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
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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 
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

IMPORTANT MESSAGE #2

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 opweb.nl 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
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keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

Sunday, April 24, 2016

IMPORTANT MESSAGE!

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 www.durium.opweb.nl 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
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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


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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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.
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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 
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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com