Sunday, May 22, 2016

A New Online Discography

Hernán Oliva Quinteto 1970s-L-R: Eduardo "Zurdo" Ravera (g solo), Carlos Zaragoza (rh g),
 Hernán Oliva (v), Jorge Parera (b)  Guillermo Espinase (rh g)
Around 1970 violinist Hernán Oliva - renowned for his collaboration with Oscar Alemán in the latter's first Quinteto de Swing (1941-43) - formated his own string swing quintet featuring very competent sidemen. The quintet was a great vehicle for the leader's extraordinary swing violin playing in a both hot and sweet style inspired by pioneer jazz violinists like Joe Venuti and Stéphane Grappelli but no less very much his own. With this group Oliva gained success in his late career and he recorded some memorable albums for the Redondel label during the 1970s which still stand the test of time. When listening to these recordings by the Hernán Oliva Quinteto, the listener's attention, however, is not only concerned with Oliva's playing but is in fact also quickly caught by the very delicate contributions by the quintet's lefthanded lead guitarist, Eduardo Ravera (- knicknamed 'el Zurdo' thanks to his inverted playing position). Eduardo Ravera (1937 - 1996) was a disciple of Oscar Alemán and had played together with Alemán in public live presentations, and his guitar style was elaborated from the inspiration induced by the master, but also from studying the French 'Hot Club' contributions by the legendary Django Reinhardt - the result of this was a very personal style of single string soloing characterized by a clean and accurate picking technique and great improvisational skills never exaggerating the melodic terms of the played music but keeping things together with a cool and restrained passion. Now the recorded work of Eduardo Ravera with the Hernán Oliva Quinteto finally has gained some documented exposure in a new discography collected by Andrés 'Tito' Liber, who recently published the result at the web blog of Hot Club de Boedo, here  
Front page of Eduardo Ravera discography
Andrés 'Tito' Liber writes in the foreword (- my translation into English): "This is the first and only discography outline of the work of guitarist Eduardo Ravera (1937-1996). It includes recordings made by 'el Zurdo' with the legendary violinist Hernán Oliva's quintet. In this set is also highlighted the contributions on rhythm guitar by Carlos "Chachi" Zaragoza, renowned disciple and friend of Oscar Aleman. Basically the discograpy covers a series of 6 LPs recorded for Redondel published between 1973 and 1978 and 2 recordings of live performances. [...] While the intention is to provide the most complete information about the recordings made by Ravera with Oliva, it is likely that this short work may abound in errors or omissions, which will surely be corrected in future editions, thanks to obtaining new data [...]." 
Eduardo Ravera
If you look up audio featuring the Hernán Oliva Quinteto at YouTube, several examples from the Redondel series of LPs have been uploaded, here's an example also exposing the guitar playing of Eduardo Ravera

After Hernán Oliva's passing in 1988 Eduardo Ravera withdrew from public performance for a while, but was persuaded to return onto stage by Waldo Fonseca and friends resulting in the formation of the Eduardo Ravera Quarteto. Waldo Fonseca - founder and front figure of Hot Club de Boedo - writes an account of how this happened in his prologue to the mentioned discography (- my English translation): "In 1988 with my cousin Claudio Gomez, we met the [guitar] teacher Eduardo Ravera, at the time we made our first experiences in jazz and great was our excitement to be accepted as disciples by the former guitarist of Oscar Aleman and the soloist in the Quintet of Hernán Oliva. It was not long until the teacher, who according to his own words was removed from the [public] activity, gave in to our repeated requests to return to take his place on stage, this time leading his own group. It was then sponsored by the Hot Club of Buenos Aires and we made with the "Quartet Eduardo Ravera" our first presentation at the Cotton Club with Eduardo Ravera solo guitar, Matthew Giarrusso on drums, Claudio Gomez on bass and  myself on rhythm guitar. From that moment we participated in radio, television and theatre performances in jazz festivals both in Buenos Aires and throughout the country. I remember the next day of some important presentation, the phone of his apartment in Calle Venezuela would not stop ringing, calls to which the teacher invariably answered - "More or less it's the fault of the guys who took me out of the sarcophagus"

Waldo Fonseca and Hot Club de Boedo have kept the memory of Eduardo Ravera well alive by paying homage to his work and inspiration every year since 2000 by performing tribute concerts and publishing a weblog dedicated to the legacy of Eduardo Ravera, here. Among the posted blog entries there is a link to a live performance by Eduardo Ravera Quarteto recorded in 1993, click here or on the picture below to download this free contribution that reveals some great guitar playing by maestro Ravera

Waldo Fonseca and the bandmembers of Hot Club de Boedo have become an important institution in Buenos Aires aiming to keep the memory of Oscar Alemán and Eduardo Ravera alive and by continuing the tradition from these two legendary guitarists. The group has recently recorded a live-album from one of their frequent stage presentations. You have the opportunity to listen to and bye a cd-copy of this live performance by following this link or clicking the picture below 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


A couple of days ago I found out that the account for the Oscar Alemán website including Hans Koert's original OA online dicopgraphy a.o. hosted at is suspended (see previous blog entry). Unfortunately, I have not access to this account, thus, a renewal is out of my hands. Things are a bit complicated, as Hans Koert did not provide me with info how to handle a situation like this, and I now regret that I never asked, before it was too late. However, Hans Koert had a back-up of the online OA Discography uploaded at a local net-server, fortunately this version of the discography still works at my computer. Here is the link.

I cannot assure that the link works outside Europe/EUC and I would appreciate to have feed-back from readers of other regions/countries to clarify, if the mentioned link is accessible at their locations.

Visitors can contact me by using the e-mail stated below.

Until I have worked out an updated version of Hans Koert's online Oscar Alemán Discography, which may take some time, researchers of Alemán's recorded legacy have access to the latest updated info by visiting the recently published OA discography by Andrés 'Tito' Liber hosted at the weblog of Hot Club de Boedo, here 

Thanks for your support and understanding.

Jørgen Larsen

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Everything concerning Hans Koert's El Redescubrimiento de Oscar Alemán /The Rediscovery of Oscar Alemán project including the online OA Discography created by HK has suddenly vanished from the web, visitors have the following message:

*"This account has been suspended.
Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources."

Further, as a consequence of the suspended account the following of HKs work is also no longer available online:

Hit of The Week Discography, Durium Advertisement and Custom Records Discography, Durium (GB) Discography, the link site (Survey) and  HKs Articles index including uploaded pdf files.

Visitors get this message:

"Not Found - The requested URL /how.htm was not found on this server. Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
Apache/2 Server at Port 80"

Until I find out what has happened to the mentioned websites, all further activity at the weblogs associated with the keepitswinging.doman is suspended.

Thanks for your support and understanding.

Jørgen Larsen

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Oscar Alemán - TV Presentation 1975

OA in a TV Studio, Dec. 1979/Jan.1980 (photo courtesy Theo van de Graaff)
Film producer Hernán Gaffet has told about the lack of filmed material featuring Oscar Alemán during his research of material for his documentary on the Argentinian guitarist and showman. Gaffet's documentary, Vida con Swing (2002), has only small fragments of filmed sequences featuring Alemán from some of the movies in which Alemán participated and a single TV recording from the 1970s. Considering the popularity of Oscar Alemán in Argentina during the 1940s and 1950s, it's rather strange that very little of his appearance as a performer in public has been saved on film, and as TV became a common media during the 1960s the lack of filmed TV appearance of Alemán seemed to continue - the video recorder had yet to be invented, unfortunately. However, recently the Argentinan DIFilm Archive has found a small fragment from a TV performance in 1975, which I like to share here. The TV recording is without audio and was made as a promo/trailer for a program titled "Siesta" produced in 1975, the sequence lasts just 1:16 minutes but nevertheless gives us the opportunity to have a view of Alemán's stage appearance during his late career.

The video has been re-uploaded by another user of YouTube without the disturbing writing on screen and further has been added the audio of Alemán's recording of Delicado - the music is great, but really does not fit with the recorded silent moves of Alemán's playing on screen. Never mind, here's the 're-mastered' fragment


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Oscar Alemán In New York City, March 1944

"One time I went to New York, for only four days... and they didn`t allow me to play because I was not associated to the Federation of Musicians. And the Federation required at least six months of residence before being accepted. Then if they said no, I had to get back. Imagine that I had the money to spend during those six months, but if they then didn`t accept me? How could I return [...], having run out of money? I went away and never returned." (Sopeña, G.: Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 pp. 29-35 - January 1975) (English translation by 'Tito' Liber)

In March 1944, Oscar Alemán made a mysterious trip to New York. Mysterious, as I haven't been able to find info on the background of this trip. Was it a promotion effort, possibly sponsored by the Argentine devision of Odeon Records to market their recent and successful Latin artist in The Big Apple? Or was it merely Alemán's personal attempt at a breakthrough in the United States to follow up on the success in Argentina? No exact info about the decision and circumstances that gave rise to his trip to the United States seems to be available. Nevertheless, as stated in the short passage of an interview quoted above, he stayed 4 days in New York City. Alemán's problem, however, was that he had not got a license to work as a musician in the USA in advance of the trip. This meant that he could not perform in any of the music venues of the city, which had an agreement with the American Federation of Musicians, nor was he allowed to record without a license. Overall, the trip  seems to have depended on a wrong decision of time and place, as music business in the US in addition was in the middle of a strike launched by the American Federation of Musicians.
AFM seal
On August 1, 1942, the American Federation of Musicians (AMF) had started a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments.This meant that union organized musicians no longer were allowed to record for any record company, however, union musicians were allowed to participate on radio programs and other kinds of musical entertainment, but not in a recording session. The AMF recording ban was part of a struggle to get royalties from record sales for a union fund for organized out-of-work musicians. The union had previously opposed the recording of music, or “canned music”. The argument was that musicians were replaced with records in radio, and in cafes and bars bands were replaced with jukeboxes.

Record companies recorded as much music as they could in the run up to the strike and released this backlog through, but also resorted to re-releasing old recordings. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby were among the singers that had to release records without instrumental accompaniment (vocalists were not in the union as they were not considered musicians). One record company recorded and released Shakespeare’s Othello when they had no music to release. An exception to the strike was “victory discs” (V-Discs), which were recorded for US soldiers fighting in World War II and sent to them overseas. Another exception was some small speciality labels. 

The strike stopped business between major record labels and musicians under contract with them. With recording and manufacturing equipment idle from the strike, enterprising music promoters, record distributors, and store owners with the right connections took the opportunity to start small specialty labels, such as Savoy (1942) and Apollo (1943–44) a.o., that catered to musicians who were not under contract. Sometimes musicians under contract restrictions recorded for them under pseudonyms. That business model worked in large urban markets such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where concentrated markets allowed a sufficient return from local distribution. Many of the historically important recordings of jazz and R&B from the mid-1940s originated from these small labels. Although not lucrative for musicians, these small labels gained them exposure that later led to contracts with more established labels.

Decca and Capitol gave into the AFM in 1943, RCA Victor and Columbia held out but eventually backed down in November 1944, and the recording ban ended. (info excerpted from Wikipedia, hereand another online source, here). 
It was these circumstances that met Oscar Alemán when he arrived in New York March 1944. The mentioned record ban was still on and the demand of a six month residence before a musician's license card to work possibly would be allowed him made the situation rather unsecure and hopeless, as a foreign musician eventually would be considered a possible blackleg and a thread to the strike. However, Alemán stayed in NYC for 4 days and surprisingly managed to record a session on March 17, before he decided to return to Argentina!

According to the online OA discography Hans Koert has listed two recordings by Alemán made on March 17, 1944 in NYC. No details about the label and personnel besides Alemán are available, just the matrix numbers and the title of the two tunes. Alemán's latest hit in Argentina was one of the recorded tunes, Bésame mucho (mx 71882), the other was Sweet Georgia Brown (mx 71883). However, these two recordings were unissued and remain an unsolved mystery. 

I have not been able to point out a specific record label which may have made the recordings, any help from readers, discographers and collectors would be much appreciated. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to discuss this matter with Hans Koert, he may have had more info, at least from which source he had the knowledge of a record by Alemán made in NYC with added titles and mx-numbers. My friend and collector of the recently updated Alemán discograpy, 'Tito' Liber, forwarded the short passage of an interwiev with Alemán touching on the trip to the US, but he found no further info on the subject in Argentine sources. 

So, to end this, I encourage anybody with more knowledge about this Alemán trip and the two recordings made in NYC on March 17, 1944 to respond to my request for further info. Contact me by using the e-mail stated below, or feel free to use the comment facility with this blog entry. Thanks in advance!

NB! This entry has also been posted at the Keep(it)swinging blog.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscar Alemán And Svend Asmussen - 1938

On the occasion of Svend Asmussen's 100th birthday today, I'll mark this event here by revisiting his great recordings with Oscar Alemán in 1938, made in Copenhagen on December 5th. The story about this record session has been thoroughly recounted by Hans Koert in a 2005 article, available here
HMV (Dk) X 6212 - Sweet Sue
The session feat. Alemán and Asmussen from December 5th, 1938 was recorded on HMV (Dk) X 6212, musicians participating were: Henry Hagemann (cl ts), Svend Asmussen (v), Oscar Alemán (solo g), Helge Jacobsen (g), Alfred Rasmussen (b) and  Bibi Miranda (dm) - The A-side of the record (OCS-1083-2) had a great version of Sweet Sue including marvellous solo work by both Alemán and Asmussen - enjoy it below!

HMV (Dk) X 6212 - Limehouse Blues
The B-side of HMV (Dk) x 6212 had a version of Limehouse Blues (OCS-1084-2) by the same ensemble - enjoy it below!

If you like to listen to more examples of recordings from Svend Asmussen's long career, I have uploaded several at the keep(it)swinging blog , here 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Oscar… Sparring of a World Champion!!!

To commemorate Oscar´s 107th birthday, a noteworthy anecdote of his incredible life was forwarded by ‘Tito’ Liber to share with the readers of this blog. The source of Alemán´s quotes is a 1974 TV interview by Pinky (preserved at Sus presentaciones en vivo Vol. 5, track 06 and 09).
Oscar Alemán (1934)
Around May 1935, while resting from Josephine Baker tours (- in fact she had gone to the USA and Alemán was workless), Oscar went to Deauville (France) looking for a job in an orchestra. Though the director only offered him a little money, Alemán was obliged to accept, because: “In those months I had to earn some money to live”. Then a friend from Paris who was a boxer offered him the double for being his sparring partner. Oscar accepted.
"Panama" Al Brown
His friend was the famous bantam weight World Champion Alfonso Al “Panama” Brown (1902–1951), born in Panama and the first Latin world champion of the boxing history. “Panama” won his title by beating Gregorio Vidal in 1929, June 18 in New York.

Brown had seen Alemán training at a gymnasium… but the true history is that he had been part of show business: Al worked as a tap-dancer in Josephine Baker´s La Revue Nègre!!
In June of that year he had to fight with the Spanish Baltazar "Sangchili" Belenguer Hervás, and needed a fast sparring partner. “He told me he had never seen a man faster than me (…) I trained him three days a week”. - Here's an example of sparring feat. "Panama" Al Brown in 1935

Brown, however, lost his fight and his title to Sangchili in the match which took place on June 1, 1935, in Valencia, Spain. Poor Oscar, very fast but… it didn´t work this time. They had a rematch on March 4, 1938, and Brown was the winner. But by then Sixto Escobar of Puerto Rico was the actual World Champion in bantam weight.
With the advent of World War II Brown moved to Harlem, USA. He died of tuberculosis in New York City in 1951.
Panama Al Brown's record comprises 123 wins, 18 defeats and 10 draws, with 55 knockouts. He was the bantamweight World Champion for six years and made 11 title defenses.

'Tito' Liber
Thanks to 'Tito' Liber for this great anecdote. Let's end this with some music celebrating the right bantam steps.