Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oscar Alemán - Buenos Aires 1965 - 1975

After dissolving his regular Orquesta de Jazz in 1959, Oscar Alemán gradually retired from the public scene for a decade, the 1960s seem to have been a rather quiet period in his career, at least when it comes to new recordings. The contract with Odeon, that had issued 108 sides featuring Oscar Alemán from 1941 to 1957, had ended and no new contract with another record company had been signed as far as we know. However, Alemán was still an active musician and was often a featured artist in radio programs and on TV, which is documented through the large number of private recordings of this activity that have been circulating among collectors for years, only recently a small selection of this material has been released by a record company on the 2-cd set, Eternamente Vivo, reviewed earlier in this blog.
In 1979, the Argentine IMPACTO record label surprised record collectors by releasing a LP collection of recordings featuring Alemán that were recorded mid-1960s; from the liner notes of this LP (IMPACTO IMP-14014) we are informed that the release of these recordings were thought of as a gift of honor according Alemán's 70th birthday in February that year. Unfortunately, no exact info on the origins of these recordings were stated, nor were mentioned details on participating musicians or recording dates. Among record collectors with a discographical interest in details of Alemán's recorded output it has earlier been assumed that these mid-1960s recordings originally were designated for radio broadcasting. However, the studio sound of the 12 tracks on the IMPACTO IMP-14014 has an audio fidelity that could be expected from a regular record company of the time. This fact had me considering, if these recordings that obviously are not recorded at the same session might have been designated for release on 45rpm single or EP records; the 45 rpm single and EP were new media in the 1960s, and if a record company had plans of getting a share of a new and growing market, it would be a profitable idea to feature artists like Alemán, who already was known among the public, to promote this new media. Well, whatever the circumstances of these recordings, they are obviously not recorded at the same session as mentioned, two or three seperate recording sessions are more probable. You have recordings of jazz/swing tunes like China Boy and Honeysuckle Rose, modern jazz standards like Lullaby of Birdland and What Is This Thing Called Love with a quintet setting, probably by Alemán's regular group of the time - the Cinco Caballeros. You also have popular latin tunes like Besamé Mucho, Caminos Cruzados and the bossa nova Lembranca with the quintet, further a rendition of Crazy Rhythm with an extension of the quintet with three trumpets added, the same setting also recorded the latin tune Son Retozon (mislabelled as Oy Negro). One tune of the IMPACTO IMP-14014 has no audible sign of Alemán's presence, the cha-cha-cha Bombero, that seems to be a kind of song promotion of a football team - an obvious choice for release as a 45 rpm single together with one of the other popular songs of this LP collection. Another detail worth mentioning regarding these recordings is that Alemán plays amplified, electric guitar on the jazz tunes, while he sticks to acoustic on the latin ones, futher that his fret-work has evolved into a more moderne attitude in the jazz tunes - complex solos on China Boy and What Is This Thing Called Love are evidence. These details could point to the fact that Alemán with these recording both tried to meet a new audience interested in contemporary jazz of the time, and at the same time keep the faithful admirers among the public mostly interested in popular, latin theme songs - like the great hit of earlier days, Besamé Mucho. Both aspects probably should underline that Alemán was still in vogue at the time of these recordings.
In 1981, the IMPACTO label released the shown LP (IMPACTO, IMP 14068) containing 10 tracks, eight of them were previously unissued studio recordings of Alemán in a trio setting, probably recorded mid-1970s and the last studio recordings he made. The two remaining tracks were repeats from the IMPACTO IMP-14014 LP. The trio recordings have Alemán on acoustic nylon string guitar and his singing vocal on two Brasilian tunes, O Vestido de bolero and Saudade de Bahia. The repertoire besides the mentioned Brasilian tunes are standards like In the Mood and I got Rhythm, Caravan and Alexander's Ragtime Band, further a sinister Bei Mir Bist Du Shon and the Alemán original Tono No. 1. These 8 tracks are great, inspired examples of Alemán's playing skills and a lasting documents of the fact that he had not lost his chops in his late career during the end of his life - the LP remains a worthy sortié by this legendary artist.
Some years ago the Argentine AQUA label re-issued the recordings of the two IMPACTO LPs on two seperate cds,  and now the French Fremeaux &Associés label has lisenced this material from AQUA and earlier this year released the collection on a single CD, Oscar Alemán - Buenos Aires 1965-1975 (FA 5366). The cd has a booklet enclosed with photos and notes in French, English and Spanish. Discographical info is approximate and contains no details not available in Hans Koert's online discography, here and here. If you haven't had access to these recordings before, the new single cd-issue from Fremeaux & Associés is an obvious choice, the cd is available for purchase from various online retailers like Amazon a.o.



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