Monday, January 14, 2008

Oscar Alemán with Danny Polo And His Swingstars (1939)

30 January 1939 Oscar Alemán recorded 4 sides as a sideman with Danny Polo And His Swing Stars for Decca in Paris, France. The session was arranged by Leonard Feather and featured Philippe Brun (tp), Danny Polo (cl, dir), Alix Combelle (ts), Garland Wilson or Una Mae Carlisle (p), Oscar Alemán (g), Louis Vola (b) and Jerry Mengo (dm). Six sides in all were cut at this session, two of them, "You Made Me Love You" (mx 4859 1/2 hpp) and "Montmartre Moan" (mx 4860 1/2 hpp), were by Polo, Wilson and Mengo only, while the remaing 4 sides featured a septet. "Doing The Gorgonzola" (mx 4861 hpp) and "Polo-Naise" (mx 4864 1/2 hpp) have Garland Wilson on piano, while "Montparnasse Jump" (mx 4862 hpp) and "China Boy" (mx 4863 hpp) have Una Mae Carlisle listed as the piano player, remaining personnel as mentioned. All six sides recorded at this date belong to the memorable output by Danny Polo as excellent samples of Euro-American swing recordings of the late 1930s. Until recently these sides have not been re-issued on cd, but were only available on the original 78 rpms or in a vinyl re-issue on The Old Masters label (TOM 41) or Swingfan 1008. Luckily, the Dutch Retrieval label has now released a cd (RTR 79051) featuring the mentioned 6 sides together with remaining sides by Danny Polo And His Swing Stars made in London 1937-38 and 5 sides with The Embassy Rhythm Eight recorded in London 1935.

The four sides featuring Oscar Alemán on guitar from the January 30th 1939 session are on the shown cd, of course. They are worth mentioning according Alemán's contributions, as they seem to be the recordings Leonard Feather refered to when he in an 1939 interview claimed that Oscar could outswing Django! Indeed, Alemán is on top form at this session, although his solo statements are rather short and only seem to marvel upon repeated listening. Norwegian jazz critic, Jan Evensmo, has said: "These Oscar Alemán solos don't seem so exciting at first ear but several finesses are carefully hidden. All these tracks contain masterly improvisations and constructions, which are truly original and to my knowledge not repeated by anyone" (quoted from the Oscar Alemán Tune-O-Graphy by Hans Koert, p.23)

Danny Polo (1901-1949) picked up the clarinet while quite young (his father was a clarinetist too), playing with a marching band when he was eight. He had a duo as a teenager with pianist Claude Thornhill. Polo worked with Elmer Schoebel in 1923, visited New Orleans with Merritt Brunies' Band and had stints with Arnold Johnson, Ben Bernie and Jean Goldkette (for three months filling in for Don Murray in 1926). After working with Paul Ash, Polo (along with drummer Dave Tough) went to Europe in the summer of 1927. He worked with George Carhart, Arthur Briggs, Lud Gluskin and other bands on the Continent. Polo stayed overseas for quite awhile, playing with Ambrose in London on and off during 1930-35. Although he returned to the U.S. in Dec. 1935, Polo came back to Britain three years later, rejoining Ambrose and working in Paris with Ray Ventura's Orchestra. He permanently relocated to the U.S. in Oct. 1939. Polo worked with Joe Sullivan (doubling on tenor), Jack Teagarden (1940-42 including prominently in the soundtrack of the Bing Crosby film "Birth Of The Blues") and Claude Thornhill's Orchestra. When the pianist was drafted, Polo led his own bands in the Midwest, rejoining Thornhill in 1947 in time for some of his finest recordings. Polo was still with Thornhill when he unexpectedly became ill and died in 1949 at the age of 48. (info excerpted from AMG)

All recordings made by Danny Polo under his own name and leadership are on the shown cd above, further a session from 1935 with The Embassy Rhythm Eight recorded in London and featuring members of Ambrose's band. Ambrose's Orchestra was a popular dance band of the 30s featuring American star soloists, besides Polo also Sylvester Ahola (tp) was in the band for some time. To end this small contribution regarding Danny Polo I found a filmed performance by Ambrose's Orchestra from mid-1930s featuring Danny Polo on clarinet, to be seen and heard in a short solo in "Limehouse Blues"