Juan D’Arienzo has been one of the most important Argentine Tango musicians, the one who gave the first input to the beginning of the Golden Age.
Also known as “El Rey del Compas” (the King of the beat), he owes this nick name to his rhythmic and energetic Tango, composed and played to make people dance (the nick name was given by the owner of Club Florida, where Fresedo used to play, who also owned Chantecler, where Juan D’Arienzo played: when he replaced Fresedo in Club Florida, the presenter announced him as the “Rey del compas”). As many other great Tango musicians, he started playing in theatres: his first relevant performance was at the Nacional Theatre, accompanying a comic piece called El Cabaret Montmartre. Juan D’Arienzo was a violinist and during his theatre’s performance played in an Orchestra in which the pianist was Angel D’Agostino, another great musician who later on formed his own orquesta tipica. When D’Agostino left the orchestra, Luigi Visca replaced him at the piano.
Juan D’Arienzo and the Tango revolution
The year that changed D’Arienzo’s life, and the entire history of Tango, was 1935. The pianist was Rodolfo Biagi, and it was him one of the key pieces of the famous D’Arienzo tango revolution. Juan D’Arienzo started changing the Tango metric from 4/8 to 2/4, returning to the so called guardia vieja, giving energy and rhythm to a music that, in his opinion, had become too soft and in which the singer was too important.
The importance of Biagi in the D’Arienzo compas
According to the word of mouth legend, it was Biagi who gave D’Arienzo the idea. The orchestra was regular at the club Chantecler and as many directors used to do, Juan D’Arienzo arrived a bit later to the club. While he was not there, the orchestra played a Tango with a different arrangement, driven by the piano skills of Rodolfo Biagi. Later on, the orchestra played that same Tango, as normally arranged, but people remembered the Biagi’s version, and asked for it! Although Biagi left 3 years later to form his own orchestra, the rhythm revolution had already begun and was unstoppable, and D’Arienzo was with no doubt its leader. He gave Tango back to the dancers’ feet, as it was originally intended during the guarda vieja, after a period in which Tango was focused mainly on the lyrics and the singer.
The influence of the guardia vieja on D’Arienzo style
D’Arienzo himself said that he took inspiration from the Guardia Vieja Tango, that had rhythm, vigour, power and personality. He blamed singers for the decadence of tango dancing music, as there had been a period when orchestras played to make the singer shine and the musicians were only accompanying any sort of star and starlette. According to him tango is music, consequently it is for the orchestra to play it, while the singer should only be an (important) instrument of the orchestra. Argentine Tango, in D’Arienzo’s view, should have three main characteristics: a clear beat, impact and nuances. Any Orchestra should be, before anything, alive, and if there is no clear beat you cannot call it tango.
Different D’Arienzo eras
D’Arienzo history can be divided into different periods, as most Tango orchestras who played in the golden age (35-55).
Orchestra tipica Juan D’Arienzo 1935-1940; The first Echague
During the first phase D’Arienzo composed many instrumental Tangos, though among the most famous are the ones he played with the singer Alberto Echague. In this first experimental phase everything was concentrated on the rhythm and the beat, and most D’Arienzo’s Tango had a similar structure. Although the beat revolution started in 1935, the apex of D’Arienzo’s idea of Tango is between 1938 and 1940, when most tangos where sang by Alberto Echague: in these two years were composed some of the most iconic Tangos of the King of the beat. Before that, many Tangos were instrumental, although one of the most famous is “Paciencia”, with Enrique Carbel as a singer, while for valses and milongas the singers was often Walter Cabral.
The most iconic Tangos of the first D’Arienzo:
1940 – 1944: D’Arienzo with Héctor Mauré (and Reynal and Llamas)
Echague left the orchestra for a short period, and was replaced as the main singer by Héctor Mauré, although for some Tangos the singers were Carlo Casares, Alberto Reynal and Albeto Llamas.
With some exception, D’Arienzo’s music during this period slowed a bit, though always concentrated on a strong and powerful compás, and one of the main characteristic is the piano linking two different musical phrases. The music is more elaborated, the melody is clearer, nonetheless the strong “noise” of the orchestra and his density are still the signature of the King of the beat.
The most popular D’Arienzo with Mauré tangos
Dime mi amor
Mírame en la Cara
Si la llegaran a ver
D’Arienzo 1944-1957: Echague and Laborde Lemos
In 1944 Echague joined the orchestra again and, together with Laborde, will be the main singer until 1949/50. We are in the middle of the golden age of Argentine Tango, many orchestras during this period had developed their own style, and Tango music and arrangements became more and more complex, with a lot of attention to details. D’Arienzo nonetheless kept his style, and remained loyal to his ides of Tango, being one of the more beloved Orchestra.
D’Arienzo with Echangue 1044-1955 best tangos:
No nos veremos nunca
El rey del compass
El nene del Abasto
1957+ Juan D’Arienzo with Valdes, Bustos
For both political and social reasons, after 1955 the Tango golden age came to an end. Less people went dancing and there were less and less places where you could go and have a night of Tango. Nonetheless all orchestras kept playing, mainly broadcasted on the radio. As the music was no longer composed for dancing, many orchestras changed their style and adopted one more suited for listening. D’Arienzo remained loyal to his idea of Tango, and although his sounds did change in this last period, the main characteristic of his style remained and he kept composing powerful and rhythmic Tangos. He also rearranged some of his major success into this new style.
Best D’Arienzo’s Tangos after 1957:
Andate por Dios
Dame mi libertad
Porque te siguo queriendo
De Puro Curda
D’Arienzo’s valses and milongas
In every milonga nowadays D’Arienzo is one of the orchestras played the most, not only for Tango, but also for vals and milongas. Although many orchestras composed many beautiful valses and milongas, D’Arienzo’s ones stick to the point: dance, dance, dance! Energy, energy, energy! That, especially in valses and milongas, is what a milonguero is looking for and this is the reason why so many D’Arienzo valses and milongas are played regularly.
Best D’Arienzo’s Valses:
Valsecito de antes
En tu corazon
Best D’Arienzo’s Milongas:
De pura cepa
Milonga vieja Milonga
Estampa de varon