Saturday, September 05, 2009


When Oscar Alemán resumed his recording career for the Odeon label in May 1951 after a hiatus of more than three years where no new recordings were made or released, it was with a new formation of his band. The previous formation, labeled OA y su Quinteto de Swing (- from 1943 to 1947, in fact a sextet), had been dissolved and the new group, now labeled OA y su Conjunto de Jazz or OA y sus Orquesta de Jazz on records, had new members, most often a band consisting of the leader and an octet of three violins, clarinet, piano and rhythm. With this formation (- a kind of OA with strings) Alemán recorded 60 sides for Odeon from May 1951 until June 1957, the most prolific period of his recording career following great success with the public
through frequent live performance and radio work at Radio Belgrano. The repertoire of Alemán's new formation continuously included popular swing tunes, often coupled with a popular Latin ditto on the flip side of records to increase promotion of the band to a larger audience. The Latin repertoire was carefully picked out with due respect to the charts it seems, probably a policy approved of by the financial management of Odeon. Following this procedure several Brasilian mega hits were also recorded by Alemán and his band, always with Alemán's personal touch and arrangements that would distinguish his version from other recordings of the tune.

The first session recorded by OA and his new formation was scheduled at 16. May 1951 where just two tunes were recorded, a swing/fox trot arrangement of RIO SWANEE (Stephen Foster)(mx 18012) and Alemán's rendition of the baião CABEZA HINCHADA (Hervé Cordovil) (mx 18013). The session was released on the shown Odeon 78 rpm (Odeon 55240) and had CABEZA HINCHADA on the A side, which was a clever choice by the management of Odeon, as this Brasilian tune was highly popular at the time - a hit tune designated to draw the attention of the record buying public.

The tune CABEZA HINCHADA was composed by Hervé Cordovil (see picture) in 1949 as 'Cabeça inchada' with added lyrics in Portuguese and was recorded in Brazil for the Continental label March 1951 featuring vocalist Carmélia Alves, who had a hit and was a success with her issue of the song. You may hear this recording in streaming audio from the online facility at Instituto Moreira Salles by clicking here

'Cabeça inchada' was labeled as a 'baião' in terms of the musical style of the tune. The baião is a Northeast Brazilian rhythmic formula that became the basis of a wide range of music like forró, côco, and embolada. The baião originated with the native peoples in the Northeast of Brazil incorporating elements of indigenous, mestizo, African, and European musics and is most associated with the State of Pernambuco, just north of Bahia. The baião is very much a rural music and for a long time was eschewed by the urban upper classes in Brazil, but around 1950 this musical style was discovered and brought to the attention of the music industry in Brazil thanks to musicians like accordionist Luiz Gonzaga who almost singlehanded introduced the baião to a broader audience after moving to Rio de Jainero. Composer Hervé Cordovil was one of several others to take advantage of the craze following the introduction of the baião in Rio, and his 'Cabeça inchada' remains a classic of the genre with more than 50 different re-recordings of the tune.

If you listen to Oscar Alemán's version of the tune (- reissued on the OA con Ritmos de Brasil cd, EMI, 541686), you'll have yet another rendition of 'Cabeça inchada' or - as it was titled in Spanish - CABEZA HINCHADA ( meaning 'swelled head' in English!). Compared to the initial recording by Carmélia Alves Alemán's is played at a slower tempo, has an introduction of the melody through a very delightful guitar solo showing off Alemán's ability to create an intimate mood further underlined by his singing voice following the guitar solo - it's almost softspoken near whispering. The lyrics are sung in Portuguese like the original issue, and the accompaniment further frames the intimate mood of the tune - only piano, bass and drums are featured on the recording. With this recording of 'Cabeça inchada' Alemán was introduced as a crooner, a singing fashion of the time popular all over the world, but today his rendition is worth remembering thanks to his very tasteful guitarsolo on the recording, I think.

Alemán obviously had success with his version of 'Cabeça inchada' judging from the comments of the announcer of the Radio Belgrano fragment of 28. June 1952 saved on acetate. At that occasion a live-recording of the tune exists, almost similar to the issued recording by Odeon. Furter Alemán has a short demonstration of the baião style at this session playing solo. Without doubt, the baião also had success with the Argentinian audience, and as a follow-up of this success Alemán was to record more baião tunes during the next sessions for Odeon. Already the next session scheduled at 11. July 1951 has a recording of another mega hit by Hervé Cordovil, the baião PÉ DE MANACÁ, which you may listen to in the original issue by Hervé Cordovil featuring vocalist Isaura Garcia by clicking here

However, the best known baião recorded by Alemán probably is his version of Waldir Azevedo's 'Delicado' (mx 18250, Odeon 55318) from 26. or 31. October 1951. You can read more about Azevodo's version here