Friday, May 1, 2015

Les Loups Revisited

Les Loups ( original photo courtesy by Erik Host)
Oscar Alemán teamed with Brazilian guitarist Gastón Bueno Lobo c.1925, they formed a duo that was named Os Lobos (- indicating G.B. Lobo's primacy of the duo), later the Portuguese word was changed into Les Loups.The duo had its professional debut in Rio de Janeiro 1926 (- more info, here), they were billed as Hawaiian guitarists and were featured in various performances together with other artists at different venues and even were presented in a live radio program. The debut of the duo was a success with the Carioca public and was followed by a short tour of Brazil early 1927. Later that year Les Loups were brought to Buenos Aires after joining Argentinian comedian Pablo Palitos, who introduced the duo in Buenos Aires and helped arranging exposure of Les Loups. The duo performed in various venues in Buenos Aires, was presented in radio and finally had the important luck of signing a recording contract with the prestigious Victor label. From December 1927 to December 1928 Les Loups recorded 16 sides for Victor as a duo and featuring violinist Elvino Vardaro as Trio Victor they recorded 8 sides more in this formation from September 1928 to January 1929 (- discographical details are available at Hans Koert's indispensable online discography, here).

The 16 duet recordings of Les Loups for Victor are the debut on record of Oscar Alemán, but this chapter of Alemán's career has mostly been neglected by critics and historians, who have engaged in Alemán's career and recorded output. Critics still seem to categorize Alemán as just another jazz guitarist and a clone of the Django Reinhardt 'school' of swing. But this was not the way it started, as Les Loups performed as Hawaiian guitarists and took advantage of the 'Hawaiian' hype that swept the world in the early decades of the last century.

The musical repertoire of Les Loups comprised tangos, waltzes and a few fox-trots performed in the 'Hawaiian' way, which means that the melody is played using a slide or steel bar by the lead guitarist while the other guitarist provides elaborate accompaniment using the insturment in a conventional way playing chords, fill ins etc. and supporting the rhythm. G.B. Lobo had the leading role playing the melody with a steel bar while Alemán provided supporting accompaniment. The Victor recordings by the duo are magnificent examples of a great teamwork and interplay between the two guitarists, and it's a shame that these recordings never have been re-issued - maybe that's a part of the background for neglecting this division of Alemán's recorded output by most critics?

Among the recorded tunes by Les Loups the famous tango 'La Cumparsita' (- recorded August 1928) had its debut on record in the version by the duo. Another famous, early tango was 'Guitarra que llora' that was composed by G.B. Lobo (- and elaborated in partnership with Alemán). This tango was recorded by Les Loups c. May 2nd 1928 and issued on a Victor 78' rpm disc (Victor 80839, mx BAVE- 44058A-2)

Victor 80839-A, Guitarra que llora
The audio of the Victor recording of 'Guitarra que llora' has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted here to give you an impression of the great interplay between Lobo and Alemán

This was the initial recording of 'Guitarra que llora', but other artists also recorded this tango by G.B. Lobo and Oscar Alemán after it had added lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo and was published as sheet music

Original sheet music frontpage
A contemporary of Les Loups was tango singer Augustin Magaldi, who recorded his vocal version of 'Guitarra que llora' for Victor shortly after the initial recording by Les Loups.

Augustin Magaldi
It has earlier been assumed by tango discographers that Magaldi's recording of 'Guitarra que llora' had featured Les Loups as accompanying guitarists, as the recording was made on a date when Les Loups also happend to be in Victor's studio in Buenos Aires (August 25th, 1928), but this assumption cannot be confirmed neither by audible review nor by available info in Victor's files (- a discussion regarding this a.o. is available here). Most likely the accompanying guitarists with Magaldi's vocal are his regular accompanying guitarists in 1928, Diego Centeno and Ángel Domingo Riverol. Anyway, here's Magaldi's version of 'Guitarra que llora'

By coincidence I found a recently recorded version of 'Guitarra que llora' uploaded at YouTube and performed by a Belgian trio named Les guitares magiques. This contemporary version revisits the original version by Les Loups and is a magnificent re-take of the tune that generates a hope for more from this talented Belgian trio. It's a sheer joy to learn that contemporary musicians finally have experienced the lasting quality of the music originally recorded by Les Loups.

Les guitares magiques (YouTube)
I have not much info about Les guitares magiques, but here are a few details extracted from the info added with another uploaded video by the trio: "Slide masters Raf “Lazy Horse” Timmermans and Gijs Hollebosch usually accompany singer-songwriters. They met in early 2012 and gigged together a few times. Soon it became clear they had to share their passion for slide music. Digging deep into the Hawaiian style of playing slide guitar, Raf and Gijs soon discovered a whole unexplored world of forgotten music. Together with double bass player René Stock they built a new repertoire. It is Hawaiian, but it is also much more." 

Enjoy 'Guitarra que llora' as played by Les guitares magiques from Belgium, a great tribute to the original recording of the tango as played by Les Loups in 1928


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