Monday, May 4, 2015

A couple of books about jazz in Spanish

Being one of the most spoken languages in the world, both in terms of people and geography, Spanish has a bibliography about jazz that would need libraries equipped with an ICU. And if we don't take translations into account, one shelf would do. A small one.

That is why it is so newsworthy that we have several new original works about jazz in Spanish, which may interest English-language readers. First of all, history professor and journalist Sergio A. Pujol has just published Oscar Alemán—La guitarra embrujada (Oscar AlemánThe Haunted Guitar, Planeta, Buenos Aires, Argentina), his biography of the great Oscar (stress on the last syllable, /osKAR/) Alemán, which promises to be a great read. Besides the author's proven abilities (he's the author of a history of jazz in Argentina, among other books), his subject, the guitar virtuoso Oscar Alemán (1909-1980) is vital to appreciate how early and far jazz travelled throughout the world (Alemán's heyday was as Josephine Baker's featured star in Paris, France), mainly as music for dancing, when record labels carried the title and the name of the dance that went with the music (like "stomp" or "fox trot").

You can go here for a wide-ranging sample of Alemán's music.

Argentinian paper Página 12 carries an excerpt of the book here.

The publisher's page for this book can be found here.

Some time ago I wrote this about other far and wide travels of jazz in the past.


The biography of Oscar Alemán is an Argentinian book and, after all, Buenos Aires has more bookshops per person than any other city in the world. The really big news is that we have several books about jazz in Spain being published in Spain.

Next Friday, May 8, at 13:00 at the Book Fair of Seville, will see the launch of Jazz en Sevilla—Ensoñaciones de una época, 1970-1995 (Jazz in Sevilla—Dreaming about an era, 1970-1995) by one Antonio Torres Olivera, which has just released by the cultural department of the provincial government of Seville. The available information states that it is 368-pages long and its ISBN are ISBN: 8415311230 and ISBN-13: 9788415311232.

Pujol, Oscar Alemán's biographer, reappears in another volume that will be launched on this very event, the second edition of the collection Jazz en español—Derivas hispanoamericanas (Jazz in Spanish—Hispanic-American Drifts, CulturArts-Música, Generalitat Valenciana). The original edition came out not long ago in Mexico, with little publicity and hardly any international distribution—as it tends to happen with books in Spanish. Now it has been relaunched with an improved cover and layout, revised texts and a whole new chapter dedicated, fittingly, to Cuba. You can read a preview here.

This book is a compilation of brief histories of jazz in Argentina, Bolivia, the Caribbean, Central America (Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador), Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, plus a chapter devoted to "Latin Jazz, Jazz Latino and Latin-American Jazz", as well as an introductory text by its editor, Julián Ruesga Bono.

Making a critical review of a book with such a wide remit would be almost impossible, especially bearing in mind that jazz historiography in Spanish has been mostly in the hands of equally wilful and not so equally fortunate aficionados. The authors in this volume include journalists, musicologists, and historians, all of them with solid CVs. In any case, this book is an exceptional opportunity to look at an international history of jazz outside its well-spring, the US, lived through a common language that is not English, and perhaps a look at jazz, not only as music, but as a way to approach music.

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