Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar Alemán100: His European Career

Oscar Alemán100: Zijn Europese Jaren ( Nederlands) Oscar Alemán100: His European Career (English) Oscar Alemán100: Zijn Argentijnse Jaren (Nederlands) Oscar Alemán100: His Argentine Career (English) Oscar Alemán100: Live- en priveopnamen (Nederlands) Oscar Alemán100: Live and private recordings (English) Oscar Alemán100: Sus Presentaciones en vivo (Español)

A (limited) Oscar Alemán CD-discography with some European recordings
The (renewed)

Hans Koert
On the 20th of February 2009 we'll commemorate the fact that Oscar Alemán, el Rey de la Guitarra Swing, as he is a labelled on one of the latest reissues, was born 100 years ago.

The Moreira Sextet (ca. 1913)
This fact will be celebrated in Argentina, where he is still an icon of the Argentine popular music. You can read about that in the contribution: Oscar Alemán - 100 Años "Una Leyenda". In June 2008 the Legislatura de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, the local government of the city of Buenos Aires, placed a plaque in the entrance-hall of the apartment at Maipu no. 359 in Buenos Aires, where the great Maestro lived during the last decades of his live. During this ceremony his granddaughter Jorgelina and several colleagues played his music. I wrote about that event at the contribution Recognition for Oscar Aleman.

Les Loups: On the left Oscar Alemán - On the right Gaston Bueno Lóbo (ca. 1929)
Oscar Aleman was born on the 20th of February 1909 as the son of a Toba Indian from the El Chaco district and an Argentine father Jorge Aléman Moreira. As a small boy he had to earn money, together with his father and brothers and sisters (Carlos, Jorgelina and Juana) for his family with the Moreira Sextet, a vaudeville group that toured in Argentina and Brasil. Little Oscar was dancing, being labelled as El compeón del malambo (= The King of the Malambo).
Harry Flem(m)ing and his vaudeville group. Behind Fleming you can find Les Loups "inserted". ( ca. 1930)

When he was twelve years old his father committed suicide, when his mother died in Buenos Aires and the kids had to earn a living in the streets of Santos (Brasil). Oscar danced, became a prize fighter and could even save some money to buy himself a cavaquinho. He taught himself to play this instrument and, as he has said, the first tune he learned to play was titled O.A. 1926. Returned in Buenos Aires he became part of a duo with Gaston Bueno Lobo, who played the Dobro and Hawaiian guitar. They were rather successful with their duo Les Loups, or Los Lobos. Late 1920s they were even invited to join the Harry Flem(m)ing vaudeville groep.
Oscar Alemán in the garden of Jac Pet, guitar player of the Dutch Original Ramblers ( ca. 1933) (photo courtesy Ate van Delden)
They even made several recordings and were selected to join the Harry Fleming revue as the Hawaiian Guitarist on tour. The tour brought the duo in Europe, but in 1929, due to financial problems, the group of Harry Fleming was dismantled and Gaston and Oscar had to earn a living in the cafés in Madrid. Josephine Baker, the famous revue star, asked Oscar to join her Baker Boys. The Les Loups duo was broken and Gaston Bueno Lobo left Europe disillusioned. Oscar Aleman became an essential element in Josephine Baker's Baker Boys and, although no Josephine Baker biography mentions with more then five words Oscar Aleman, he became a close friend, an intimate. Although he was unable to read music, Oscar became the musical leader of the Baker Boys.A Dutch poster of a concert with Josephine Baker ( and Oscar of course) at Kunstmin in Dordrecht ( a city near Rotterdam ( ca 1934)
Svend Asmussen told me a few years ago, how Oscar managed this problem. When the Baker Boys had to play new tunes, he would hand out the sheet music to the musicians and slipped away unseen to the toilet. While the band started to practise, Oscar listened unnoticed to the music. When he came back, he sat down, put the music on his music stand and tapped his baton. A Dutch program for a Josephine Baker concert ( late 1930s)
In the Baker Boys he played the guitar, but on records that were made, he isn't clearly audible. Thanks to Harry Coster, a Dutch audio engineer, a
n airshot of a tune, recorded in a Josephine Baker concert somewhere in the Netherlands, has survived. The tune is Dein ist mein ganzes Herz and Josephine is the vocalist with Oscar Alemán playing the guitar. It's the only recording where you can hear clearly Oscar playing the guitar in a Baker Boys recording. This private recording isn't, of course, Oscar's first one, as he made more then a dozen records for Victor with Les Loups in Argentina. In the revues he played solo performances, but also accompanied Josephine and others, like Jean, Jack et Jo - a vaudeville group which featured Han Driessen, a Dutch violist, Jean Irace, a French guitar player and Enrique Juvet at the piano, originally from Switzerland.

Freddie Taylor and his Swing Men From Harlem ( ca. 1935). At the right Oscar Alemán.

Oscar toured with Josephine Baker and her Baker Boys along venues all along Europe and of course, also to the Netherlands. Ate van Delden has some photos from the Jac. Pet estate. Jac. Pet was the guitar player of the Original Ramblers and fascinated by the music of Oscar Alemán. He met Oscar in his house somewhere in The Netherlands. The photos show some snap-shots of Oscar in his garden early 1930s. Harry Lim (a Dutch journalist) with Oscar Alemán ( late 1930s)

Between the concerts and tours Oscar played in Paris with French artists and American jazz muscians like Gus Viseur, Louis Ferrari, Bill Coleman, Freddy Taylor and Frank "Big Boy" Goudy and also with Django Reinhardt of course. He was able to record with some of these musicians during his stay in Europe. Oscar Alemán (roght) at the so-called "Danish Jam Session" (December 1938) with Svend Asmussen (second from the right).

He was friends with Django Reinhardt - they performed during the same festivals, but, as far as I know, they never were playing together on stage. It is said, that Oscar sometimes replaced Django when he couldn't perform and there are some more stories about Oscar and Django, who can't be verified anymore. It is, of course a pity, that they never met in a recording studio. In 1938 he visited Copenhagen with the Josephine Baker revue and some members of the Baker Boys like Bibi Miranda, who was the drummer. The other musicians for the band were selected in Denmark; members of the Svend Asmussen Quartet - a promising young group in the Copenhagen jazz scene. When the show was over, Josephine left for Stockholm, the next stop of the tour, but Oscar and Bibi stayed in Copenhagen for some days and joined Svend, who invited them to be present at a recording session on the 5th of December. Both Oscar and Bibi joined the band during the recordings in a jam session which was later released on Danish HMV as a Danish Jam Session. Oscar played two solo tunes, he also performed on stage: Nobody's Sweetheart and Whispering.
A news paper photo from Oscar performing at the Zevende Jazzwereld Feest in Scheveningen ( the beach resort of The Hague. ( 1939) (photo: Nederlands Jazzarchief)
Both tunes were also part of a concert at the 7th Jazzwereld Feest in Scheveningen (near The Hague) in the Netherlands a half year later. Oscar played during these concerts with members of the Swing Papas and vocalist Annie Xhofleer. Later he would label this festival as one the happiest moments in his life.
Advertisement for the Zevende Jazz Wereld Feest (1939)
This small contribution about Oscar's career in Europe is just an excerpt from the complete story. If you visit
my online Oscar Alemán discography the records made in Europe tell their own story. Below this first contribution dedicated to Oscar Alemán's career before he settled in Argentina, you can find a selection of CDs on which some of these European recordings can be find. (to be continued)

You can find information about some concerts to be scedulded on the 20th of February 2009 at the Oscar Aleman Web Log. I hope I can share some photos from both concerts later. Thanks Jorgelina, Daniël, Luis and Waldo for your kind help.

Hans Koert -

Oscar Alemán recordings made in Europa are reissued on the listed albums, you might be able to find online or in your record shop.

= LES LOUPS OSCAR ALEMAN - GASTON B LOBO 1928 ( Bolzan coleccion) (2002) (private CD)
= OSCAR ALEMÁN - SWING GUITAR MASTERPIECES 1938 - 1957 (Acoustic Disc) (1998) (2CD)
= Bill Coleman – 1934 – 1943 (Best Of Jazz) (1997) (CD)
= BILL COLEMAN 1936-1938 (1994) CLASSICS (CD)
= BILL COLEMAN IN PARIS (1990) (CD) ( DRG )(1990) (CD)
= Bill Coleman á Paris 1936-38 Volume 1 and 2 ( EMI / HMV) (CD)
= Bill Coleman – Hangin’ Around (Topaz) (CD)

= Les Cinglés du Music-Hall – 1933 (CD) (Fremeaux )
= Les Cinglés du Music-Hall – 1937 (CD) (Fremeaux )
= Svend Asmussen – Musical Miracle 1 1935 – 1940 (Phontastic) (CD)
= JOSEPHINE BAKER (1991) (CD) (DCC Compact Classics) (1991) (CD)
= Joséphine Baker “Black Venus” (CD) (Entertainer) (CD)
= Joséphine Baker 1927 – 1939 (Fremeaux ) (CD)
= Joséphine Baker “Exotique” (Past) (1995)(CD)
= Joséphine Baker - The Gold Collection (Retro) (2CD)
....... and a dozen other Josephine Baker compilations.

A more complete list of CD-albums is to be found on the OSCAR ALEMÁN site .

Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Keep Swinging News letter Keep Swinging Contributions

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