Friday, November 22, 2013

Reinhardt vs. Alemán

”I knew Django Reinhardt well. He used to say jazz was gipsy – we often argued over that. I agree with many Americans I met in France who said he played very well but with too many gipsy tricks. He had very good technique for both hands, or rather one hand and a pick, because he always played with a pick. Not me, I play with my fingers. There are things you can’t do with a pick – you can’t strike the treble with two fingers and play something else on the bass string. – But I admired him and he was my friend. He was my greatest friend in France. We played together many times, just for ourselves. I used to go to his wagon, where he lived. I’ve slept and eaten there – and also played! He had three or four guitars. Django never asked anyone to go to his wagon, but he made an exception with me. I appreciated him, and I believe the feeling was mutual”. (OA in an interview, quoted from article by Tómas Mooney: Oscar Alemán: Swing Guitarist, Jazz Journal International, Vol. 35, No. 4 + 5 (1982))
Alemán and Reinhardt are frequently compared in the few references to Alemán in jazz literature. However, such a comparison is most often based on a coincidence of time and space, not on musical reasons. Anyone who listens with care to the records of Alemán and Reinhardt will notice there is only a superficial likeness between them and that it is not difficult to differentiate them.

Django Reinhardt is deservedly considered a guitar genius among critics, and his many records and compositions have earned him an eternal place of honor in the jazz guitarists' Hall of Fame. Oscar Alemán has often been considered a clone of the 'hot jazz' Gypsy school brought to fame by Django and his followers, but as mentioned above there are differences between the two guitarists to be noticed, if you evaluate a serious comparison of their style of playing and consept of the music. To give readers of this entry an opportunity to make a comparison and draw their own conclusions, we should open our ears and lend them to two examples of the same piece of music. And to meet the persistent holders of the 'Django-clone' point-of-view in the case of Oscar Alemán, I have chosen the tune 'Daphne' composed by Reinhardt/Grappelli and recorded several times by him in various settings. On the other hand, 'Daphne' is the only composition by Reinhardt that Alemán recorded among his own output, but it gives us a chance to consider his consept of the music in comparison with Django's version, I think. However, you may judge for yourself, of course.- Here is first Django's version of 'Daphne' from a recording made in September 1937 - musicians are: Eddie South, Stéphane Grappelli (vln); Django Reinhardt (g); Roger Chaput (g); Wilson Myers (b)

The second video-take of 'Daphne' is Alemán's recording of the tune with his Orquesta de Swing from September 1952 as issued on the Odeon 55511 78 rpm disc