Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Josephine Baker In Holland, December 1933

When Hans Koert, Theo v.d. Graaff and I presented the El Redescubrimiento de Oscar Alemán/The Rediscovery of Oscar Alemán project at the IAJRC Convention in Copenhagen July 2005, Hans Koert had prepared a review of the career of Oscar Alemán based on the info available at the time. The review benefited from Hans Koert's own research as well as the documentary Vida con Swing (2002) by Hernán Gaffet. During this first-time presentation of Alemán's career for an international audience, Hans Koert also had collected a couple of surprises to wet the teeth of hungry collectors of Alemán's recorded legacy. The review was accompanied by audio examples and a Power Point presentation to illustrate Alemán's career. One of the audio examples was a just recently discovered private recording of Josephine Baker made at a performance during her tour of Holland in December 1933.
In the article Oscar Alemán in Copenhagen (2005), Hans Koert accounts for the background of the recording, quoted here:

"Being part of the Baker Boys meant a lot of travelling around Europe and Northern Africa with the revue of Josephine Baker. These tours were tiresome; Oscar loved to be in Paris, where he could play with visiting jazz musicians, like Freddy Taylor, Danny Polo, Bill Coleman and Frank “Big Boy” Goudy. The Baker tours were a tough job, indeed; two concerts in the evening and sometimes one in the afternoon, too. In December 1933 the Baker company played in Holland, eleven concerts within six days (Concertgebouw - Amsterdam, Concertzaal - Haarlem, Kunstmin - Dordrecht, Musis Sacrum - Arnhem, De Groote Doelenzaal - Rotterdam and Gebouw voor K en W – The Hague.). However, the tour through Holland was cancelled in The Hague due to technical problems after the first evening concert, although other sources speak about Josephine Baker being ill. It is a fact that the critics characterized Josephine’s act as “weinig om het lijf hebbend”, which means in English that the audience considered her erotic acts to be of minor importance."  (Hans Koert in: OSCAR ALEMAN in Copenhagen, p. 2 (2005))
I have not been able to confirm, if the recording was made at Kunstmin in Dordrecht, but the exact date of the recording is stated on the label shown above as 19 December 1933. The audio quality is not the best, however, this is nonetheless an interesting recording, as this is probably the only preserved live-recording of Josephine Baker with her 16 Baker Boys featuring Oscar Alemán on guitar in the ensemble. The guitar is barely audible, but you can hear it behind Md. Baker's vocal throughout, if you pay attention to the accompanying music of the song. The audio has now been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here to honor the magnificent work by Hans Koert to initiate The Rediscovery of Oscar Alemán in this part of the world, and of course further to remind us that today 35 years have passed since Oscar Alemán left us on October 14th, 1980.



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