Saturday, March 22, 2008

Freddy Taylor March 1935 Sessions

During his stay in Europe, Oscar Alemán was a regular member of Josephine Baker's orchestra on and off throughout the 1930s - on her tours he even was musical director of the 16 piece band, The Baker Boys. When not performing with Baker, Alemán had a 'second career' as a freelance musician (i.e. with the Jean, Jac & Jo vocal trio, also members of the Josephine Baker organisation) besides leading his own bands in Paris and taking part in gigs and recording sessions by others as well. Around 1935 Alemán had the guitar chair for some time in the orchestra led by the American entertainer and bandleader, Freddy Taylor.

Freddy Taylor was a black tap dancer, singer, trumpeter and entertainer, who had come to Paris with the Lucky Millinder orchestra during the band's 1933 tour of Europe. Taylor stayed in Paris and soon formed his own band, which he named Freddy Taylor & His Swing Men From Harlem. At the same time Taylor was running his own club at Montmartre and often left the band on its own while he worked as a soloist throughout the Continent. In Paris Taylor recorded as a vocalist with Django Reinhardt and the QHCF in 1936 - these sides belong to his most well known, scholars of the QHCF recorded legacy probably will mention "Nagasaki" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" as core examples, both recorded 1936. However, Freddy Taylor also recorded with his own group, the Swing Men From Harlem, in March 1935.

The two sides recorded by Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem in March 1935 contain "Blue Drag" (mx 77285) and " Viper's Dream" (mx 77286), released on a 78 rpm disc by the Ultraphone label, Ultraphone AP-1489. Discographical listed personnel of the band as follows: Freddy Taylor (dir,vo,tp), Charlie Johnson (tp), Arthur “Chester” Lanier (cl, as, bars), Fletcher Allen (cl, ts), Oscar Alemán (g), Eugène d’Hellemmes (b), William Diemer (dm).

The recorded music on both sides features execellent moments of 1930s Euro-American swing with great contributions by the reeds, only "Blue Drag" has vocal by Taylor. These sides are also notable and worth mentioning regarding Alemán, although he does not solo in this session. These two sides are the first recorded sides featuring Oscar Alemán in a regular jazz setting, and you can clearly hear his contribution as a solid rhythm guitar player behind the soloists - Alemán's prefered instrument at this time, the metal body National tricone guitar is easily detected as a propelling drive of the rhythm section.

In the Oscar Alemán online discography another session from March 1935 featuring Freddy Taylor And His Swing Men From Harlem is also listed - only test recordings of the four performed tunes exist. These are "Mama Don't Allow It", "Blue Drag", "Swanee River" and "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?". According to available discographical info the personnel is the same as listed above, although there has been some discussion regarding Alemán's participation.

Thanks to a collector, Yves Francois, who kindly forwarded a copy on cdr of "Swanee River" and "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?", it can now be determained from actual listening to the music that Oscar Alemán does NOT participate as the guitar player on the mentioned two test sides. The rhythm playing and the couple of short solos by the guitar are definitely not by Alemán - the guitar is most probably handled by Django Reinhardt, as the riffs and solo work bear all the well known trademarks of the gypsy guitar style of Reinhardt from this period. I guess the remaining two test sides from the same session also have Reinhardt as the guitar player, but I encourage readers with more knowledge and available audio evidence to forward further info to solve this discographical puzzle.