Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Memory of Hans Koert, September 2014

Dear readers,

I have collected some of the notifications according Hans Koert's passing on September 4th, 2014. The following is a list of quotes from people who have reacted in forwarded e-mails or as comments on some of Hans' weblogs.

So sorry to hear of Hans’ passing. He was dedicated to bringing us all a little closer to the musicians we all have known and loved over the years. His enthusiasm was boundless and his seemingly endless supply of good humor came across, even in his writing. He will be missed. - Malcolm Rockwell 

Through the distance, my condolences for Hans` wife, his family and friends.- Luis ‘Tito’ Liber 

What sad news. Unfortunately, I never met Hans, but I admire the Oscar Alemán page. - Sincerely yours Sergio Pujol.

We are really sorry to hear this. Hans was the ultimate "alemaniac" as he always posted on the blog. He gave a lot to the memory of Oscar Aleman and many other artists on the Keep swinging blog. A lot of interesting information with a lot of love and passion were behind every post. He will be remembered. Our condolences to Corrie. - José Iacona 

Thank you for this sad information. Our condolences to you and to Corrie.Best wishes, Richard and Meagan Hennessey, Archeophone Records

My sincerest condolences on Hans Koert’s passing. - Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

I am really sorry to know about Hans Koert's passing, please give my condolences to his family.- Michele Ariodante

 blog comments:
Thank you for sharing this sad news with us, he will be missed. My condolences to friends and family. - 

It is a great loss and we will miss him a lot. - Jorgelina Alemán, Daniel Cossarini 

Hans, Your work and legacy will never stop swinging. - Lao Iacona.

Una muy lamentable noticia, siempre te recordaremos, nuestras condolencia a su familia. - Hot Club de Boedo 

Hans Koert did an incredible work to preserve the memory and career of Oscar Aleman. Thanks for everything Hans! Rest in peace. - José Iacona


Thanks for your support!

My personal farewell in still footage and music. Thanks for everything, dear friend!


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Hans Koert (1951 - 2014)

Hans Koert (1951-2014)
Dear readers,

I had the sad news this afternoon that Hans Koert passed away this morning. Hans Koert died from complications caused by a lung cancer that has kept him inactive at his website and blogs for some months. I have lost a dear friend, however, my thoughts and condolences in this difficult hour I forward to Corrie, Hans' wife, 

If you wish to express your compassion or send a condolence notification, I will state Corrie's postal address below. You may also state your message by notifying me at the e-mail address below, then I'll forward your message to Corrie. As always, you can also use the comment facility at the blog, if you prefer this solution.

Hans Koert was the founder and main editor of the Keep Swinging website including under-webs and blogs. Before it was too late, I promised Hans to continue his work the best I can. If you have questions or comments regarding this, please feel free to contact me in an e-mail.

Here is the postal address of Corrie Koert:

Ms. Corrie Koert
Torenvalkstee 8
NL-4451 CM Heinkenszand
The Netherlands

The e-mail address to send condolence notification or questions, please use this:

Thanks for your support!

Jorgen Larsen

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Carlos Gardel and His Guitarists - Part 1

Carlos Gardel
We had an extensive article from Luis 'Tito' Liber discussing the influence of early jazz on the career of the famous Argentine tango singer, Carlos Gardel (1890-1935). The focus in Liber's article is put on the guitarists working with Gardel exploring their styles of playing and adding audio examples to illustrate from uploaded YouTube videos. The article points to a specific guitar tradition in the Argentine tango community and may indirectly have had an influence on the evolution of Oscar Alemán's playing style as well. Thus, the reason for publishing the article here is that the music discussed and illustrated in the article enlightens a historical context not often included in examination of the roots of Alemán's playing technique and musical environment. - Below follows the first part of Luis 'Tito' Liber's article, the second part follows later in another entry.

Carlos Gardel and His Guitarists - Early South American Jazz Records - Part 1
Luis 'Tito' Liber

We know Argentine Carlos Gardel as a tango singer, but he also had a repertoire that included some interesting foxtrots, shimmies, camel-trots, waltzes, rumbas and Hawaiian rhythms (I have counted 36 sides!!) that, in those crazy 1920-1930s days, were popular in South-America. It`s interesting to appreciate the parallel evolution of tango and jazz, a subject that must be further investigated by specialists.

For instance, tango and jazz have the same black-African roots, same ‘Red Light district’ origins, and other similarities (listen to ragtime composers Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton and Guardia Vieja`s composers). Dixieland appeared in 1917, the same year Gardel recorded his first tango-song Mi noche triste. Much more, tango was a big success in Europe at the same time as jazz (see Camps, Pompeyo. Tango y Ragtime. Bs. As. 1976).
Jazz arrived in Buenos Aires around 1916 as an extravagant foreign fashion (funny black dancers, half-naked girls with exotic costumes, and merry tunes), presented by Broadway and Paris music-hall entertainers. But the true history of Argentine jazz begins in 1925, when the tango orchestras of Francisco Canaro (the most famous band of Argentina with the voice of Charlo) and Roberto Firpo played and recorded this style called jazzband, and the first argentine jazz orchestra of Adolfo Avilés was created. Later would appear the band of Eleuterio Yribarren. The genre became a massive success after the visits of pianist Sam Wooding and his Chocolate Kiddies in 1927, and the famous tapdancer Harry Fleming in 1928-1929 (we already know his story with Oscar Alemán).
During the 1920s and 1930s, two dances, the shimmy (feet quiet while shaking the rest of the body) and the foxtrot (smooth and sliding paces) became synonymous with jazz. By those times, in Argentina these were elitist dances (- the tango being much popular too), as it was an entertainment limited to the upper rich class who had spare time to spend in expensive nightclubs and cabarets.

The jazz records used to come to Argentina imported from Europe and the USA and were purchased only by the upper class. Notwithstanding, many Argentine records existed and were issued by local labels. In the 1920s, the advertisements of Nacional-Odeón, Victor, Electra and Brunswick (published in the Caras y Caretas magazine) showed us a lot of tangos, shimmies and foxtrots, together, even as sides of the same disc of the same artist. In fact, the jazz bands and tango orchestras (called "típica") shared the same stages and many musicians used to play both genres. For example: Francisco Canaro (La Virgen de Stambul. Shimmy. Jazz-Band / El Rocío. Tango. Típica), Roberto Firpo (El Viejo Vizcacha. Tango. Típica / My Love: Shimmy. Jazz-Band), duet Gardel-Razzano (La cabeza del italiano. Tango / Poupée de Stambul. shimmy). The international crisis of 1930 stopped the import of records, and then the radio occupied the role of musical dissemination with orchestras playing live (i.e. the auditions of Radio Belgrano).
 The records included here were all issued by the Nacional-Odeon company of Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are of historic importance, I think, because these sides are documentation of early jazz music from the 1920s played by South American guitarists, who didn`t copy any European or American guitar style. The featured guitar players played with an intriguing Argentine tango/milonga ‘tinge’, but a little "square" compared with jazz rhythm. These guitarists were essentially schooled in Buenos Aires’ creole country-music (milonga, payada, tonada, estilo, cifra, zamba), not tango, because in those times the guitar was not an instrument often used by tango musicians.
The guitar was a very expensive instrument, and it was made by local luthiers, purchased in Casa Núñez of Buenoas Aires, or imported from Europe. Gardel, for instance, didn`t have his own guitar in the begining. In Argentina, we call the Spanish guitar "guitarra criolla". The material of the chords were tripa (animal tissue) not nylon (as today).

Gardel’s guitar at Museo SADIAC
As it was common, the guitarists played in a Spanish/classical style, with the nails of their fingers. The exceptions were Aguilar, who played with plectrum, adding a remarkable strong picking -- the "trademark" of Gardel´s guitars --, Ricardo played fine introductions primarily with the thumb in the lower strings (the bordona), a technique taken from guitarists of the West of Argentina (San Juan and Mendoza counties). They tuned in A 412 (not A 440). Maybe they sometimes tuned the 6th string in D, not in E (as Argentine guitarists Atahualpa Yupanqui and Eduardo Falú later used to do).

Gardel`s guitarists were:

José "El Negro" Ricardo (b. BA March 19, 1888 -- d. Atlantic Ocean, on board of a ship from France to Argentina, May 2 1937). Played with Gardel from 1916 to 1929. He began his career working with Muiño-Alippi theatrical company at San Martín theatre along with Pettorsi. He was the guitarist of the historic Gardel record Mi noche triste, the first tango featuring vocal and lyrics. He abandoned Gardel during his performances at the Avenida theater, Madrid, in 1929. Later, he formed a group with his brother Rafael "Bronce" Ricardo -- Los hermanos Ricardo -- ; they together made a tour through Cairo, London and Rome.
Guillermo Desiderio "El Barba" Barbieri (b. BA September 25 1894 -- d. Medellín aircrash June 24 1935). Played with Gardel from 1921 to 1935. He began his career at popular dancings, accompanying bandoneonists Eduardo Arolas, Arturo La Vieja, Vicente Loduca and Julio Vivas (later Gardel`s guitarist). He is the father of great argentine comedian Alfredo Barbieri.
José María "El Indio" Aguilar (b. San Ramón, Canelones-Uruguay May 7th 1891 -- d. BA December 21, 1951). Played with Gardel from 1928 to 1930. He began his career accompanying singers Enrique Maciel, Rosita Quiroga and Ignacio Corsini. Having a strong character, he quarreled many times with Gardel, leaving and returning to his group. Aguilar was a survival of the Medellín crash.
Ángel Domingo Riverol (b. BA October 1 1893 -- d. Medellin, two days after the aircrash June 26 1935). Played with Gardel from 1930 to 1935. In his begining accompanied singer Ignacio Corsini and others. He knew Gardel by Aguilar.
Julio Domingo Vivas (b. BA May 12 1895 -- d. June 15 1952). Played with Gardel from 1931 to 1935. He began his career as bandoneonist; his friend Guillermo Barbieri convinced him to change to the guitar and to accompany Carlos Gardel.
Horacio "El Marqués" Pettorossi (b. BA October 21 1896 -- d. December 25 1960). Played with Gardel in 1933. He began his career in creole groups and theatrical companies (famous Muiño-Alippi company in San Martín theater along with Ricardo), and conducted his own orchestra, making an European tour.
Gardel and his guitarists, 1933
Below follows a complete list of recordings of interest in this context, click on song title to listen to the music that has been uploaded at YouTube (- the link opens in a separate window):

01. Michina (Luis Roldán - Juan Carlos Rodríguez) (Nacional-Odeon 1920. a222, 18021). "Estilo campero" in a fado or foxtrot style. Gardel (1st vo), José Razzano (2nd vo), José Ricardo (g).
02. De mitierra (Eduardo Manella - Francisco Lozano - Pedro Numa Córdoba) (Nacional-Odeon 1921. 450, 18034). "Estilo campero" in a fado or foxtrot style. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (g).
03. Mi bien querido (José Ricardo) (Nacional-Odeon 1922. 790, 18055). "Estilo campero" in a fado or foxtrot style. Written by the guitarist Ricardo. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).

At this time, Gardel -- although he had already recorded some tangos -- sang creole songs, in a gaucho payador style. He sang the first voice, and Razzano did the second (a third lower). Note the similarities and differences between these three estilos camperos and early foxtrots.

04. Yo nopuedo vivir sin amor (Je ne peux pas vivre sans amour) (Fred Pearly - Charles Gabaroche) (Nacional-Odeon 1922. 1069, 18060). French shimmy, with Spanish lyrics by Antonio Viérgol. The chansonier Randall from the Madame Rasimí`s company, had popularized the song in Argentina, and Viérgol adapted it in spanish for his review "Paris qui vient" played at the Teatro Marconi in 1922. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
05. Ladanza de las libélulas (Franz Lehár) (Nacional-Odeon 1923. 1353, 18074). French foxtrot composed by Hungarian musician Franz Lehár (Chanson des gigolettes is the original title from the 1922 opereta; lyrics by Carlo Lombardi and Alfonso Maria Willner) (spanish lyrics by Gardel). Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
06. Nerón (Emilio Iribarne - Mario Valdéz - Cancio Millán) (Nacional-Odeon 1923. 1572, 18083). Shimmy. Also recorded by Francisco Canaro Jazz-Band (Nacional Odeon, Bs As, 1923. Matrix 6944 A). Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
07. Tutankh amon (José Bohr - Cancio Millán) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 1810, 18094). Camel-trot. The author is hungarian-chilenian composer and filmaker José Bohr, by that time famous for his foxtrots and shimmies. Francisco Canaro`s orchestra had recorded this song with Bohr playing the "musical handsaw” in 1923; this weird instrument became a trademark of that kind of tunes. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
08. Eltemplo de Venus (Emilio Iribarne - Mario Valdéz - Cancio Millán) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 1852, 18100). Shimmy. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
09. Poupéede Estambul (Yes, We Have No Bananas) (Frank Silver - Irving Conn) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 2127, 18106). Shimmy, with spanish lyrics by Pedro Numa Córdoba. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
10. Oh!Paris (José Bohr - Juan Caruso) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 2289, 18111 and 18114). Foxtrot. With Francisco Canaro orchestra, and other version alone with two guitars. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
11. Lasulamita (Francisco Canaro - Juan Caruso) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 2291, 18118; Nacional-Odeon Barcelona 1928. 4635; Nacional-Odeon 1928. 2834, 18243). Shimmy. Three versions: two recorded in Buenos Aires, the other in Barcelona. Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).
12. Perohay una melena (José Bohr) (Nacional-Odeon 1924. 2436, 18115). foxtrot. This tune was a big hit. Also recorded by Francisco Canaro Jazz-Band (Nacional Odeon, Bs As, 1924. 4034A). Gardel (vo), José Ricardo (lead g), Guillermo Barbieri (g).

To be continued in a second entry!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marinella - Oscar Alemán In Soundtrack of a Tino Rossi Movie (1936)

Tino Rossi
Tino Rossi  (1907 – 1983) was a French singer and film actor. Born Constantin Rossi in Ajaccio, Corsica, France, he became a tenor of French cabaret and one of the great romantic idols of his time. Gifted with an operatic voice, a "Latin Lover" persona made him a movie star as well. Over his career, Rossi made hundreds of records and appeared in more than 25 films. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art-songs helped drawing sold out audiences wherever he performed. He is the only French singer to have sold over 700 million records. (excerpt of Wikipedia article ,here ).

Oscar Alemán with National Tricone guitar, 1930s
Tino Rossi began his film career in Les Nuits Moscovites (1934), but his first real success came with Pierre Caron's Marinella (1936), a musical film which was written specifically for him. Needless to say, the theme song from the film proved a great hit. All his films were musicals and capitalised on his success as a singer.- We were pointed to a YouTube video featuring the theme song Marinella copied from the original film, as it is supposed to have Oscar Alemán playing the guitar in the accompanying sound-track. Earlier there have been assumptions that Alemán particpated in recordings with Tino Rossi, but up till now we have not been able to confirm this from lack of discographical info on Tino Rossi's output. However, judging from the soundtrack of the song, it seems likely that Alemán actually participated in the recording of this particular take of Marinella as an anonymous studio musician. The guitar part behind Rossi's vocal sounds much like other recordings by Alemán from the 1930s in Paris, where he from time to time contributed his skills on the National tricone metal guitar as accompaniment for vocal artists like Lina d'Acosta and the Jean, Jac & Jo trio a.o.. - You have the opportunity to download a legal and free mp3 copy of the soundtrack recording of Marinella here. Below is inserted the YouTube video featuring the original 1936 Tino Rossi performance of the song on screen.


Monday, June 09, 2014

In the Quest of Oscar`s Cavaquinho

Oscar Alemán's first instrument was the cavaquinho, which he acquired as a boy and taught himself to play. He kept the instrument all his life, used it in stage appearance and recorded his 'O.A. 1926' in a solo performance on the Alemán '72 album. But what happened to his cavaquinho after his passing away in 1980? This question has puzzled the writer of this entry and generated a research of the story of Oscar's cavaquinho. Below Luis 'Tito' Liber gives his account of this story by quoting Oscar's own words on the topic from interviews and articles in Argentinian periodicals and other sources.

In the Quest of Oscar`s Cavaquinho
By Luis 'Tito' Liber
According to my humble investigations, there are two instruments in the property of Oscar Alemán which are lost: one is the original Parisian Selmer (Oscar pawned it by the end of the 1960s). The other is the old 1922 cavaquinho. The only instrument that accompanied him during almost all his life (from 1922 to 1980). Oscar`s most loved one.
Does Selva or Jorgelina have it through Carmen Vallejos? Would his latest wife, María Teresa Benito, had it to Spain? If that possibility exists... well, let`s begin the quest.
I have written a short story of the instrument in Oscar`s own words, with fragments from interviews and other articles. Here it is:

"I had gone to Brazil with my father... there I began and in 1922 I requested to make me an instrument, the "cavaquinho". In 1924, I got a borrowed guitar, and with it - in 1925 - I formed a duet. My first instrument was that cavaquinho, which I bought in Santos when I was a kid and lived alone, because my father had died. It is the same cavaquinho that stands here, on that shelf, and the one I even play today. And I never had to have it repaired!" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"The cavaquinho is a small four stringed Brazilian guitar. I haven`t made the historic record of the instrument, but I think it had been played in Spain, were they called it guitarrico. It is what in the USA and Hawaii they call ukelele" (Oscar Aleman. El tenedor y el cuchillo. Pelo Nº 99 - July 1978).

"I was standing alone in Santos (note: State of São Paulo, Brasil). I was about ten years old, but I was so slim and little, that I seemed to be eight. I slept below the benches of the parks, and opened and closed the doors of the cars to get some coins that let me eat. But I had a goal: buy me a cavaquinho. It was my first instrument and I still have it. It was made especially for me in 1922. I had agreed with a man the construction of that instrument, the cavaquinho, and I payed him all that I earned. I earned 20 reis, 30 reis, 45 reis by day. The luthier thought I was joking, but at the end he had to say: - "This boy is serious". The list of my payments it was written in one of those brown papers used to wrap sugar. It had written at the top the word "Oscarcito." Next the sums and the day I had rendered them: 20, 35, 15, 80, 40. It was all that I earned" (Ardiles Gray, J. Historias de artistas contadas por ellos mismos. Ed. Belgrano, Bs.As. 1981).

"I asked him to make me the best cavaquinho and the man asked me why I wanted the best wood, the best instrument. The cavaquinho costed almost 200 pesos" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"In the afternoons I took a rest and went to the man`s shop (in Gaffet`s Vida con Swing, the luthier from Santos is named Marcio) while his wife, who was a very good woman, gave me a cup of milk and coffe and a piece of bread because she knew that I had not eaten; I studied with another cavaquinho that was at the shop window. One day, happy beacause I had got two pesos to carry to the shop, I arrived there and found the door closed, saying 'Closed by mourning'. I rang the bell and the lady got out. She embraced me, and kissed me crying. Her husband had died... and his last words were: "Don`t charge Oscarcito a cent. All is payed..." And besides, he ordered to gift me the best case. The same case I have today! So, everytime I play my instrument on the scene, a deep emotion comes from inside; because I remember my entire life. There lays everything: how I slept below the benches embraced to my cavaquinho, how I carried the last two pesos - I had never got so much -, the closed shop, to where I could not go for two days because I hadn`t got anything... The first instrument that I have got and the last one he had made" (Sopeña, G. Oscar Alemán. Abrazado a mi cavaquinho. Crisis, Nº 21 - January 1975).

"Finally I could buy the instrument I loved so much. I started to play in some cafés with my cavaquinho. After my number, the boss allowed me to pass my small dish (Note: where the customers put the coins). While I was opening the doors of the cars I left the instrument kept in his little dancehall. The boss loved me very much and he took care of it" (Ardiles Gray, J. Historias de artistas contadas por ellos mismos. Ed. Belgrano, Bs.As. 1981).

Young Oscar Alemán built an early prestige playing in cafés and dancehalls. In 1924, Gastão Bueno Lobo was in Santos, when he found 15 years old Oscar playing the cavaquinho in the streets of the city. Having noticed the extraordinary potential of that kid, from that day onwards, Bueno Lobo became Oscar`s guitar teacher.
In Buenos Aires, December 1927, he recorded with Les Loups the side Criollita (Victor 79968B), waltz in choro style composed by Bueno Lobo, where Gastón played the cavaquinho.

One of Alemán`s earliest photos in Europe - Madrid 1929 -, shows him with a cavaquinho, not with a guitar; and critic Leonard Feather himself had recognized Oscar`s skills on cavaquinho: "Oscar Aleman, an Indian from Argentine who started playing ukelele at Brazil, he is a decade in France" (Feather, L. Melody Maker. Feb-Mar 1939). Notice that Feather rightly calls Alemán "Indian", not "American-Black", as if he had talked with Oscar about his true origins.
Madrid, 1929
Back in Argentina, during the 1940s and 1950s, Alemán and his Quinteto de Swing  recorded one theme, Apanhei-te cavaquinho (Ernesto Nazareth) (Odeon 22303B, June 1945) - but with guitar - and played live some chorinhos accompanied by his small instrument (for instance, Tengo un cavaquiño in 1946, and an early live radio interpretation of his OA 1926 ragtime in c.1955).

He also played his little instrument during Duke Ellington receptions at the USA embassy in Buenos Aires, 1968 and 1971. By 1975 Alemán still performed with the cavaquinho, for instance, at the café-concert Aristóbulo shows.
Alemán '72 , LP text
Much more, the emotion Oscar felt each time he played his cavaquinho, was captured during the recording sessions of Alemán `72 LP (Redondel SL 10.508, Nov. 1972) in a masterpiece. Here the inner cover note by Carlos Mayon: "It is to mention his interpretation of "OA 1926". There, what had to be a solo of cavaquinho, it was replaced at the recording room by a solo of Alemán... because he not only played the cavaquinho, but all his body vibrated in the interpretation of the theme, and that was essential to get to record. The recording technic, Carlos Piriz, so understood this, and with an adequate and not orthodox microphones placement, he could get along with the sound of the instrument, the noise of his feet marking the rhythm, the movement of all his body, his voice and the intermittent beating of his breathing."

Its presence in the 1970s, was remembered by Oscar`s student Guillermo Iacona: "He always taught with a classical (or creole) guitar and the very Parisian Selmer remained in its case, as was the cavaquinho" (Iacona, G, J. & E. Tributo a Oscar Alemán. pp 182-184. Bs. As. Whitefly 2012).

Oscar in his music study, 1978
Notice guitar and cavaquinho box to the right
The cavaquinho is a four stringed Portuguese instrument in the shape of small guitar (like the Hawaiian ukelele, the Indonesian kerotjon, the Spanish guitarrico, the Canarian timple and the Venezuelan cuatro), brought to America by the europeans. Its metal strings are played with a plectrum. The fretboard is divided in 17 frets. The body is most frequently made of spruce or cedar soundboard with Brazilian rosewood, or maple, back and sides. The portuguese word "cavaco", in english means "chatter"; this remains the way cavaquinho acts in brasilian music: as voice accompanyment. The cavaquinho is used by traditional groups from North Portugal, Brazil (samba, choro), Cabo Verde and Mozambique. The Brazilian cavaquinho is larger than the Portuguese. The Brazilian tuning is the traditional D-G-B-D (the Portuguese is D-B-G-E) (from Cazes, H. Escola moderna do cavaquinho. R. de J., Brazil. Ed. Lumiar 1986).
Cavaco and cavaquinho
Alemán, as he did with the guitar, he played the instrument in a spanish classical style, with his fingers, and with a single plectrum or "uñero" in his thumb (the man was a master!). Probably he used a tuning called natural or Coimbra (D-G-B-E), more adapted to guitarists, as it replicates the 1st to 4th strings of the guitar. Lamentably, he is no longer with us to affirm or deny this; but someone with a better ear than me may tell.
Oscar on stage 1974 - cavaquinho fingerstyle!
Oscar`s 92 years old little instrument perhaps is laying in the hands of someone who does not know its story, or it is kept in the dark of an old case. The worse is that, being destructed by bad use and time, it doesn`t exist anymore. If someone knows something... Write a comment!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sweet Georgia Brown - Dulce Georgia Brown

 Ben Bernie and his orchestra did the first recording of Sweet Georgia Brown on March 19, 1925. Bernie was the co-composer of this jazz standard. Ben Bernie (1891 - 1943), was an American jazz violinist and radio personality, often introduced as The Old Maestro. He was noted for his showmanship and memorablebits of snappy dialogue
 Here's Ben Bernie's original recording of Sweet Georgia Brown from a Soundie, uploaded at YouTube
 Oscar Alemán recorded the tune with its Spanish title, Dulce Georgia Brown, first time with his initial Quinteto de Swing in the first session for Odeon recorded on Nov 21th, 1941, and issued on the B-side of Odeon 45780. Personnel are: Guillermo Hernán Oliva v, Oscar Alemán vo g,, Dario “El Johnny” Quaglia g, Andrés Alvarez b, Ramón M. Caravaca dm. - The audio of this recording has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below
 Next time Alemán made a studio recording of Dulce Georgia Brown was on Nov.12th, 1954 with his Conjunto: Alberto A. Barbera p, Oscar Alemán dir g vo, A Aldo “Nene” Nicolini b, José Ragusa dm + ? perc - This recording was issued on Odeon 74247A and is played in a faster tempo than the first recording of the tune by the Quinteto from 1941. It is one of the first recordings for Odeon where Alemán uses amplified guitar, and judging from the audio he has complete control of sound and technique and moreover he gets the chance to play solo almost all the way through the arrangement. His vocal scat singing is unison with the guitar in one of the choruses, and his soloing on this recording belongs to one of his best ever recorded i.m.o. - Enjoy the audio from an uploaded video take at YouTube

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oscar Alemán in a 1970s "Rock" Magazine

Oscar Alemán 1978 in Pelo magazine
In the late 1950s and during the 1960s Oscar Alemán experienced a decrease in the public success  he had benefited from during almost two decades in Argentina. New music styles like rock'n'roll displaced the public interest from jazz and swing, a young generation of musicians was taking over the scene in show business leaving older musicians little chance to have a steady work as performers or recording artists.The impact of these factors was in Alemán's case that he gradually chose to retire from the public scene when his contract with Odeon ended in 1958. He spent the 1960s in semi-retirement and had fewer public appearances than previously, although he from time to time was a featured guest performer in radio and TV shows. - But how was Alemán's attitude to the changing musical taste of the public? In a 1978 interview published in an Argentine music magazine for young people, he expressed his candid opinion about rock music and  rock musicians. Below we have the pleasure and honor of publishing Luis "Tito" Liber's record of the contents of that interview, which he kindly forwarded to share with our readers. The original article interview was in the Spanish language, of course, but Luis's version is in English.
Frontpage, Pelo magazine #99, July 1978
Oscar Alemán in a 1970s "Rock" Magazine
by Luis "Tito" Liber
In many radio, newspapers and magazines interviews along Aleman`s career, the topic was Oscar incredible Ellington-Reinhardt-Baker anecdotes, but not music. This article from argentine Pelo ("Hair") magazine (#99, July 1978) is most about music... and it`s in a yougster`s rock magazine, not a jazz one!!! Notice that the same number includes an article about Gato Barbieri, and previously had included an interview with jazz pianist Mono Villegas.
In Argentina, in the late 1950s-early 1960s, with the arrival of television, came the "new wave": kids that sang rock and roll tunes in spanish. Along with the military regime prohibition of night-meetings (it was the end of the massive danceballs called "milongas"), the old stars of tango and jazz lost their jobs. But the 1970s were the days of fusion, and Oscar didn`t seem to like that union of styles. We know that jazzmen and rockers have never fit very well. And Oscar hasn`t been the exception. The old jazzman felt that the new young musicians were stealing his place in showbusiness (that is to say, they are leaving him without his job). Though he didn`t understand the incipient rock movement (the kids were essentially troubadors, not musicians), he thought that rockers weren`t skilled musicians at all.
"Rock is a rhythm that doesn`t satisfy me, as boogie doesn`t satisfy me too. Boogie is four phrases invented by Mr. Fats Waller for the left hand, and you have to improvise on that. And what improvisation is? It´s jazz. If you want to improvise on rock, what are you going to improvise? You are not going to improvise tango or rancheras, but jazz." Now a great sentence:
 "Rock musicians eat the food with their hands. The dish is ready but they have to be educated, to learn to use forks and knives. Jazz is good education. To evolve, rock has to go to jazz. It`s the basis."
Oscar critizises Bill Hailey`s performance during his show in Buenos Aires ("the man of the curly"), saying that the only good player in his band was a black guitarist; the others only did the clown.
"Rock musicians are too much noisy, they play very loud. They use to lose the sense of accompaniment for the solos; they all want to highlight increasing the volume; then, you can`t distinguish anything."
Alemán says that once he had a rock musician as a pupil: Claudio Gabis, a blues guitarist, member of the group Manal. "He said that he was leaving to USA because the public from here didn`t understand him" (Claudio went to study at Berkley, and he returned to Argentina in 1980s democracy times to give seminars of improvisation at the Centro Cultural San Martín; a very recommendable player!).

Oscar didn`t play rock'n'roll very well. If you listen to his version of "Bailando el Rock" (Rock Around the Clock -Freeman/De Knight-), you can appreciate he didn`t know the classical yeites and runs (Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore and Chuck Berry for instance). He does a correct performance, but using "boogie" phrases. That`s because, he wasn`t influenced by R&B or country and western music.
"In one occasion I made a rock. I used to say it was a rock, but it wasn`t. I improvised on some boogie chords played faster. Rock chords are the same of blues and boogie." He`s talking about his own theme "Improvisaciones sobre Boogie Woogie", where he plays a much better performance, with a great scat. During the rock-era, he played this theme live, announcing to the public that it was a rock...but it wasn't.

Oscar even was a skilled blues player. Of course that he had black roots (Afro-American-Brazilian rhythms), but all in a jazz venue, not bluesy at all (listen to "Saint Louis Blues", "Oscar Blues Nº 1" and "Nº 3" i.e.).

This interesting interview also includes an almost poetical description of his triumphant come back to the bench of the park in Guarujá in 1946 (where he had slept in his childhood): "At that time I returned to sit on that bench with a whisky and a brilliant in my hand. To sit and cry. I was no longer below it, but sat ON that bench."
Oscar flatters bandoneonist/composer Astor Piazzolla and pianist/composer Horacio Salgan for playing tango arrangements with a jazz tendency, in a time when almost nobody had that opinion in Argentina (the conservative narrow-minded "tangueros").

Oscar Alemán 1978 in Pelo magazine
By the time of this interview, in January 1978, Oscar was proud of receiving a letter from France notifying him that his biography was to be included in an upcoming guitarplayers encyclopedia (I think it was 'Histoire de la guitare dans le Jazz' by Norman Mongan; published in 1986 by EPI Editions Filipacchi, France).
Alemán, knowing that he was a genius, was a very proud man, almost selfish (sorry Oscar). He was the leader and nobody could be over him (this led him to separate from Hernán Oliva). This attitude wasn`t excessive, because during two decades (1940s-1950s) he was the best South-American jazz player, and no-one had his international background (later would appear Lalo Schiffrin and Barbieri). Opposite to his public sense of humour, in his last years he became an angry and sad man, rensentful and frustrated for considering that his genius deserved more acknowledgement.

Posted by Jo