Saturday, January 17, 2015


Oscar Alemán on stage
During his career in Argentina in the 1940s and 1950s Oscar Alemán composed some swing tunes like OSCARINADAS, REZEZE, SCARTUNAS, COMO TE LLAMAS?, SWING EN LA as part of his setlist, two of them (OSCARINADAS and SCARTUNAS) were recorded by both the Quintet and the Orchestra. Here I shall concentrate on SCARTUNAS, which is documented in three recordings, two for the Odeon label and one live shot from Radio Belgrano that has been saved on acetate.
Odeon 45973 B
SCARTUNAS was recorded by OA y su Quinteto de Swing on June 27th, 1944 and was released on the shown Odeon 45973 as the B side, the A side had a rendition of the Brazilian batuque by Laura Maia, EU VI UM LEÃO, sung in Portuguese by Alemán. SCARTUNAS is a simple swing tune, a short riff theme with extended space for improvisation, and this version has great solo contributions by Alemán's guitar as well as by violinist Manuel Gavinovich and piano player Ceferino Alburquerque. The tune is played in medium fast tempo and is a great example of both the excellent interplay and support by the ensemble and Alemán's skills as a guitarist and improviser. The audio has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below.

SCARTUNAS  was also recorded by Alemán and his orquestra for Odeon on May 16th 1952, although the label of the issued 78 rpm disc (Odeon 55399) wrongly lists the recording as by OSCAR ALEMÁN y su Quinteto de swing.
Odeon 55399 B
This version of SCARTUNAS is played at a faster tempo than the previous rendition by the quintet, the riff theme is in focus and is played in unison by the guitar and the three part violin section during the longest sequence of the recording, which takes off as a call-and-response between the guitar and the violins. The violins as accompaniement in this recording add an almost Middle Eastern flavour to the music in the sequence without Alemán's guitar as lead voice, a feature marked by the fast tempo and the glissandi by the violins playing in unison. This version has also been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here

Palmolive ad
During one of Alemán's 'Ritmos brillantes de Palmolive' programs at Radio Belgrano from September 28th 1952, SCARTUNAS was presented live by Alemán and his orchestra, Luckily, this on-the-air performance has been saved on acetate and since re-issued on CD (REDONDEL CD 45025). The version performed here is played at the same fast tempo as the released studio recording for Odeon on May 16th 1952, however, the live-shot is particularily longer than the Odeon take and leaves more space for Alemán's soloing. His solo here is different from the quintet recording of the tune at the June 27th 1944 take for Odeon and the live-shot of SCARTUNAS is a remarkable document of Alemán's skills as an improviser during his heyday as a most requested entertainer and popular musician at the Argentinian scene.

Bandleader, trumpeter and film actor Harry James (1916-1983)
The saved acetates from this Radio Belgrano program further are an important historic document, as the in-between-music speach has a conversation between Alemán and visiting guests, at this occasion two Americans were in the studio - famous bandleader Harry James and film actor Tony Martin. This short meeting between Alemán and Harry James maybe later caused the anecdote that James had offered Alemán a tour of the USA with James' Music Makers, which he (Alemán) refused for the sake of his popularity at the Argentinian scene. If some of the readers can confirm the anecdote and perhaps add further details, I should like to hear from you. Anyway, for now, here's the saved audio from the live-performance of SCARTUNAS at the Radio Belgrano program uploaded at YouTube