Sunday, June 12, 2016

Oscar Alemán - Background Of An Updated 'Online Discography'

Georg Lankester gives his account of the background of a recently published new online Oscar Alemán discography.

Interesting news for jazz guitar fans – a publication by Andrés “Tito” Liber

Oscar Alemán
The Argentinian swing guitar legend Oscar Alemán (1909 – 1980) was for a long time a somewhat neglected figure and in jazz reference literature hardly presented in printed standard discographies - most likely – because much of his recorded output was unavailable or hard to find outside  Argentina

However, it is worthwhile to mention  that Alemán  made several recordings  in Europe during the 1930s joining European and American jazz musicians in Paris while he stayed  in France as  a member of Josephine Baker’s orchestra. This small recorded output by Alemán (playing with jazzmen such as Freddy Taylor, Bill Coleman, Alix Combelle, Danny Polo and others) may be known by well-informed jazz fans of the European swing era and the recordings also have been available on various long playing albums and later in CD format.

Charles Delaunay

Alemán only recorded a  few sides in his own name during his European stay. Four sides were  recorded  by the French “Swing” label, established and promoted by the secretary of the Hot Club of France, Charles Delaunay.

Charles Delaunay
The latter was one of the leading persons within this jazz organisation and he introduced American jazz musicians to a European audience. Moreover he was also the single most important figure to promote the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact Delaunay was the originator of the famous “Quintette du Hot Club de France” featuring Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli as star soloists in a jazz setting formed by string instruments only. This was a novelty jazz formation creating a hot swinging jazz sound never heard before and the only original European pre-war contribution to the legacy of jazz in general.

Delaunay’s promotion of Reinhardt and the quintet made it almost impossible for other jazz guitarists in Paris to establish reputation and make records. And that’s the reason why  the average jazz audience was mostly unaware of Alemán being another brilliant jazz guitarist in town at the same high level as Reinhardt.

Although Oscar was always overshadowed by Reinhardt in the Parisian jazz scene,  the jazz critic Leonard Feather, who – in 1939 - wrote a much quoted review in the “Melody Maker” on Oscar’s recordings, stressed that Alemán could ‘outswing’ Django and was a far superior jazzman .

Oscar Alemán in action - 1960s
Funny enough Alemán and Reinhardt became friends with mutual respect for each other, being ‘instrument brothers’ and they met from time to time. Late at night, when each had finished work, muscians used to meet in certain Parisian places in order to chat and play together. It is a fact that Django and Oscar jammed together, but unfortunately those sessions were never recorded.

First Dicographic info

Jazz Solography, vol. 4
The European Alemán recordings are included in Brian Rust’s well-known reference work “Jazz Records 1897 – 1942” as well as in other standard discographies. In the  Seventies, the Norwegian jazz critic Jan Evensmo made a fair review of Alemán’s European  jazz records in one of his publications in the “Jazz Solography” series.

Later Evensmo, however, would resume his research of Alemán recordings and has launched a new edition of his Alemán solography a few years ago which now contains the Argentinian recorded output besides the European recordings, available online, here

In the same decade (1970s) the TOM label (“The Old Masters”) was launched in the US supported by enthousiastic jazz collectors. Two LP albums were dedicated  to Alemán, covering a selection of his recordings from 1938-1957.

Oscar Alemán  - Frémeaux CD (1994)
More recent (in 1994) an Alemán cd was issued by the French Frémeaux label which includes recordings from 1928-1943 with detailed liner notes. Further was the TOM selection with additional material reissued on a double CD disc in 1997 by Acoustic Disc.

The basis of a complete Alemán Discograpy

It was Hans Koert, an acknowledged Dutch jazz specialist  and collector, highly fascinated by Alemán’s work, who laid the foundation of a Discography as complete as possible. During several years of thorough research he traced several  Alemán records made outside Europe and he even contacted the family of the guitarist in order to obtain more relevant details.

Hans Koert's Tune-o-Graphy
In 2002 Hans published his Alemán “Tune-o-Graphy(a printed version in English & Spanish) realised in cooperation with Luis Contijoch. He resumed his Discography research in 2004 which was finished in 2009 with a web log publication in 2006.  Hans continued his immense study and further published his work in a comprehensive and free accessible internet online Alemán Discography which he kept updated till he passed away in 2014.

On basis of the main data obtained by Hans Koert, the Argentinian collector Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber - in cooperation with the present editor of Hans Koert’s website and blogs - added data and recently finished this update which is now available on the Internet. An obstacle for the average visitor of Liber’s online discography  may be the Spanish language, but serious users probably will cope with that.

This NEW online discographyby Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber is accessible by following the link in the sidebar at the weblog of Hot Club de Boedo, here

Visit this new online resource and discover more of the great swing guitarist Oscar Alemán

Georg Lankester (Holland), June 2016