Romero Alvaro is a legend among musicians in a country that would be more likely to erect a monument to its food than its jazz artists. And whether the latter term is fair description of Alvaro is another story entirely. He first became a public performer in the late '20s, appearing in Genoa with bandmembers such as Tullio Mobglia. In the mid-'30s, Alvaro was cooking on both piano and violin in a combo working out of Milano, led by the clever Kramer Gorni, whose musical abilities seemed not to have suffered from several falls in the nearby Alps. A small trail of recordings begins here, done for the ambitious Fonit label in both 1935 and 1936; these were sides that spun almost constantly in Italian bars, while customers drank their morning cappuccino as well as their evening grappa, or the other way around in the case of degenerates, many of whom were proud fans of Alvaro and his hit "Una Spagnola di Nola." It was strictly "otcho!" -- as in, keep an eye on this, in terms of public reception of a musical style equal parts swing and gypsy. The Italian Columbia outfit, for example, must have had to open a separate accounting bureau just to keep track of the many different jazzy orchestras cutting sides for the firm.
The violinist also began appearing as a soloist with Piero Cottigleri, and in the '40s had severed bonds with Gorni in order to start the wonderfully named Quintetto Fantasma, with whom he cut sides that Italian jazz collectors have engaged in duels over. Alvaro switched from jazz to pop music during the '60s era, following the example of many other players who found gigs difficult to find in the new rock era. Although reports of this musician eventually stress both his creativity and versatility, leaders he worked for inevitably gripe about some kind of eccentric behavior, which must have been a bit severe to draw attention amongst gentlemen from Milano. It was said that when Alvaro felt like playing, he could outplay anyone. When he didn't feel like playing, which could be any night, it was especially esta serra, and domani serra as well.