Monday, June 27, 2016

Milt Herth Trio & Quartet 1937-38

Milt Herth (1902-1969)
Milton "Milt" Herth (1902-1969) is considered a pioneer of the electric Hammond organ, he was in fact one of the first to play and record this novelty instrument shortly after it was introduced to the public in 1935. Herth's professional career started in 1935 when he was hired to play the Hammond organ at a radio station. In 1936, he signed a recording contract with Decca and made several records as a soloist that year showcasting the Hammond organ as a suitable instrument for performance of swing jazz.

Milt Herth - Stompin' At The Savoy (1936)
From the first issued Decca session recorded June 11, 1936, Milt Herth performed his solo version of Stompin' At The Savoy, also released at the Brunswick disc shown above

This version of Stompin' At The Savoy is famous for being the first ever recording of the electric Hammond organ issued on a 78 rpm disc.

Willie 'The Lion' Smith
In 1937, Herth began to work with jazz pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith in Chicago, when Smith also signed to Decca Records. Herth, Smith, and drummer O'Neil Spencer formed the Milt Herth Trio. The trio became a quartet with the addition of Teddy Bunn on guitar in April 1938.
O'Neil Spencer
From November 1937 to November 1938, Milt Herth recorded 26 sides for Decca featuring his Trio or Quartet. The first session with the trio was recorded November 11, 1937, two sides were cut and the first tune was Larry Clinton's The Dipsy Doodle with vocal by O'neil Spencer

January 7, 1938 Milt Herth Trio recorded the next session for Decca. Two sides were cut, an instrumental titled The Big Dipper and a version of Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen with vocal by O'Neil Spencer

September 13, 1938 the Milt Herth Trio recorded a great version of Duke Ellington's famous 1930 tune, Rockin' In Rhythm. In this session Frank Froeba replaces Willie 'The Lion' Smith on piano

Teddy Bunn
In April 1938, guitarist Teddy Bunn was added to the trio and he is featured in sessions with the Milt Herth Quartet from April 28 to November 30 that year contributing his unmistakeable and delicate guitar playing in tunes such as The Flat Foot Floogie, Shoot The Likker To Me, John Boy, Egyptian Ella, The Spider And The Fly and Jump Jump's Here 

The above inserted few examples of recordings featuring the Milt Herth Trio and Quartet from 1937-8 are reissued on CD together with the remaining sessions from this period in the Cronogical Classics series devoted to Willie 'The Lion' Smith 1937-38, (CD 677)
Cronogial Classics, CD 677 - Willie 'The Lion' Smith (1937-1938)
Besides his recording career, Milt Herth also took part in several short films, a.o. Love and Onions (1935), Swing Styles (1939), and Jingle Belles, (1941) as well as the longer 1942 film, Juke Box Jenny, a movie noted for being a series of musical performances. - To end this small presentation of some of Milt Herth's best recordings from the late 1930s, I'll insert the YouTube version of the short film Jingle Belles. Go to 4:00 and enjoy a sequence featuring  Milt Herth in performance at the Hammond organ


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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Oscar Alemán - An Updated ‘On-line Discography’ Now Available

Georg Lankester gives his account of the background of a recently published new online Oscar Alemán discography.

Interesting news for jazz guitar fans – a publication by Andrés “Tito” Liber

Oscar Alemán
The Argentinian swing guitar legend Oscar Alemán (1909 – 1980) was for a long time a somewhat neglected figure and in jazz reference literature hardly presented in printed standard discographies - most likely – because much of his recorded output was unavailable or hard to find outside  Argentina

However, it is worthwhile to mention  that Alemán  made several recordings  in Europe during the 1930s joining European and American jazz musicians in Paris while he stayed  in France as  a member of Josephine Baker’s orchestra. This small recorded output by Alemán (playing with jazzmen such as Freddy Taylor, Bill Coleman, Alix Combelle, Danny Polo and others) may be known by well-informed jazz fans of the European swing era and the recordings also have been available on various long playing albums and later in CD format.

Charles Delaunay

Alemán only recorded a  few sides in his own name during his European stay. Four sides were  recorded  by the French “Swing” label, established and promoted by the secretary of the Hot Club of France, Charles Delaunay.

Charles Delaunay
The latter was one of the leading persons within this jazz organisation and he introduced American jazz musicians to a European audience. Moreover he was also the single most important figure to promote the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact Delaunay was the originator of the famous “Quintette du Hot Club de France” featuring Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli as star soloists in a jazz setting formed by string instruments only. This was a novelty jazz formation creating a hot swinging jazz sound never heard before and the only original European pre-war contribution to the legacy of jazz in general.

Delaunay’s promotion of Reinhardt and the quintet made it almost impossible for other jazz guitarists in Paris to establish reputation and make records. And that’s the reason why  the average jazz audience was mostly unaware of Alemán being another brilliant jazz guitarist in town at the same high level as Reinhardt.

Although Oscar was always overshadowed by Reinhardt in the Parisian jazz scene,  the jazz critic Leonard Feather, who – in 1939 - wrote a much quoted review in the “Melody Maker” on Oscar’s recordings, stressed that Alemán could ‘outswing’ Django and was a far superior jazzman .

Oscar Alemán in action - 1960s
Funny enough Alemán and Reinhardt became friends with mutual respect for each other, being ‘instrument brothers’ and they met from time to time. Late at night, when each had finished work, muscians used to meet in certain Parisian places in order to chat and play together. It is a fact that Django and Oscar jammed together, but unfortunately those sessions were never recorded.

First Dicographic info

Jazz Solography, vol. 4
The European Alemán recordings are included in Brian Rust’s well-known reference work “Jazz Records 1897 – 1942” as well as in other standard discographies. In the  Seventies, the Norwegian jazz critic Jan Evensmo made a fair review of Alemán’s European  jazz records in one of his publications in the “Jazz Solography” series.

Later Evensmo, however, would resume his research of Alemán recordings and has launched a new edition of his Alemán solography a few years ago which now contains the Argentinian recorded output besides the European recordings, available online, here

In the same decade (1970s) the TOM label (“The Old Masters”) was launched in the US supported by enthousiastic jazz collectors. Two LP albums were dedicated  to Alemán, covering a selection of his recordings from 1938-1957.

Oscar Alemán  - Frémeaux CD (1994)
More recent (in 1994) an Alemán cd was issued by the French Frémeaux label which includes recordings from 1928-1943 with detailed liner notes. Further was the TOM selection with additional material reissued on a double CD disc in 1997 by Acoustic Disc.

The basis of a complete Alemán Discograpy

It was Hans Koert, an acknowledged Dutch jazz specialist  and collector, highly fascinated by Alemán’s work, who laid the foundation of a Discography as complete as possible. During several years of thorough research he traced several  Alemán records made outside Europe and he even contacted the family of the guitarist in order to obtain more relevant details.

Hans Koert's Tune-o-Graphy
In 2002 Hans published his Alemán “Tune-o-Graphy(a printed version in English & Spanish) realised in cooperation with Luis Contijoch. He resumed his Discography research in 2004 which was finished in 2009 with a web log publication in 2006.  Hans continued his immense study and further published his work in a comprehensive and free accessible internet online Alemán Discography which he kept updated till he passed away in 2014.

On basis of the main data obtained by Hans Koert, the Argentinian collector Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber - in cooperation with the present editor of Hans Koert’s website and blogs - added data and recently finished this update which is now available on the Internet. An obstacle for the average visitor of Liber’s online discography  may be the Spanish language, but serious users probably will cope with that.

This NEW online discography by Andrés ‘Tito’ Liber is accessible by following the link in the sidebar at the weblog of Hot Club de Boedo, here

Visit this new online resource and discover more of the great swing guitarist Oscar Alemán - Online free accessible Oscar Alemán music, here

Georg Lankester (Holland), June 2016

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