Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Brief History of "String Jazz" in Argentina by Andrés “Tito” Liber

Oscar Alemán on stage
The genial Argentine guitarist Oscar Alemán, by then having great success in Europe, brought in his comeback to Argentina in 1941 the idea of a combo in the style of the Quintet of Hot Club de France - a kind of chamber jazz ensemble formed by a lead guitar, rhythm guitar, violin, double bass and drums. As you can see, Alemán replaced the traditional third guitar by a drum set.
Alemán with his Quinteto de Swing 1942
In fact, Oscar Alemán´s Quinteto de Swing (1941-1942) would be a first step in South American string jazz history. They had the characteristic of playing fast, energetically, with great rhythm and swing, highlighting the skills of the soloists. A music ready for dancing. In this kind of group, the guitar player took a leading role, something that didn´t happen in the big bands or the tango orchestras, because the volume of the other instruments ‘drowned’ the sound of the guitar. Moreover, Oscar brought an uncommon aesthetics of dance and show in live performances. The group authoritatively recreated the style of the Hot Club thanks to the team Alemán / violinist Hernán Oliva. The members were: Oscar Alemán (guitar); Hernán Oliva (violin); Darío Quaglia (rhythm guitar); Andrés Álvarez (doublebass); Ramón M. Caravaca (drums).
Bertolin - Washington Garcia
Following that line, in 1943 a very particular sextet was formed: the Washington-BertolínSextet. The members were: Martín Washington García (guitar), Osvaldo “Bertolín” Bertone (accordion), César Bo (lead guitar), Juan Antonio Barraza (guitar), Dalverme (double bass) and Pepe García (drums). They played jazz, tango, Brazilian music, a.o. Their sound was very similar to the French musette groups. Listen to Bailando el ritmo ágil in the inserted You Tube video below.

In 1944, appeared another great ensemble: Louis Vola´s Quintet (more info, here). The double bass player Louis Vola, an original member of the Quintet of Hot Club de France, had arrived in Argentina as a member of the Ray Ventura Orchestra. Ventura brought excellent musicians, who remained in that South American country till 1945, safe from WW 2. They were: the guitarists Henry Salvador and Hubert Giraud (composer of the famous song “Sous le ciel de París”), the trumpeter Eugene D´Helemmes (friend of Alemán, he would be the arranger of his quintet), the singer Micheline Day and the mentioned Louis Vola. Vola’s quintet was: Louis Vola (doublebass); Hernán Oliva (v); Henry Salvador/Luis Silva (lead guitar); Milton Musco (rhythm guitar), A. Rivera/Héctor Condro (rhythm guitar). - It is to mention that Oliva had left the Quintet of Alemán after a quarrell with the guitarist. It was obvious that two geniuses couldn´t be in the same place. - Remarkable was the participation of the Chilean guitarist Luis Silva, who had already founded the Quinteto Swing Hot de Chile (with Hernán Oliva too). Listen to El paso del tigre in the inserted You Tube video below.

A very important work was done by the guitarist Jorge Lagos, who in the decade of the 1950s had been living with the French gitans in París, learning there to play jazz manouche. There he had the opportunity of knowing Eugene Vées and Django Reinhardt in person. Back in Argentina, he brought luthier Sergio Repiso a Selmer guitar; the master copied it and began to produce his excellent replicas.
Jorge Lagos (right) and Eugene Vées
Lagos formed the group Jorge Lagos y sus Hot Four with Alfonso Ferramosca (cl), Abel Lescano (rhythm g.), Jorge Boetto (db) and the drummer Jorge Cichero or Jorge Padin.
Listen to Jorge Lagos y sus Hot Four at You Tube, here 
Ubaldo de Lio
In the middle of the 1950s an incredible quintet made some records: Ubaldo de Lío y sus reyes del hot; the musicians were Lalo Schiffrin (p), Hernán Oliva (v), Guillermo Barbieri (g), a bassist and De Lío himself in mandolín. (I wonder who has those records!!)
The Blue Strings
At the end of the 1960s we have the Blue Strings: Héctor López Furst (v), Rubén Baby López Furst (lead g), Bernardo Birenbaum (rhythm g), Enrique Gutiérrez de León (db). – Listen to the Blue Strings at You Tube, here 
Swing'39 group
At the beginning of the 1970s Argentina had a "trad-craze" with two supergroups.The world-known and succesfull Walter Malosetti`s  Swing 39. They recorded 6 álbums!! The musicians were: Walter Malosetti (g), Ricardo Pellican and Marcelo Buscio (rhythm g.), Héctor Basso (db), Carlos Acosta (cl); when Buscio and Carlos Acosta left the group in 1978, then etered the violinist Héctor López Furst.
Quinteto Hernán Oliva
In 1972 we have the mythical Quinteto Hernán Oliva. The guitarists were Eduardo “Zurdo” Ravera (as soloist) and Carlos “Chachi” Zaragoza (rhythm guitar), the latter had been disciple and friend of Oscar Alemán. Oliva´s quintet recorded 6 LPs and made many gigs along the country. The members (between 1973-1976) were: Hernán Oliva (v.), Eduardo Ravera (g.), Carlos Zaragoza (rhythm g.), Adrián Macri/Guillermo Espinase/Enrique Andreola (rhythm g.), Claudio Rapoport/Jorge Parera/Norberto Quinteros/Quique Gutiérrez de León (db) - Listen to the Quinteto Hernán Oliva’s debut album for Redondel, 1972 at You Tube, here 
Hot Club de Boedo
After a hiatus of decades of this jazz-style, we finally arrive to the XXIst Century and the appearence of the Hot Club de Boedo. This is not only a group but also a cultural project founded and directed by the guitarist Waldo Fonseca (a direct disciple of Eduardo Ravera). In its very particular way of playing jazz, named “national string jazz”, the sextet is formed by 3 spanish guitars (electro-amplified), clarinet, drums, electric-bass, plus a singer, and occasionally a violin. The most virtuous formation had been constituted by: Waldo Fonseca (lead guitar and direction); Heldo Fonseca (cl); Ramiro Miranda (v); Leandro Chapuis (crooner); Facundo López Goitía (g); Martín López Goitía (g); Ezequiel Bahillo (g); Julián Pierángeli (bass); Juan Masculino (drums).

I myself collaborate with the Hot Club de Boedo with my disc collection and my limited musical knowledge. 

Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber