Thursday, June 29, 2006

Review of 'Vida con Swing' - 2

The fourth part of the documentary takes focus on the years of Oscar Alemán success as an artist and entertainer in his homeland, Argentina. The presentation of Alemán’s career during the 1940’ies and 1950’ies is well documented through spoken info and lengthy interviews with people having knowledge about the subject, former bandmates as well as historians, furthermore we are treated with filmed clippings from scrapbooks and a couple of scenes from movies featuring Oscar Alemán as an actor – the scoop beeing a dancing scene from the movie “El idololo del Tango” with a freewheeling rendition of “Improvisacion sobre Boogie Woogie” as soundtrack. As mentioned, the interviews are giving crucial info about Alemán’s career, also extending our knowledge on his personality as a professional performer. A sequence has an interview with renowned musicians, Walter Malosetti and Ricardo Pelican – shot at a moment when they are sitting with their instruments in hand. Unfortunately, they dare not touch their guitars during the interview about Alemán’s guitaristic skills as if this would be a dishonour towards the subject of the interview! Sadly, in this way the documentary tends to preserve the legacy of Alemán as a sacred relic left to custodes at a museum only!

The fith part of the documentary is about the decay of Alemán’s success as the most popular artist in Argentina during the 1950’ies. We learn about the dark side of his success, the personal costs including another broken marriage and problems with alchohol and health, the decline of his public success beeing a sad fact of his daily life in the 1960’ies when he would survive only by giving private lessons and a couple of public performances at humble places from time to time. The only bright moment of this dark period seems to be Alemán’s meeting with Duke Ellington in Buenos Aires 1968, when the band toured South America. This meeting is documented by interviews with Ellington’s Argentine tour-manager and has a very touching describing. Actually, this meeting would lead to the rediscovery of Alemán in Argentina and the remaining part of the documentary then sets focus on his secound career in his late years through the 1970’ies.

Once again the name of this great artist would be headlined in the public, but Alemán’s health was at a decay and his drinking habits caused the decease that lead to his passing away in 1980. In this last part of the documentary the spoken info stresses the symptons of Alemán’s bad health and thereby seems to feature him as an unbalanced individual left to his own fancies. This is especially underlined in the spoken info at the end of the film concerning Alemán’s fancy about having caused the suicide of both his father and his former friend and companion, Gaston Bueno Lobo. As a result of lack of documentation this viewer of the film is left with an impression of the main character as beeing mentally distorted at the end. Leaving this to the judgement of other viewers of the documentary, nonetheless I'll end this small review by requesting a consideration, if this branch of biography is to the benefit of the person portrayed and his legacy to the world?

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Review of 'Vida con Swing' - 1

Below I’ll add a few words regarding my experience of viewing Hernán Gaffet's filmed documentary on the life and career of Oscar Alemán released 2002 as "Oscar Alemán, Vida con Swing" (in English translated to: 'A Swinging Life').

If you are unfamiliar with Gaffet’s film, you may have a look at his web dedicated to the subject: Here Gaffet explains all about his intentions and background research, furthermore there is a detailed timeline profile of Alemán’s biography and a select listing of facts regarding his musical career. I shall not comment on this info here, but will leave it to the reader to apply his own opinion on this background material. As mentioned above I’ll concentrate this short review of the film on my own experience of actually viewing it.

Gaffet’s concept of telling Alemán’s lifestory is to use filmed interviews as the main resource combined with follow-up explanation and spoken info by a ‘storyteller’ sometimes visible and sometimes just a voice on the soundtrack speaking behind different historic footage, dramatization or arranged stills. Of course, the soundtrack also includes music by Alemán, most of it issued recordings from his whole career. The filmed interviews are with Argentine key persons having knowledge on Alemán’s personality and career, which adds a necessary limitation to the documentation: We have a view of Alemán from an Argentine point of view, further sustained by the fact that all interviews and spoken info are in the Spanish language only. If you are unfamilar with the Spanish language, the English subtitles add a decent translation, however, you have to concentrate intensely to absorb all details, because the tempo and flow of information is well above average. The tempo of the film is marked already in the trailer, which is a filmed vue of one of the large main streets of Buenos Aires as it looks today, shot from a streetcar at high speed as it seems. Together with fast clippings from interviews to follow this intro to the subject of the film creates a somewhat hectic atmosphere. The purpose of the snapshot interviews is to inform the viewer about Alemán’s remarkable skills as a professional musician, guitarist and showman using jazz as a medium to excel his capacity as an artist. However, this is only one part of the picture, as it is Gaffet’s main purpose to ‘go behind the scene’ and make a portrait of the person by telling Alemán’s life story,which contains both tragedy and the dark side of success. From this point on the film moves into a more moderate tempo, taking time to concentrate on details of Alemán’s life and career. Gaffet has chosen to use chronology as the composing scheme for telling the story, which consists of five chapters or acts like in a classic drama.

The first chapter is about Alemán’s childhood and early youth, focusing on the tragic story of his family. We are informed about the formation and ups and downs of the Moreira family troupe featuring a very young Oscar as a dancer actually leading to his first professional success as a winner of a malambo contest in Buenos Aires at the age of six. However, the Moirera troupe soon meets hard times causing financial problems and the split of the family, as Oscar’s father is unable to find work and supply sufficient money for his familiy’s living, in the end leading to his committing suicide and his wife dieing from malnutrition after giving birth to the youngest of the Moreira Alemán siblings. From this point young Oscar is left on his own and forced to survive from day to day, living the tough life of a street urchin in Santos, Brazil, where he had been left alone by his father and a brother and now is neglected by his other siblings due to unclear reasons. In this part of the film Gaffet uses professional actors to dramatize and visualize young Oscar’s situation, continueing this concept in the story about how he got his first instrument, the four stringed cavaquinho, and how he struggled to get into business as a performer. The actors do a convincing job, the dramatization works and has the viewer feeling pity and sympathy for our main character. However, exactly this is also an example to document that the film mixes facts and fiction. The purpose of this may be for the benefit of documenting young Oscar’s heroic struggle to survive as an artist in spe, but I experienced this part as rather sentimental.

The secound part of the film informs about Alemán’s teaming up with Bueno Lobo, the formation of Les Loups and their partnership with Flemming’s company for the tour of Europe in 1929. This is documented by spoken info and filmed clippings from Alemán’s scrapbooks, and regarding the split of Les Loups we have the story about Bueno Lobo’s unsuccessfull try to get a job as a member of Josephine Baker’s orchestra, followed by Alemán’s first refusal to take it out of loyalty to Lobo, which he, however, wouldn’t repeat after having the invitation from the diva herself. Alemán’s loyalty to Lobo, however, wasn’t gone, from a short interview with his granddaughter, Jorgelina Alemán, we learn that Oscar was concerned about Lobo and kept sending him money after they parted as a team and Oscar now had success with Josephine Baker.

In the third part of the documentary we learn about Alemán’s experiences in Europe during the 1930’ies, focusing on his stay in Paris where he would join the jazzscene and get aquainted with American jazzmen while keeping a job as a leading member of The Baker Boys, Josephine Baker’s tour band. This part of the documentary is well documented by historical footage, film clippings and spoken info – the scoop is a clip from the lost movie “Three Argentines in Paris” featuring Alemán in a couple of scenes. We have the well known stories about his meetings with Ellington and Armstrong and the friendship of Django Reinhardt, of course, entertaining details to keep the viewer hanging on. However, details on Alemán’s activities outside the Parisian jazzscene are missing more or less, not much is said about his tours with the Baker company. This may seem a minor detail, anyway, it’s a bit strange to listen to the soundtrack music accompanying the info on Alemán’s participating in the Parisian jazzscene, as some of the music played actually was recorded in Copenhagen, 1938!
To be continued!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Oscar Alemán - Ritmo Loco

Dear Alemániacs!

Many of us first heard the music of our beloved and admired artist listening to the 1971 Argentine Odeon re-issue of recordings from the 40'ies and 50'ies, shown at the picture. If you have missed this item, when LP's were still around, now you have an opportunity to aquire your copy. The LP is available at eBay right now. Click on link or here to go the page at eBay.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Argentina - Holanda

Queridos Amigos:

El pueblo Argentino nos ha regalado nuestra hermosa princesa Máxima,
comparten con nosotros la gran música de Oscar Alemán y sirven los mejores bifes del mundo.
Sean amables con nuestro equipo de fútbol. Que gane el
This contribution was also posted at the Keep swinging blog spot
Traducir del holandes al español: Luis Contijoch

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tributo A Oscar Aleman

Tributo A Oscar Aleman

Estimados Sres:
El programa radial "JAZZ CAFE" (FM Urquiza 91.7MHZ) presenta el primer
ciclo de Música en Vivo en el Auditorio San Rafael - Ramallo 2606 esq. Moldes - Nuñez. Conciertos Acústicos de Jazz & Bossa En el ciclo se presentarán músicos de jazz, jóvenes y mayores, que no tienen un espacio donde presentarse y que han demostrado en diferentes actuaciones su talento y calidad, no faltarán los músicos de jazz de prestigio que engalanarán este ciclo.

El Viernes 23 de Junio - 21:30 hs - se presentará una Gran Dama del Jazz & Blues
"Homenaje a Oscar Aleman"

La critica especializada ha considerado a la cantante de Jazz & Blues JORGELINA ALEMAN como la heredera de la pasion del jazz & swing que mostró en los escenarios del mundo su recordado abuelo OSCAR ALEMAN. Comenzó su carrera profesional como cantante durante 1997 con muy exito del público y la rensa local, su debut fue interpretando un repertorio de Negro Spirituals, Gospel, Jazz y Blues. JORGELINA ALEMAN ha estado acompañado por talentosos y restigiosos músicos de jazz como: Pocho Lapouble, Manuel Fraga, Jorge "Negro" Gonzalez, Enrique Varela, Norberto Machline, Walter Malosetti, Ricardo Pellican, Marcelo Mayor, Ricardo Nole, Jon Larsen(Noruega), Deacon Jones (USA), Zakiya Hooker (USA), Cachi Zaragoza, etc.

JORGELINA ALEMAN tiene editados dos trabajos discográficos editados
por el prestigioso sello MDR Records: "El Jazz En Las Venas" y "Colour
Of The Blues" (con la hija de John Lee Hooker, Zakiya), que presentará en su concierto del Viernes 23 de Junio.
JORGELINA ALEMAN sabe conjugar el prestigio de la herencia musical de su abuelo Oscar Aleman con su calidez vocal. Su repertorio que incluye los clásicos del jazz de todos los tiempos, y la herencia del blues, no faltan sus composiciones y hasta algún bolero inolvidable. Cada concierto de Jorgelina Aleman transmite una energia y un swing únicos, es todo un privilegio para todo aquel que quiera recordar a través de ella a uno de nuestros músicos más virtusosos: el guitarrista Oscar Aleman.

JORGELINA ALEMAN estará acompañada por: Nestor Barbieri : guitarra Pocho Lapouble : batería Nicolás Goytía: Bajo Daniel Cossarini: Piano/Arreglos Adrián Lucio : Guitarrista invitado. Bono contribución $12.- anticipadas en el Auditorio, jubilados y oyentes de "JAZZ CAFE" $ 10.- Reservas 4702-9888 y al 4547-2081 hasta 30 minutos antes del comienzo del concierto
Esperamos contar con su grata presencia. Gracias por difundir este concierto.

Thanks to Walter Gomez.

This message was also posted at the Keep swinging blog spot

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Historic Event of Importance.

I take the liberty to call the attention of the readers of this blog regarding a subject of similar interest as the one we share and devote to the legacy of Oscar Alemán. If you love to listen to great music by a major guitarist, now the moment finally has come to have the opportunity to listen to the outstanding and historic solo guitar recordings by Alemán's great contemporary, the Brazilian multi-string virtuoso, Anibal Augusto Sardinha (1915-1955) - better known as Garoto. Thanks to the German Chanterelle company specializing in publishing guitar works and recordings of high quality the long unavailable solo guitar recordings by Garoto, made 1950-54, now have been released on a cd of historic importance. These recordings were made by Garoto's friend and admirer, Ronoel Simões, with the purpose of preserving Garoto's own composed works as performed by the artist himself, and what a thrill it is to listen to Garoto's own renditions of compositions such as "Gracioso", "Nosso Choro", "Jorge do fusa" a.o.! Most of the compositions have been recorded later by guitarist Paulo Bellinati on his 1991 GSP issue of 'The Guitar Works by Garoto', however, here we have the composer himself to express his own renditions at a relaxed moment of his late career. Future works on the Brazilian guitar tradition no longer can avoid these recordings as an outstanding example of the transition from the old guitar choro tradition to the modern tradition of today's players, derived from the bossa nova of the 60'ies. Garoto's compositions recorded here are the overlooked 'missing link' between the choro tradition and the bossa nova, brought to fame by the likes of Jobim, Bonfá and Gilberto. - Besides 17 of Garoto's compositions the cd contains a recording of Radamés Gnatalli's 'Suite of Brazilian Popular Dance Music' in a World Premiere performance by Garoto at Radio Gazeta of São Paulo accompanied by Fritz Jank on piano. The cd ends with yet another composition by Gnatalli, 'Saudade', a slow choro that unites the music on the record with both old and modern tradition of true Brazialian music. - The cd is available by following the link above.
- Titles are: ‘Gracioso (Choro)’, ’Nosso Choro’, ‘Naqueles Velhos Tempos (In The Old Times, waltz)’, ‘Choro Triste No.1’, ‘Duas Contas (Two Beads, canção)’, ‘Jorge di Fusa (Thirty-second Note George, Choro)’, ‘Choro Triste No.2’, ‘Improviso’, ‘Lamentos do Morro (Favela Laments, samba)’, ‘Meditação (canção)’, ‘Esperança (Hope, Waltz)’, ‘Sinal dos Tempos (Sign of the Times, Choro)’, ‘Inspiração (prelude)’, ‘Vivo sonhando (I’m always Dreaming, canção)’, ‘Um Rosto de Mulher (A Woman’s Face, theme)’, ‘Voltarei (I’ll Return, canção)’, ‘Debussyana’ (Garoto), Suite de Dança Popular Brasileira: ‘I Invocação a Xangô’, ‘II Toada’, ‘III Choro’, ‘IV Samba-Canção’, ‘V Baião’, ‘VI Marcha’ (Gnattali), ‘Saudade,, slow Choro for guitar solo’.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ricardo Pellican

Today a contribution by Rodrigo about the Argentine jazz guitar player Ricardo Pellican. Enjoy it. If you want to share your passion for a jazz musican feel free to forward it to me

Su música podría definirse en primer lugar como norteamericana, pero no lo es; en segundo lugar podría ser europea (acá entraría el gipsy swing del Quinteto del Hot Club de Francia), pero no lo es; y en tercer lugar, como jazz argentino y porteño (todas mezclas de jazz y tango que puedan inventar los porteños), pero no lo es. Ricardo es periferia. Los tres primeros escalones de la consagración (EEUU, Europa, luego Buenos Aires) son el otro, son los espacios a los cuales tiene que trasladarse para hacerse escuchar o para tocar con los mejores músicos (Oscar Alemán, Baby López Fürst, Walter Malosetti, Didier Lockwood, Joe Pass, Paquito de Rivera, Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, Pascal De Loutchek y otros).
Pelican es un gran músico porque no cae en el facilismo de la fórmula saturada del músico de jazz fusión que cree hacer buena música sólo porque simula colocar en una licuadora musical a todos los géneros posibles, como si el valor estético de una pieza se midiera por la mezcla arbitraria. No quiero criticar con esto a músicos –como puede ser Astor Piazzolla- que fueron los primeros en fusionar el jazz en el país, sino llamar la atención sobre el fenómeno de la mezcla compulsiva y la poca autenticidad de los músicos argentinos y otros músicos latinoamericanos que en la actualidad insisten en mezclar el jazz con el ”color local” de la música típica de cada región. Ricardo no necesitaba de esto.
Dijo Borges (1) que la ausencia de camellos en el Corán era la verdadera prueba de que Mahoma experimentaba realmente su ser árabe: de la misma manera la ausencia del elemento regional, del pintoresquismo tedioso y repetitivo, en la música de Ricardo, nos muestra su verdadera Argentinidad. Ricardo no va a necesitar de bandoneones para mostrarse como músico de jazz argentino.
La música de Ricardo se construye en el espacio siempre distante del oeste del gran Buenos Aires, en El Palomar, que es una localidad que ni siquiera es la cabecera de partido de una municipalidad que está en las orillas de la capital del un país austral, cuya lejanía podría causar horrores a más de uno. Ricardo se mueve con libertad, puede entrar y salir sin tener sobre sus espaldas ese factor latinoamericano que mueve a gran parte de los músicos en la actualidad.

Un sentimiento de compasión hacia aquellos que nunca podrán escuchar a Ricardo, me hace querer terminar estas pocas palabras recordando uno de los mejores recitales de jazz que vi en mi vida, que tuvo lugar en un barcito llamado “El Tanque”. El lugar era pequeño pero decente. La noche; una de esas noches de amigos, cervezas y meseras hermosas moviéndose con gracia bandeja en mano. El recital habrá durado tres horas a pleno Gipsy Swing.
Esa noche viví un recital donde virtuosismo extremo y goce estético no se excluyeron. Todo vibraba con las cuerdas del swing.
Esto fue lo único: Ricardo sonreía (humildad y buena onda es ley) y cerraba los ojos según la intensidad de cada nota, y la gente lo acompañaba por momentos moviendo el pie o la mano, y en otros, con silencios que parecían revelar más de un gran misterio. Público y músico afinaban perfectamente: este tipo de cosas, que ahora entran como un pequeño detalle de un recital, son las cosas que se viven con la música de Ricardo, sin duda alguna uno de los mejores músicos y docentes del Jazz argentino de los últimos años, y creo que claro está, uno de los más auténticos.

By Rodrigo

This contribution is also posted at my Keep swinging blog spot