Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Louis Vola and the birth of a quintet

Louis Vola en de geboorte van het kwintet ( Nederlands) Louis Vola and the birth of a quintet ( English) Louis Vola: bassist en orkestleider ( Nederlands) Louis Vola: bass player and bandleader ( English)

A tireless impresario ......
Georg Lankester

(translation: Hans Koert)

If you are an admirer of the Hot Club de France, Louis Vola (1902 - 1990) will be remembered as one of the bass players of the quintet, like Emmanuel Soudieux (he passed away) and Coleridge Goode, who played in the post-war period in London with Django and Stephane Grappelli. I visited both and they told me their story at first hand. But Louis Vola played an important part in the first years of the Quintet, and not only as a bass player ........more like a tireless impresario
Today about the first years of his career and the founding of the Quintet de Hot Club de France.

One of the oldest photos of the quintet: f.l.t.r. Roger Chaput, Stéphane Grappelly, Louis Vola, Joseph Reinhardt and Django Reinhardt ( Place Pigalle 1934)

Louis Vola was born in La Seyne-sur-Mer (France) at the 6th of July 1902. His parents were from Piemonte (Italy) and he was raised in Genova. When he had moved to France he started to study the violin and percussion. As a young adult he played in small bands along the French Riviera and early 1920s he heard the first American musicians to play in the clubs along the coast and in Paris. He earned a living as an employee at the Citroén Automobiles Factory and in the evening he played the drums in Bals-Musettes in places like Noyent-sur-Marne or the rue de Lappe in Paris. In 1925 he left for Yugoslavia where he would stay for a few years. During this stay he learned to play the accordion and the bass and the latter became his favourite instrument.

Back in France he would invited Django and Robert Reinhardt to join his band which he founded to play in the Palm Beach Hotel in Cannes for its cabaret “La Boîte á Matelots”.

Django Reinhardt ( 1934) ( photo from: Django - Michael Dregni)

One summer evening, while the Reinhardt brothers, Django and Joseph ( Nin-Nin ), were playing on the beach for a selected audience, Louis joined them and told that he had a baker's shop, but also loved to perform on his instrument. He told that he just finished a concert at The Lido. He invited Django and Joseph to join his orchestra. In fact Louis was a band leader since the late 1920s in Paris, instead of a bass player. It wasn't easy to make appointments with the two guitar players for concerts - sometimes he had to search all along France to find them. And when he had joined a few concert, Django wanted to have his money to buy an old Dodge automobiles.

"I need 5,000 francs. I must buy a tiara for my mother. She deserves one. And I want to decorate our horses. For us, the horse is a queen. Give me an advance ... if not ... if not..... I will die." An hour later, Django returned at the wheel of a 1926 American Dodge convertible, grinning from ear to ear. (Django - The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend - Michael Dregni - p. 59)

When Django left for Paris to play with Guerino, Voila had to wait for a year to have him back in the band again. In 1932 Louis Vola played in the Palm Beach in Cannes and had a lot of success - in the summer of 1933 he even replaced the Jack Harris band with his orchestra. Django Reinhardt with Louis Vola
He got at gig with his band in Boîte á Matelots in Paris, opened by Léon Volterre and he directed the orchestra to entertain the guests in the famous Claridge Hotel at its Thé Dansants; he played the accordion in the 14-men tango-orchestra, in fact a forerunner of the HCdF-Quintet ( = Hot Club de France Quintet).

Djangology - The Quintet of the Hot Club de France: An early recording ( September 1935)
Both Django and Stephane often played during the same concerts in this period, but never together on stage. During the breaks between sets they jammed, together with Roger Chaput at the guitar and Louis Vola on bass. Thanks to these jams behind the curtains, late 1934, the famous Quintette du Hot Club de France was born ..... Late 1934 they made its first concerts and recordings. Louis Vola is part of the Quintette and toured around the country. He accompanied famous Americans, like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Barney Bigard, Dicky Wells, Bill Coleman and vocalist Adelaide Hall.

An early photo of the quintet with Louis Vola on bass.
In December 1934 the Quintet of the Hot Club du France was founded, thanks to Charles Delaunay (one of the managers of the 1932 Hot Club de France ) and the first recordings were made for Ultraphone: Dinah, Lady Be good, Tiger Rag and I Saw Stars. Vola will be its regular drummer for a long time.
One of the first advertisements of the quintet from December 1934, before it got its final name. ( photo from: Django - Michael Dregni)
Enjoy a fragment of the "Quintet", labeled as Delaunay's Jazz from September 1934 for the Swing-label with the tune entitled I Saw Stars: Stephane Grappelli violin - Django Reinhardt solo guitar - Roger Chaput rhythm guitar - Louis Vola drums. Bert Marshall is the vocalist.

Next contribution will be entitled: Louis Vola: bass player and bandleader.

Georg Lankester
(translation: Hans Koert)


If you hear the Quintet of the Hot Club de France playing, you will think about Django Reinhardt and his pal Stephane Grappelli. This world famous Quintet gave Europe his own sound. But where did it come from? How was it founded? Georg Lankester informs you: about how Louis Vola, bass player and bandleader, brought the musicians together, which resulted in some very famous recordings of this unique quintet. The Keep Swinging blog offers guest editors a place to share their passion and knowledge. If you don't want to miss any contribution, ask for its weekly newsletter.

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