duo), “Felicia” (1932), “Por dónde andará” (1932), “Inspiración” (1932), “Mar adentro” (1933), etc. Also some renditions with refrain of tangos that usually are played only instrumentally like “Rodríguez Peña” (1932) and “El trece” (1932) are well remembered. Among his interpretations of international music are standouts the fox trot “¿Cuál es su hobby?” (1931), the rhumba “Negra consentida” (1932), the pasodoble “Soldadito del amor” (1934) and the song which was a hit by Carlo Buti, here in a local version: “Vivir” (1935).

Even though his name was not on the record labels he also led the renowned Orquesta Típica Victor. Carabelli's talent brought an identifiable personality to this orchestra placing it among the best of its time, and many times using the same players that Carabelli summoned for his own aggregation.

Like many other orchestras published by Victor, and like the Orquesta Típica Victor itself to which he wrote arrangements, Carabelli's only existed for recording discs; its members were leaders or outstanding players of other groups and were reunited only to make recordings. For his public appearances Carabelli led another orchestra but it was more devoted to jazz; with the latter he achieved fame in the thirties through broadcasts on several radio stations, such as LR4 Radio Splendid and LR6 Radio Mitre.

As for our national cinema he wrote the music scores for the movies De la sierra al valle (1938, dir.: Ber Ciani); Ambición (1939; dir.: Adelqui Millar); El ángel de trapo (1940, dir.: José Ferreyra) and Pájaros sin nido (1940; dir.: José Ferreyra).

But since 1935 his series of recordings began to appear less often, and finally in 1940 he released his last record: Victor Nr. 38,913, with the fox trot “Pero hay una melena” and the «pasodoble torero» “Manolito Bienvenida”. There were rumors that a sentimental drama was hurting him so deeply that everything in him was declining with no remedy. He was dismissed by the Victor company and since then he only devoted himself to teaching in his San Fernando domicile.

Completely withdrawn from show business, Carabelli passed away on January 25, 1947. The following day his neighbor Servetto died.

Before his rediscovery in the mid- nineties, in 1980 a pair of his tango recordings were reissued on an evocative long playing disctitled Las orquestas olvidadas (The forgotten orchestras); but in his case oblivion had already defeated him during his lifetime.