Finding modern covers of Juan D'Arienzo's recordings does not take a lot of effort. You've probably heard Loca or Paciencia quite a few times in stereo and without scratches. A few ensembles dedicate themselves to performing in the spirit of the old master starting with Los Solistas de D'Arienzo and going through Los Reyes del Tango or La Juan D'Arienzo and a few others.
Los Herederos del Compás count themselves in this category, and on their new album Que siga el encuentro they do a lot more than rehash D'Arienzo's Golden Age hits. His career spanned three additional decades, after all, and the new album contains several songs you have probably never heard in their original form. Plus a few new ones!
It came out in late December 2021 and is available on Bandcamp. as well as on the streaming platforms. Let's have a listen!
Taking a different approach than I do usually, I will review the tracks in a different order than they appear on the album, grouping the covers and the new songs separately to fit my agenda. The first section has four songs that frequently appear in DJ playlists in their various permutations.
El huracán appears at least once in D'Arienzo's discography, in 1944. You have probably danced to the classic Donato's version more often. Its arrangement by Los Herederos sounds fuller, more orchestral, as one would expect from a contemporary recording, and and unlike late D'Arienzo it's less ostentative in its presentation. Given its signature long intro, it could be a great start to an instrumental tanda.
In Florida, the band captures the essence of D'Arienzo's 1952 version with remarkable preciseness including the urgent staccato drive. I did not compare them note-by-note; the few phrases I checked lead me to believe the arrangement is identical. The song sounds as if you sit in the studio with D'Arienzo himself and hear the music play live as opposed to through the filter of an old shellac with all its limitations.
Things take a different direction in El marne. D'Arienzo recorded it three times: in 1939, 1950, and 1954, with increasing intensity. All are sharp with my favorite being the last one - so relentless, so driven. While Los Herederos keep the staccatos, their attack intensity is markedly less pronounced. On a second and third listen, I admit the interpretation is coherent and able to claim its own merit; personally though, I would have preferred more brute force.
I conclude the section with the cover of El último café that D'Arienzo recorded with Jorge Valdez in 1964. The resemblance is again very impressive and Pablo Ramos, the band's singer, delivers the goods. Here, I did not miss Valdez.
I did miss him somewhat in Destino de flor, a song that D'Arienzo recorded with him in 1957. In my dancing experience, I have not heard it played very often, and have actually played it only once in my own DJ sets. While the original is very sharp and intense, I felt like this cover made it sound too soft. Just like I wrote about El marne, which is again a testament to my own stylistic preference and not necessarily an objective flaw in the music (as if objectivity were possible here!)
The last true "cover" is Adiós, coco, an instrumental recorded by D'Arienzo in 1972 that, due to its very late temporal origin, lacks an immediate dancing appeal - it is very driven yet after a promising start, the narrative turns somewhat self-indulgent and the musical phrasing gradually more hostile to the dancer. While this cover improves on the original's sound quality, I felt it did not increase its danceability - nor could it, if it followed the same arrangement.
Now we get to the novel parts.
You surely did dance to Qué solo estoy, just not to a version recorded by D'Arienzo. Di Sarli recorded it with Podestá and forever imprinted it on dancers' hearts. And so this is a cover of a recording that does not exist, an imagination of what it could have sounded like, and a very convincing one.
Another song D'Arienzo did not record but conceivably might have is Que siga el encuentro, which gave the album its title. Pablo Ramos composed it together with the band's arranger, Denis Bianchi, and it is a compelling story about various tango encounters as they take place in Argentina. I marveled at how little suspension of belief I had to perform to become convinced I was listening to a D'Arienzo recording!
Todo el mundo al Marabú, a song written by Pablo Ramos with Leandro Pane, the band's bandoneónist, is reportedly about the legendary cabaret Marabú that is still open to milongas in Buenos Aires. It is a celebratory walking piece with a few interesting modulations and a character that is consistent with late D'Arienzo but not over the top.
Bajo el cielo de París is an instrumental re-imagination of Edith Piaff's Sous le ciel de paris as a tango vals. With just the right tempo of 66 BPM and a stable beat, it is a dancing delight, and one of the highlights of the album. I loved the little re-incarnation of Biagi's piano from Lágrimas y sonrisas towards the end!
Finally, we have a milonga Bella Ciao, which originally made an appearance not on the band's earlier album D'Arienzo en el Corazón, as I have written originally, but as a standalone single. This version cuts the long intro, which is helpful, and adds a persistent light percussion backdrop. One could debate whether this adds or subtracts from the experience but for a certain type of cross-over tanda, this could be appropriate. Personally, I play the earlier version with the intro being skipped.
There is much to like on this album, and what this DJ / reviewer appreciates the most is its dedication and focus on the dancers. There is no navel-gazing and no showiness here, and you can readily imagine a busy crowd in a poorly lit room circulating in a ronda while listening to it. Indeed, just listening does not make this album justice: it wants to be co-interpreted with your feet.
I am indebted to Pablo Ramos who helped me identifying the songs that did not originate in D'Arienzo's discography - thank you, and looking forward to the next one!