Born in Buenos Aires on 14th December 1900 to Italian immigrants, he started his musical career as a violinist playing, most notably playing with Angel D’Agostino.
He formed his own orchestra in 1928, recording a number of tracks in the Guardia Vieja style between 1928 and 1929. Although this clip was from a time before D’Arienzo really achieved musical greatness, it is possible to see his orquesta plaing in 1933.
It was not until 1935 when the pianist Rodolfo Biagi joined his orquesta that his career really took off.
The story goes that D’Arienzo’ often turned up late for the orquesta’s performances, leaving the band to warm up on its own. One day Biagi said he wanted to play one of their numbers - Nueve de Julio - “his way”. The music they play was more rhythmic, almost aggressive, with Biagi’s short staccato piano fills between the musical phrases giving the music a lot of nervous energy.
The audience loved it. When D’Arienzo finally arrived the orquesta went back to playing as normally did, but the audience kept insisting that they played the “Biagi” way. Once D’Arienzo realised what was going on it didn’t take him long to see that he was onto a good thing and quickly adopted the “Biagi” style.
Nueve de Julio was also the first number D’Arienzo recorded with Biagi - you can hear it here:
Hør musik på Youtube: "Nueve de Julio", D'Arienzo og Biagi
D’Arienzo and Biagi
D’Arienzo basically kept playing in this style for the rest of his career, long after Biagi left the orquesta. Although his music was frowned upon by some tango purists for being too simple, the public loved it. They were by far the most successful band of the period, selling more records and filling the dance floors of more milongas than anybody else.
It has been said that D’Arienzo was at his best in the 30s, 50s and 70s (he recorded until 1975) - this is pretty much true! The one exception being the music he recorded with Hector Maure as singer in the 40s. This showed a slightly softer, more gentle side of D’Arienzo, try listening to “Amarras” from this period:
Hør musik på Youtube:"Amarras", D'Arienzo og Maure
Although many people regard the period of 1935 - 1938, when he had Biagi in his orquesta, as the highlight of his career, the early 50’s were another great period for D’Arenzio. If anything the music is even more powerful and muscular. Listen to the recording of “Bien Pulenta” he made with the singer Alberto Echagüe (the singer who suited the orquesta best and worked with them throughout the majority D’Arienzo’s career) in 1950 as example:
Hør musik på Youtube: "Bien Pulenta", D'Arienzo og Alberto Echagüe
D’Arienzo was capable of producing good music right up to the end, before finally passing away in Buenos Aires on January 1976. To get a flavour of D’Arienzo in his later years, just watch this clip of the orquesta playing “Loca” on an Argentinian TV show:
For more information on D’Arienzo and the other greats of the Golden Age - the book Tango Stories, Musical Secrets by Michael Lavocah is a great place to start.
Find bogen på Amazon: "Tango Stories, Musical Secrets", by Michael Lavocah