Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Oscar Alemán And The Blues

Original sheet music (1914)
It has been said that Oscar Alemán never was a 'blues man',  implying that his concept of jazz did not include the Afro-American music genre known as 'blues', an important source in the original versions of jazz rooted in New Orleans' music culture and practice. However, the statement should be modified, if 'the blues' is not just the musical style that originated in the Southern states of USA around 1900 and was performed by amateurs and local pick-up ensemples at social events in mainly black Afro-American societies long before the music spread to other parts of the country via radio networks and 'race' records. Innovative tunesmiths and music publishers like W.C. Handy (1873-1958), known as 'father of the blues', were soon aware of the commercial opportunities of the blues and took advantage of the music by publishing their own versions of blues as sheet music which became popular hits with the public even before WW 1. W.C. Handy's Saint Louis Blues (published 1914) was among his most popular songs and was quickly adopted by the mainstream music business as an example of the original version of the blues style. Countless musicians and jazz bands have since incorporated Saint Louis Blues in their repertoire and the tune is a fundamental part of the jazz standard book, still performed today by traditional jazz orchestras. 
Alemán performing St. Louis Blues
It is from the tradition paved by W.C. Handy Aleman´s concept of the blues  originates, I think. Fact is that the mentioned Saint Louis Blues was a part of Alemán's repertoire throughout his career in Argentina from 1940 and on. Already at one of his first public performances after his return to Argentina from Europe, Saint Louis Blues is presented and elaborated as a great vehicle for his improvisational skills both as a musician and entertainer. Luckily, a test recording from this live performance October 14, 1941 at Teatro Casino in Buenos Aires has been saved and documents Alemán's rousing and roof raising version of Saint Louis Blues as a solo piece of improvised music for guitar, vocal and stomping feet! The audio of this performance was kindly forwarded by Andrés 'Tito' Liber and is inserted below

Alemán recorded Saint Louis Blues commercially twice, the first version was recorded by Odeon January 30 1953 featuring Alemán's Orquesta de Jazz (mx 18802, Odeon 55613 and LDS119). The tune is here a great vehicle for his improvisational skills as a guitar player in the applied solos.

The next time Alemán recorded Saint Louis Blues was in May 1973 at the session for the Redondel label with Jorge Anders' orchestra issued on Redondel SL-10511. This version has also been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below

Alemán composed and recorded two tunes which were titled Oscar Blues No. 1 and Oscar Blues No. 3, both recorded for Redondel - the first mentioned on Redondel L-809 made September 1974, the other was issued on the Alemán '72 LP (Redondel, SL 10.508) recorded Sept.-Oct. 1972. Both tunes are solo pieces for guitar, here is Oscar Blues No. 3 inserted below

Collectors of Alemán's output may have wondered, if there also exists a tune titled Oscar Blues No. 2 although never recorded officially. I don't have the answer to that question, but instead like to point to a saved untitled home-recording from c. 1971 in much the same style and mood as the two known pieces titled Oscar Blues. Below is inserted the possible Oscar Blues No. 2 to end this


Sunday, October 02, 2016

3° Encuentro de Jazz de Cuerdas "Oscar Alemán"

Program front
For the third time, Hot Club de Boedo of Buenos Aires has arranged an encounter of musicians, friends and fans of Oscar Alemán's musical heritage. This time the program was a homage to Alemán's pupil and great admirer, Eduardo Ravera, commemorating the 20th anniversary of his passing away. The event took place at the Asociación de Fomento y Biblioteca Popular General Alvear in Buenos Aires on September 17th. - Andrés 'Tito' Liber forwarded some impressions to share with readers of this blog.
Program menu
The show was hosted by Waldo Fonseca, the director of Hot Club de Boedo. The following musicians and friends participated in the show:
Hot Club de Boedo (Waldo Fonseca, Juan Masculino, Julián Pierángeli, Facundo López Goitía, Ezeqiel Bahillo); Luis Pranzetti (guitar), Mariana Gasloli (bass), Claudio Spirito (guitar), Gustavo Villanueva (clarinet); Carla Rossi (harmonica) and Gerardo Bourlot (guitar) from Ensamble Colón; Andrés 'Tito' Liber (cavaquinho); Héctor Luis Corpus (guitar), Claudio Daniel Crespino (guitar); Luana Hari (lady-crooner). Comments by José María Bover.
In advance of the show the event was promoted at Radio del Pueblo, BA. A photo was shot in the studio showing the presence of Andrés 'Tito' Liber, Heldo and Waldo Fonseca
'Tito', Heldo and Waldo promoting the show at Radio del Pueblo, BA
Highlights of the show were the musical performance of the following:
My Melancholy Baby. A great solo by master Luis Pranzetti, the guitarist  who played in the Santa María Jazz band and accompanied Eduardo Ravera.
Summertime. Played by a nice duet, from the Ensemble Colón, of harmonica and guitar; interesting counterpoint with a bluesy tinge.
OA 1926. For the first time in Argentina, since the old days of Oscar Alemán, a man playing jazz live on a cavaquinho.
It Don`t Mean a Thing if It Ain`t Got That Swing.  The boys of the Hot Club de Boedo, wonderful as ever with this Ellington standard.
When the Saints Go Marchin` in. At the end of the show, a classic sing-along with the audience.
Participating musicians all together in performance
Another group photo of participating performers of a swinging night. Always smiling!
The team
Andrés 'Tito' Liber, September 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rosita Quiroga & Les Loups - Victor Disc Labels

Rosita Quiroga
Some time ago the uncertainty regarding the participation of Les Loups in the May 2nd 1928 recording of Mis pobres ilusiones by Rosita Quiroga for Victor was ruled by audio documentation kindly forwarded by a keen record collector, Sr.Ramón Hernández Gutiérrez. Now another collector, Sr. Sergio del Río Macias, has kindly forwarded the scans of the original Victor 80840 disc as further evidence of the participation of Les Loups in Mis pobres ilusiones - the info at the label clearly informs that Rosita Quiroga is accompanied by Les Loups.
Victor 80840-A, Mis pobres ilusiones
The audio of Mis pobres ilusiones was uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below to fix previously missing links

The B-side of Victor 80840, recorded at the same session on May 2nd 1928, contains a composition by Luiz Viapiana and J.M. Gonzáles with lyrics by Enrique D. Cadicamo, a tango titled Mal rumbeada. The label of the original disc does not state the participation of Les Loups, just the common info used at the time: Solo con Guitarras. However, the audio of Mal rumbeada does not leave me doubt about the participation of Les Loups - Alemán provides the elaborate obligato and solo spots while GB Lobo takes care of the rhythm accompaniment. Both label and audio from YouTube video inserted below.
Victor 80840-B, Mal rumbeada
Here is the audio of Mal rumbeado from the uploaded YouTube video

Thanks to keen collectors of historically important records like the mentioned Victor disc 80840 by Rosita Quiroga the early recording career of Oscar Alemán has now been further documented by solid facts. This is highly valuable information to avoid undocumented myths and falsification of history.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Horacio Salgán (1916 - 2016)

Horacio Salgán (photo by Silvina Frydlewsky for The Washington Post)
Today the sad news of the passing of Horacio Salgán on August 19 reached me. Horacio Adolfo Salgán (June 15, 1916 – August 19, 2016) was an Argentine tango pianist, composer and band leader from Buenos Aires. Some of Salgán's most well-known compositions include Del 1 al 5 (Días de pago) (1944), Don Agustín Bardi (1947), Entre tango y tango (1953), Grillito, La llamo silbando, Cortada de San Ignacio, and A fuego lento. - Salgán began studying piano at age six. At age 18 he joined the cast of Radio Belgrano as a soloist and back-up musician. At 20 he was discovered by orchestra leader Roberto Firpo, who hired Salgán for his orchestra. In late 1942 he made his first recording, and in 1944 he put together his own orchestra, which lasted until 1947. Salgán then devoted himself to composing and teaching and in 1950 returned with a new orchestra. 1960 saw the formation of the Quinteto Real, with Salgán on piano, Enrique Mario Francini on violin and Pedro Laurenz on bandoneón. The goal of the group was to create instrumental tangos designed for listening rather than dancing. In 1998 he appeared as himself in the Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Language Film Tango, no me dejes nunca as part of El Nuevo Quinteto Real, an incarnation of the original group. In 2005 Konex Foundation from Argentina granted him the Diamond Konex Award, one of the most prestigious awards in Argentina, as the most important personality in the Popular Music of his country in the last decade. (from Wikipedia profile).

A career profile in English by Adam Bernstein in Washington Post is available here 
An obituary in Spanish by Mauro Apicella in LA NACION can be reached here 

Oscar Alemán admired and was a friend of Horacio Salgán. Alemán composed a tango as a homage to Salgán, Al Gran Horacio Salgán which he recorded at his 1974 Redondel album En Todos Los Ritmos. I posted a short article about this issue earlier,  here 

To commemorate a great Argentine musician and personality, here is inserted a performance by Horacio Salgán and his orchestra of A Fuego Lento from the concert in 2005 when Salgán received the Diamond Konex Award

Horacio Adolfo Salgán (June 15, 1916 – August 19, 2016) RIP


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Casi negro - Choro by Oscar Alemán

Odeon 74288b
Oscar Alemán was well informed about various Brazilian music genres and recorded several examples of Brazilian tunes during his contract with Odeon and later. He composed and recorded three pieces in the genuine Brazilian choro style during his contract with Odeon, they are: Casi negro (Odeon, 7488b, B.A. Oct. 22, 1955), Casi bueno, Odeon 74292b, B.A. Nov. 20 or 22, 1955) and Dedos duros (Odeon, 74343a, B.A. June 17, 1957). Here I'll focus on the first mentioned, Casi negro, the audio of Odeon 7488b has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below

Alemán's version here of this choro is  recorded as a magnificent guitar solo only supported by bass and percussion, the two-part piece is played on amplified guitar and repeated a couple of times, but no improvisation is heard or intended. Alemán never tried to improvise on Brazilian tunes, he respected the original form of the music genre, thus later days' conception of Brazilian music as a vehicle for jazz improvisation (- think of jazz-samba or bossa nova) was not the issue in Alemán's case. The only difference from a typical choro as played by Brazilian musicians is Alemán's choice of the rhythmic pattern which gets close to a 2/4 samba beat at medium tempo and further the double time sequence at the end of part B of the piece. Maybe these small details were the personal 'signature' which were added to convince the Odeon management and the record buying public that Alemán's version of the choro style could be transferred and executed convicingly by a popular Argentinian artist without spoiling the traditional Brazilian conception of the choro as a music genre incorporating endless ideas and the impact from many different musical sources within a fixed pattern? A more significant difference, however, is that Alemán performs this choro on an electrified instrument, choro is traditionally performed by acoustic instruments, but Alemán's performance of the piece on amplified guitar adds an updated version of choro at the time of the recording, which probably should appeal to the night life and dance halls of Buenos Aires. - Alemán only recorded Casi negro once, but there exists a fragment of a home recording from the 1960s that has him performing the piece on acoustic guitar which is inserted below to show a more introspective version of the tune

Just recently I was thrilled to find out that an Argentinian choro ensemble named Mistura & Manda has recorded their version of Choro negro at the ensemble's latest CD titled Lloros. I wrote a review of the CD here, and to end this I'll insert this version of Choro negro by Mistura & Manda which has been uploaded at YouTube as an audio video together with other examples of the tunes at the CD devoted to Argentinian composers of choros


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jorge Díaz And Eduardo Ravera & Trio In TV Performance 1994

Screen shot from TV Channel 9, 'La Noche' Oct. 14, 1994
Waldo Fonseca of Hot Club de Boedo  kindly forwarded a recorded video fragment uploaded at YouTube that I like to share here. The video presents Eduardo Ravera and his trio featuring the Argentine harmonica virtuoso Jorge Díaz performing My Melancholy Baby/Mi melancólica nena. The video sequence is from a TV program titled 'La Noche' at Channel 9 hosted by Sr. Julio Lagos and aired on October 14, 1994. Featured musicians are: Eduardo Ravera (lead guitar), Jorge Diaz (harmonica), Waldo Fonseca (rhythm guitar), Claudio Gomez (el-bass guitar) and Matthew Giarrusso (drums) - Enjoy!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Oscar Alemán - Background Of An Updated 'Online Discography'

Georg Lankester gives his account of the background of a recently published new online Oscar Alemán discography.

Interesting news for jazz guitar fans – a publication by Andrés “Tito” Liber

Oscar Alemán
The Argentinian swing guitar legend Oscar Alemán (1909 – 1980) was for a long time a somewhat neglected figure and in jazz reference literature hardly presented in printed standard discographies - most likely – because much of his recorded output was unavailable or hard to find outside  Argentina

However, it is worthwhile to mention  that Alemán  made several recordings  in Europe during the 1930s joining European and American jazz musicians in Paris while he stayed  in France as  a member of Josephine Baker’s orchestra. This small recorded output by Alemán (playing with jazzmen such as Freddy Taylor, Bill Coleman, Alix Combelle, Danny Polo and others) may be known by well-informed jazz fans of the European swing era and the recordings also have been available on various long playing albums and later in CD format.

Charles Delaunay

Alemán only recorded a  few sides in his own name during his European stay. Four sides were  recorded  by the French “Swing” label, established and promoted by the secretary of the Hot Club of France, Charles Delaunay.

Charles Delaunay
The latter was one of the leading persons within this jazz organisation and he introduced American jazz musicians to a European audience. Moreover he was also the single most important figure to promote the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact Delaunay was the originator of the famous “Quintette du Hot Club de France” featuring Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli as star soloists in a jazz setting formed by string instruments only. This was a novelty jazz formation creating a hot swinging jazz sound never heard before and the only original European pre-war contribution to the legacy of jazz in general.

Delaunay’s promotion of Reinhardt and the quintet made it almost impossible for other jazz guitarists in Paris to establish reputation and make records. And that’s the reason why  the average jazz audience was mostly unaware of Alemán being another brilliant jazz guitarist in town at the same high level as Reinhardt.

Although Oscar was always overshadowed by Reinhardt in the Parisian jazz scene,  the jazz critic Leonard Feather, who – in 1939 - wrote a much quoted review in the “Melody Maker” on Oscar’s recordings, stressed that Alemán could ‘outswing’ Django and was a far superior jazzman .

Oscar Alemán in action - 1960s
Funny enough Alemán and Reinhardt became friends with mutual respect for each other, being ‘instrument brothers’ and they met from time to time. Late at night, when each had finished work, muscians used to meet in certain Parisian places in order to chat and play together. It is a fact that Django and Oscar jammed together, but unfortunately those sessions were never recorded.

First Dicographic info

Jazz Solography, vol. 4
The European Alemán recordings are included in Brian Rust’s well-known reference work “Jazz Records 1897 – 1942” as well as in other standard discographies. In the  Seventies, the Norwegian jazz critic Jan Evensmo made a fair review of Alemán’s European  jazz records in one of his publications in the “Jazz Solography” series.

Later Evensmo, however, would resume his research of Alemán recordings and has launched a new edition of his Alemán solography a few years ago which now contains the Argentinian recorded output besides the European recordings, available online, here

In the same decade (1970s) the TOM label (“The Old Masters”) was launched in the US supported by enthousiastic jazz collectors. Two LP albums were dedicated  to Alemán, covering a selection of his recordings from 1938-1957.

Oscar Alemán  - Frémeaux CD (1994)
More recent (in 1994) an Alemán cd was issued by the French Frémeaux label which includes recordings from 1928-1943 with detailed liner notes. Further was the TOM selection with additional material reissued on a double CD disc in 1997 by Acoustic Disc.

The basis of a complete Alemán Discograpy

It was Hans Koert, an acknowledged Dutch jazz specialist  and collector, highly fascinated by Alemán’s work, who laid the foundation of a Discography as complete as possible. During several years of thorough research he traced several  Alemán records made outside Europe and he even contacted the family of the guitarist in order to obtain more relevant details.

Hans Koert's Tune-o-Graphy
In 2002 Hans published his Alemán “Tune-o-Graphy(a printed version in English & Spanish) realised in cooperation with Luis Contijoch. He resumed his Discography research in 2004 which was finished in 2009 with a web log publication in 2006.  Hans continued his immense study and further published his work in a comprehensive and free accessible internet online Alemán Discography which he kept updated till he passed away in 2014.

On basis of the main data obtained by Hans Koert, the Argentinian collector Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber - in cooperation with the present editor of Hans Koert’s website and blogs - added data and recently finished this update which is now available on the Internet. An obstacle for the average visitor of Liber’s online discography  may be the Spanish language, but serious users probably will cope with that.

This NEW online discographyby Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber is accessible by following the link in the sidebar at the weblog of Hot Club de Boedo, here

Visit this new online resource and discover more of the great swing guitarist Oscar Alemán

Georg Lankester (Holland), June 2016