Friday, August 21, 2015

Comienza el Beguine - Begin The Beguine

Cole Porter at the piano (1930s)
Cole Porter composed Begin The Beguine and also wrote the lyrics, the song had its debut in Cole Porter’s musical comedy Jubilee in 1935. It was reputedly the longest popular song ever written of 108 bars while the conventional length for a song normally is 32 bars. The song later became a hit for bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw, who recorded his instrumental version for Bluebird in 1938.
Bluebird, B-7746-B
Artie Shaw and his orchestra recorded Begin The Beguine on July 24 1938 as the B-side of the shown Bluebird B-7746, the A-side had Shaw's version of Indian Love Call. About the same time was recorded a soundie (short film of live performance of the song) where the song was presented -it has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here

Artie Shaw's instrumental version of Begin The Beguine soon became the standard arrangement of the music. The song had only little in common with the original biguine,  Shaw's arrangement is in the fox trot style (- slow fox may be the right denomination) and addressed dancers of the swing era. However, Begin The Beguine was a hit, and in the 1940s it became a jazz standard recorded by Benny Goodman, Glen Miller a.o. popular bands of the time.
Sheet music front
Oscar Alemán y sus Quinteto de Swing recorded Begin The Beguine on 4 November 1942 as Comienza el Beguine in the same session where Tengo Ritmo (I Got Rhythm) and Blues del adios (Bye Bye Blues) also were recorded. Alemán's version was issued on Odeon 45826 and is a great example of his guitar playing and Hernán Oliva's excellent contributions on the violin

Alemán did not record Begin The Beguine again in his later career, but the tune was nevertheless a part of his standard repertoire at live-performance in radio, TV and public shows. A live air-shot from Radio el Mundo 1965  gives an impression of how the tune was arranged and performed by Alemán and his Cinco Caballeros - the guitar solo has not changed fundamentally from the first version at Odeon 45826, I think


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Missing Record Featuring Les Loups?

According to the Discography Of American Historical Recordings a 78 rpm Victor 80840 recorded Spring 1928 in Buenos Aires featuring female tango vocalist Rosita Quiroga has the title 'Mis pobres ilusiones' on the A side (mx BAVE-44060), while the B side (mx BAVE-44061) has the title 'Mal rumbeada'. I got curious about this Victor recording, as the A side featuring 'Mis pobres ilusiones' is a composition credited to Gastón Bueno Lobo and Oscar Alemán with added lyrics by Enrique D. Cadicamo. I tried to find further info about this composition and hoped finding the audio somewhere to evaluate the possibility of Les Loups' participation in the recording, but without result, since the recording probably is lost. Next I wrote my expert friend in early tango, Luis 'Tito' Liber for help researching further info, he sent me an answer (quoted below) which does not solve the question about the possible participation of Les Loups, but it puts some light on the circumstances of the the recordings by Rosita Quiroga in 1928.
Rosita Quiroga
Here is what Luis wrote: Roberto G. Miglio, in his book El Tango y Sus Intérpretes, has written that there are two sides of Rosita Quiroga (Victor 80840, recorded May 2nd 1928) where she would be accompanied by Les Loups, with hawaiian guitars: Mis Pobres Ilusiones (G Lobo-E. Cadícamo; O. Aleman) vals / Mal Rumbeada (E. Cadicamo; L. Viapiana; J. M. González) tango.
According to my investigation, the master of Victor 80840 no longer exists, no record collector seems to have the disc, and no modern CD compilation has these two songs. So we cannot hear them and confirm the information. But we can get closer, knowing the name of the guitarists that accompanied Victor´s star singer Rosita Quiroga in her 1928 records. The everpresent duet of guitars in her records from 1925 to 1928 (with the exception of 1927 and some records from 1928) is the excellent duo Aguilar/Pesoa. José María Aguilar (1891-1951) made the solos (a strong sound!!) and Rosendo Pesoa (1896-1951) the accompaniment. These guitarists were a kind of session musicians who played with every singer of the Victor staff. Rosendo Pesoa and José María "El Indio" Aguilar both have been the accompanying guitars of tango singers Ignacio Corsini and Agustín Magaldi, and Aguilar has been the guitarist of the great Carlos Gardel. Not outstanding, in some records of the Autumn of 1928, Quiroga´s guitarist are unknown. Maybe she had used another duet, for instance Alemán/Lobo. But in the Winter of 1928, Aguilar/Pesoa were back. So, maybe the guitar work of Les Loups had sounded very similar to them.
During those sessions of 1928, she recorded the first hit of composer Enrique Santos Discépolo: Que Vachaché. It could be possible that Rosita had introduced Les Loups, who were friends of Enrique, to the manager of the Victor Company.
Enrique S. Discépolo
To give you an impression of Rosita Quiroga and her accompanying guitarists, here is her recording of Discépelo's Que Vachaché; it was recorded in the Summer of 1928 and the Victor files has no names of the accompanying guitarists, but the duo may be the above mentioned Aguilar/Pesoa.

This famous tango by E.S. Discépolo was also recorded by Les Loups ca 30 Aug 1928 and was issued on Victor 80936 and/or 80950 (mx BAVE-44281-2). I'll insert the audio of this recording below to let you have the opportunity to determine similarities and/or differences compared to the the recording by Rosita Quiroga from about the same time.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Interview with Waldo Fonseca of Hot Club de Boedo by Luis Liber

Waldo Fonseca
Waldo Fonseca is one of the last exponents of the school of Argentine hot guitarists initiated by Oscar Alemán and continued by Eduardo Ravera. He is the founder of the "Hot Club de Boedo", a cultural project and a string swing ensemble that preserves the aesthetic of the style of jazz once played by Alemán and Ravera. Waldo is a tall and kind man, with the warmth of a bohemian musician. At his home, in the town of Caballito, Buenos Aires, we had a friendly talk.

" Around the end of the eighties, I got in contact with Eduardo "Zurdo" Ravera, who came to my house in Caballito to hear the swing-guitar group I had with my brother." - In the seventies, Eduardo Ravera had been the rhythm guitar of Oscar Alemán at several occasions, and further the first guitar of violinist Hernán Oliva`s Quintet (Chachi Zaragoza was another member).
"Eduardo took a lot of affection on me, because he thought we had "revived" him. He gave me a lot of scales exercises and he marked me for a long time how to play the rhythm guitar properly (moving the wrist, not the arm!)." We all know how difficult it is to play right the pompe manouche.
Eduardo Ravera and Waldo Fonseca (1993)
"I played the rhythm in our live performances, till the day Ravera told me "Maestrito, go on" and he let me do the solo."
Waldo Fonseca (left) with Eduardo Ravera (right) and ensemble
"In those days, "el Zurdo" (Lefthanded) had only limited motion in his right arm, so he had to lift it with his left hand and literally hang it from the fretboard. He played an acoustic "Repiso" guitar which sounded terrific."
Eduardo Ravera playing his Repiso
Waldo knows a lot of anecdotes about Oscar through Ravera. Here are three untold:
Alemán used to say that a guitarist must play "standing up" to be more effective (he was right if we think on the modern and spectacular rock guitarists!).
One day Oscar told Eduardo: "Try to play like yourself, not like me, because there is just one and only Alemán."
Alemán had the "nervous gesticulation" of touching his face with the tips of his fingers, as if he tried to take the colour of his skin off. Poor Oscar; but imagine that he had lived in a time when black people suffered discrimination in Buenos Aires (and in all the world).

"Jazz was my first love", says Waldo, "and I cultivate Gardel and Alemán`s style of straight playing. My others indirect teachers, from whom I learned through the records and performances, were Django, Hernán Oliva (Waldo is a fan, he has all his records!!) and bandoneonist Aníbal Troilo." - Waldo adds that the most original jazz musicians of Argentina are... the tango musicians!
"I have a worn "Fonseca" electro-acoustic guitar, but I`d like to play a "Selmer". As far as I remember, Oscar and the tango guitarist Ubaldo de Lio were the only guitarists who had a Selmer in Argentina."

Waldo and the boys at ease, enjoy!

Luis 'Tito' Liber

Monday, May 11, 2015

Oscar Alemán . La Guitarra Embrujada

A couple of weeks ago history professor and journalist, Sergio A. Pujol, has published his book titled Oscar Alemán—La guitarra embrujada (- in English: Oscar Alemán—The Haunted Guitar, Planeta de Libros (340 páginas), Buenos Aires, Argentina), his biography of  Oscar Alemán. I have not seen a copy of the book yet, but below I'll add some links to guide readers who are familiar with the Spanish language to further info.

The publisher's info about Pujol's book is accessible here

 Argentinian paper Página 12 carried an excerpt of the book, here

Finally, Sergio Pujol was interviewed about the book in a radio program at 221 Radio. Part of the interview was filmed and uploaded at YouTube in two videos, inserted below

Here's the second filmed extract of the broadcasted interview

I look forward to reactions from readers who have had access to Pujol's book. Reviews in Spanish and/or English are also most welcome.  Contact me at the e-mail below. Thank you in advance for your collaboration!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Guitarra Que Llora - Revisited

According to the info available in the Oscar Alemán online-discography Les Loups (Gastón Bueno Lobo, haw g & Oscar Alemán, g) recorded the shown 'Guitarra Que Llora' (Victor 80839 - A,mx BAVE-44058A-2) on c. May 2nd, 1928 for Victor in Buenos Aires. This was the initial recording of the tango, but other artists also recorded this tango by G.B. Lobo and Oscar Alemán after it had added lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo, a.o. Augustin Magaldi's vocal version recorded shortly after the initial version by Les Loups. However, here is the original, instrumental version as recorded by Les Loups

By coincidence I found a recently recorded version of Guitarra que llora uploaded at YouTube and performed by a Belgian trio named Les guitares magiques. This contemporary version revisits the original version by Les Loups and is a magnificent re-take of the tune that generates a hope for more from this talented Belgian trio. It's a sheer joy to learn that contemporary musicians finally have experienced the lasting quality of the music originally recorded by Les Loups. - I have not much info about Les guitares magiques, but here are a few details extracted from the info added with another uploaded video by the trio:

"Slide masters Raf “Lazy Horse” Timmermans and Gijs Hollebosch usually accompany singer-songwriters. They met in early 2012 and gigged together a few times. Soon it became clear they had to share their passion for slide music. Digging deep into the Hawaiian style of playing slide guitar, Raf and Gijs soon discovered a whole unexplored world of forgotten music. Together with double bass player René Stock they built a new repertoire. It is Hawaiian, but it is also much more."

Enjoy Guitarra que llora as played by Les guitares magiques from Belgium


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ellington, Baker, Alemán - 1933

Duke Ellington at the piano, c. 1933
Duke Ellington, who toured Europe to escape the Great Depression as it harassed the US, visited France in 1933. Oscar Alemán makes a profound impression on Duke, who offers him a place as a guitar player in his orchestra for a tour through the US. But Ellington had to ask Md. Joesphine Baker before it could be arranged.

Josephine Baker, 1933
The comment of Josephine Baker was clear: Where in the world will I find another man who is able to sing in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, who can dance, play the guitar, who is black and a great companion?

Oscar and Josephine on stage
Case closed: Md. Baker declined to let Oscar go, as a consolation he had a signed photo of the Ellington band with autographs by all members on the reverse, which he kept for all his life.

Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club orchestra,  1933
The autographs on the reverse of a similar promotion photo is shown below by courtesy of Luis 'Tito' Liber, who kindly forwarded a copy of this essential keepsake from Alemán's own collection

Autographs of Ellington Orch. members, Paris 1933 (click to enlarge)

What would have happened, if Oscar had joined the Ellington orchestra in 1933? This is a question that has preoccupied many jazz lovers, however, fact is that we'll never know, we just have to dream about the missed possibilities. 

- To end this, I'll insert a short film made by the Ellington orchestra 1933, 'A Bundle of Blues'- enjoy!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Joe Louis Stomp

Joe Louis, The Brown Bomber
Joe Louis (1914–1981), known as the Brown Bomber, was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1937 to 1949 holding the title longer than anyone else in boxing history. A career profile is available here

Bill Coleman (1904-1981)
Trumpeter Bill Coleman composed and recorded a swing tune as a homage to the rising boxing star in January 1936, Joe Louis Stomp. At that time Bill Coleman resided in Paris, France, where he had been engaged by Freddy Taylor late 1935 as a member of Taylor's orchestra, but already in 1933 Coleman had been in France as a member of Lucky Millinder's orchestra, and this time he would stay in Paris as his residence until 1940. During this period Bill Coleman also had his own orchestra in Paris that had regular performances at a venue called Villa d'Este, members were  Bill Coleman (tp, ldr), Eugène d' Ellemmes (b), Edgar "Spider" Courance (ts, cl), Oscar Alemán (g) and William Diemer (dm) as shown at the picture below (l to r)
Bill Coleman Et Son Orchestre De La Villa D'Este, c.1936
On January 31th, 1936 Bill Coleman and his Orchestra recorded 'Joe Louis Stomp' in Paris, it was issued on a 78 rpm disc at the French Gramophone label, a devsion of HMV, as the A-side (mx. OLA-851-1, Gramophone (HMV) K-7705), while the B-side had a recording of the tune 'Coquette' (mx. OLA-852-1, Gramophone (HMV) K-7705).
Gramophone (HMV) K-7705
The Coleman quintet is extended to a sextet in this recording, John (Jean) Ferrier is added as the piano player - remaining personnel as mentioned above. 'Joe Louis Stomp' is a great swing tune, both Coleman and Edgar Courance have great solo spots, but here we should also focus on Oscar Alemán's 16 bar guitar solo. This is in fact the first swing/jazz solo recorded by Alemán. It is documenting an already mature and personal style that distinguishes him from other guitarists at the time. Enjoy the tune as recorded on January 31th, 1936 in the inserted video below.

Oscar Alemán recorded and released a version of 'Joe Louis Stomp' in Buenos Aires much later, but not during his contract with Odeon from 1941 to 1957. However, during the 1960s, when he had semi-retired from the scene as a performer and recording artist after dissolving his orchestra in 1959, he was from time to time a featured guest performer in radio and TV programs accompanied by a quintet named Cinco Caballeros consisting of cl or vln, p, rh g, b and dm.
Oscar Alemán & Cinco Caballeros, 1960s
With the Cinco Caballeros Alemán performed his own arrangement of 'Joe Louis Stomp' at several live appearances in radio programs during the 1960s as documented in unissued recordings saved by keen collectors. One of the hottest versions I have heard was performed in a program at Radio el Mundo on September 2nd, 1965, inserted in the audio-video below

Note that the speaker of the program mentions Duke Ellington as the composer of the tune, although it rightly should have been Bill Coleman. However, the studio audience probably would not have cared anyway, as Bill Coleman's name and output probably was rather unknown in Argentina at the time. On the other hand, Alemán's version of the tune gets a deserved enthusiastic applause and points to the fact that 'Joe Louis Stomp' had become a part of his standard repertoire at the time. 

As mentioned, he recorded the tune much later, now in a slower and more subdued version, but still with great guitar work showing off his excellence even in his late career. The tune was recorded in September 1974 on the last LP album for the Redondel label titled 'En Todos Los Ritmos' (L-809). Alemán is accompanied by Juan José Gonzalez (cl), Dario “Johnny” Quaglia (rh g), Norberto Villa (b) and Mario Raffaelli (dm). This version has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted in the video below - a worthy contribution to mark the 106th anniversary of Oscar Alemán and a great swing jazz tune, enjoy!