In July 1939 Het Zevende Jazzwereldfeest, the " 7th Jazzwereld party", was scheduled at The Kurhaus in Scheveningen, the beach-resort of The Hague. One of the guests invited was Oscar Alemán, then playing with his band at the Chantilly-dancing in Paris. Oscar Alemán, the Argentine guitar player was born in Argentina and moved to Europe as part of the Les Loups duo. During the 1930s he was active in Europe, or better said, in Paris as guitarist and later leader of Josephine Baker's Baker Boys. With her revues he toured along Europe and northern Africa and between the shows he performed in Paris clubs and venues, like the Chantilly-dancing. You can learn more about this part of his career in Oscar Alemán - His European career
Oscar told later that he was surprised to be asked as one of the major stars of the Zevende Jazzwereldfeest. First the festivities were planned on Friday evening, the 14th of July, 1939, but as this day happens to be a French national
holiday ( Bastille Day or simple Quatorze Juillet) he had to perform at the club - when the Dutch moved the event to Saturday night the 15th of July, Alemán could except the invitation. In Het Vaderland, a Dutch evening paper, Oscar Alemán was introduced as an all-round musician: De guitarist Oscar Alemán, dien men als solist en als deelnemer aan de internationale jamsession zal hooren, is een all-round musician ( = Guitar player Oscar Alemán, who will perform as a soloist and as a member of the international jamsession, is an all-round musician). The fact that Oscar couldn't read music, was pointed out: Hoewel hij behoort tot diegenen, die alles "op het gehoor" spelen, is hij toch zoo veelzijdig dat hij bv. het geheele klassieke repertoire van den beroemden guitarist Andres Segovia kan naspelen (= Although he is one of those musicians that plays "by ear", he is so versatile that he can play the complete classical repertoire of the famous guitar player Andres Segovia by heart). ( quote: Medewerkenden aan het 7e Jazzwereldfeest ( 15 juli in het Kurhaus) ( Het Vaderland 11th of July 1939 Avondblad C).
As the announcements learn Oscar was soloing during the evening program which started at 8.00 pm at The Kurhaus in Scheveningen. Oscar was scheduled after the opening performance by the Belgian band of Jacques Kluger en zijn Pintonians, a "new" orchestra directed by Jacques Kluger, featuring the English-born trumpet player Johnny Claes, piano player Gun Finlay and reed player Maurice Pinto. After a short intermission act by tap-dancer Marco Palmer accompanied by Jaap Feijten at the piano, Oscar Aleman was scheduled to play some solo guitar pieces. After the break, the well know Dutch Swing Papa's were scheduled. The finale was announced as a jam session.
This part of the concert was unique, as it was the first time that a "jam-session" was organized at the Jazzwereldfeest. In an article entitled Wat Is een "Jam-session"? (= What is a jam-session?), subtitled Het 7e Jazzwereldfeest in het Kurhaus zal het ons leeren.( = The 7th Jazzwereldfeest in the Kurhaus will teach it to us) the author explains this unknown phenomenon. For those people who wonder: Wat is het nou precies? (= What is it actually?) the article explains that original Jazz or Jazz-related music is based on improvisation ............. In an extensive lecture the magazine wants to prepare the audience to what they can expect. Oscar Alemán is already nominated as the "sensation" of the jam session. Deze neger(!)guitarist wordt door kenners en meester op zijn instrument geacht te zijn, terwijl hij als eenige neger (!) bovendien het authentieke element in deze voorstelling zal brengen. ( = This black ( negro) (!) guitar player is a master on his instrument connoisseurs can tell you and he will bring the authentic element, being the only black man at the Jazzwereldfeest).
The author of this article, Will G. Gilbert, born as Willem van Steensel van der Aa, is known for his often dubious publications, is here way off the truth. Oscar might have had a rather darkish skin, but he was born in Argentina with Indian roots. For the people who are a layman in this field, Gilbert explains, that a jam-session is not a "sticky" event. You won't have to dress your sons and daughters in "overalls" instead of their best clothes. It remembers me to a cartoon I once found by Frits Müller entitled "Het zogenaamde "jammen" ( = The so-called "Jamming") in which three musicians are fighting with jam jars in their hands.
Next time I hope to continue with a review of the 7th Jazzwereldfeest in The Kurhaus, especially about the concert of Oscar Alemán on that 15th of July, 1939.