Friday, July 03, 2009

Dedos Duros

On June 17 1957 Oscar Alemán recorded his last registered session for the Odeon label in Buenos Aires, 4 tunes were recorded with accompaniment by Alemán's regular Orquesta de Jazz, two fox-trots - DE BUEN HUMOR (In The Mood) & OSCARINADAS, a composition by Alemán, - and two Brasilian pieces: a samba by Jair Amerin & Dunga, CONCEIÇAO, and Alemán's own DEDOS DUROS, a choro that demands the skills of a master guitar player to be performed fluently. The title of the choro means 'hard fingers' in English, but I think most other guitarists with lesser skills than Alemán would prefer 'sore fingers' as a more proper title! The piece really is a finger buster to master - if you are a guitarist, you have the opportunity to study a transcription of the tune by following the links here

DEDOS DUROS was issued on a Odeon 78 rpm (Odeon 74343) . As mentioned, the tune is a choro and draws inspiration from this typically Brasilian instrumental musicstyle including long scales of notes picked rapidly in succession involving a technique more suitable for the Brasilian bandolim or cavaquinho than the conventional guitar, indeed. The composition has two parts only that are repeated, but it's only after introducing the melody by the violins that Alemán's guitar dives in the solo, halfway during the recording. Thus, at first the arrangement seems a bit disappointing, as the violins' part of the game steals the attention of the listener from the start by introducing the tune, but you could also say that the strings build up a tension in the recording setting the guitar solo in focus - an intension supported by the closing of the recording, which again has the strings repeating the melody with Alemán in the background playing chords and fill ins as during the start of the recording.

Whatever your taste of the recording, the arrangement is paying its due to the traditional way of playing choro in an ensemble, and this is a crucial point in appreciating Alemán's efforts. He always had great respect for the Brasilian music tradition and never mixed up the rules in performance of tunes connected with this tradition, a fact that is underlined in the recording of DEDOS DUROS, which has no improvisation of the melody. Alemán may be considered a straight jazz guitarists of the Gypsy tradition by many, but his concept of how to handle a tune properly is of Brasilian origins, even when it comes to improvising during some swing standard tune - this is one of the aspects, that makes Alemán's guitar work unique, I think. He was the first to naturally incorporate Brasilian elements of playing in his guitarstyle decades before the bossa nova wave fused the concept of modern jazzguitar playing.

I was thrilled by finding a live-performance of DEDOS DUROS at YouTube, here performed by a guitarist of the same origins as Alemán, Omar Mambrin - a small profile in Spanish is available here

From a concert at Complejo cultural Guido Miranda 24 May 2009 Omar Mambrin performs his rendition of Alemán's DEDOS DUROS - enjoy!