The best jumping off point is D’Arienzo’s music from the late 1930s to early 1940s. His music of this period carries a very distinctive rhythm – its mission: to lure dancers to the floor. The piano has a very important role, particularly when played by Rodolfo Biagi, another famous tango musician, who was D’Arienzo’s pianist until he went off to form his own orchestra in 1938.
“Sus Primeros Exitos Vol.1” in the Tango Argentino Series collects almost all of D’Arienzo’s most classic instrumental works from 1935 to 1939. I remember hearing this CD played repeatedly by a group of street tango performers in a flea market in Buenos Aires for nine hours every Sunday. All the tracks are “super-classics”, but especially strong are “9 De Julio”, “La Cumparsita”, “La Viruta” and the famous milonga “Milonga, Vieja Milonga”. If you only want to own one or two D’Arienzo CDs, this should be one of them.
D’Arienzo worked with several tango singers. Héctor Mauré is certainly one of the most important. Although D’Arienzo and Mauré worked together for less than four years, they together created several of tango’s most classic songs. “Sus Primeros Exitos” features such greats as “Amarras”, “Dime Mi Amor”, “Infamia”, “Uno” and “Tango Brujo”.
“Tango Bravo” collects the classic songs of D’Arienzo with Alberto Echagüe and Armando Laborde – possibly the orchestra leader’s two favourite singers. Both Echagüe and Laborde recorded more than a hundred pieces with D’Arienzo. Since the album collects recordings made from 1938 to 1954, it offers a taste of D’Arienzo’s pieces from a period when his music became more dramatic than in his earlier days. Again, most pieces are extremely popular, but with the standouts (in my view) being “Trago Amargo”, “Corrientes Y Esmeralda”, “Mandria”, “Olvídame” and a vals called “En Tu Corazón”.
For milonga lovers, I recommend “Milongueando Con Juan D'Arienzo 1935/1962” released by Euro Records. Since D’Arienzo music’s style is very rhythmical, his interpretation of milongas tends to up-tempo compared with most other tango orchestras. This album has an excellent selection of 21 pieces recorded between 1935 to 1962. Particularly worth listening to are “La Cicatriz”, “Meta Fierro”, “Milonga Del Recuerdo” and “Silueta Porteña”. This CD is also the perfect option for anyone who simply wants a collection of milongas.
If you are a serious collector or a DJ, then consider the “El Rey Del Compas/70 Años” collection released by Sony BMG. This series, consisting altogether of 15 CDs, collects about 300 of D’Arienzo’s recordings, in chronological order, from 1935 to 1975. You will find many beautiful pieces not released on any of the Tango Argentino or Coleccion 78 RPM series.