Monday, November 10, 2014

Louis Vola Del Quinteto Del Hot Club De Francia (1944-46)

Louis Vola
Louis Vola (1902-1990) was a French double-bassist famous for his work with the Quintette du Hot Club de France featuring the star soloists Django Reinhardt (g) and Stéphane Grappelli (violin). According to some sources, Louis Vola discovered Django and his brother Joseph in Toulon, France early 1930s at the time he led his own orchestra in Cannes. Vola invited them to sit in with his band, however, the co-work with Dango and his brother was not a big success, as the brothers had troubles keeping up with appointments. Then another co-work with Django in 1934 was more successful. At that time Vola led his orchestra in a distinguished hotel in Paris, and members of the band comprised both Django Reinhardt (g) and Stéphane Grappelli (violin). During intermission of performance in the hotel Django and Grappelli had fun in a stage room playing together for themselves, later bandleader and bassist Vola joined them together with guitarist Roger Chaput and encouraged the quartet to work out arrangements for an all-strings jazz ensemble. Django demanded that his brother Joseph, who was used to accompany him, joined the group and this was the birth and original formation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, which had this name thanks to Charles Delaunay, who engaged the quintet as the house orchestra of the Hot Club de France organisation and later arranged numerous recording sessions, performances and tours promoting the first ever European string swing jazz ensemble.

The original Quintette du Hot Club de France
The original Quintette du Hot Club de France (- including changing members of the rhythm section from time to time) had success all over Europe until the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, when the group dissolved and the members of the ensemble went for a career in other combinations. Louis Vola had been a stable member of the group most of its time, but he had also participated in various other bands featuring both French and foreign musicians on the Parisian music scene. You can read more about his engagements outside the QHCF in a previous article by Georg Lankester, here.

In 1940, Vola had joined Ray Ventura's orchestra and went with the band in exile on its tour of South America the next year. Recently Georg Lankester has given an account of the career of Ray Ventura in two published articles, the second has info on Ventura's tour of South America and is accessible here.

Ray Ventura and band members with guitarist Henri Salvador ( Buenos Aires) ( 1943)
Ray Ventura's orchestra had success in Rio de Janeiro, the first destination of the South American tour, and when the band arrived in Buenos Aires in July 1942, the sucess continued with both live performance and recordings for the Odeon label. In between contracted performances with the Ventura orchestra members of the band were free to establish contacts with other musicians and the local music scene to support expenses of living in exile. On these conditions Louis Vola formated a group similar to the Quintette du Hot Club de France late 1942 or early 1943.

Hernán Oliva
Among others, the ensemble comprised guitarist Henri Salvador, who also was a member of the Ventura orchestra, and the Chilean violinist Hernán Oliva, who had been a member of Oscar Alemán's first Quinteto de Swing 1941-42, but by then had abandoned further cooperation with Alemán due to an incompatibility of tempers. Together with two local rhythm guitarists this group named Louis Vola del Quinteto del Hot Club de Francia recorded four (test-)sides for the small, local Sincopa y Ritmo label, which never were issued (- according to discographical info by Tom Lord, the four recorded titles  were 'Viper's Dream', 'Mabel', 'Stardust' and 'Rosetta' with the mx-numbers from BAVE2720-BAVE2723, all well known tunes from the repertoire of the original QHCF).

Excerpt of Tom Lord's discographical info (click to enlarge)
As the stay in Buenos Aires was extended because of WW2 that prevented the Ray Ventura orchestra to return to Europe, Louis Vola continued his own musical project with a new formation of the quintet, which had a recording contract with the Argentine division of Victor records. The first session recorded for Victor was made in October 1943 accompanying a vocal ensemble named The Blackbirds and resulted in two sides. According to Tom Lord's discography, the two titles recorded were 'For Me And My Gal' and 'I'm Old Fashioned' (issued on Vic 60-0282). The quintet now comprised Hernán Oliva (violin), Luis Silva, Musco Milton, Hector Condro (guitar) and Louis Vola (ldr, bass).

The Victor recordings 1944-46 (source: VirgilJazz CD 111)
Louis Vola stayed in Argentina until 1948 and thus did not leave the country together with Ventura, who headed for the U.S.A. in 1945 after WW2 had ended and then returned to France to continue his career. From September 1944 to April/May 1946 Vola continued recording with his quintet in Buenos Aires. Twenty four sides were cut for the Victor label during this period as shown in the listing above. There was some changes of personnel in the quintet from time to time, however, Hernán Oliva had a leading instrumental voice in the ensemble and he is featured on all listed sides. As the quintet emulated the sound of the original QHCF, the choice of a lead guitarist to perform the 
guitar solos also was crucial. The first eight sides as shown feature Luis Silva as lead guitarist in the ensemble with remaining personnel as listed in Tom Lords discography for the October 1943 session.

Luis Silva
Luis Silva (1915-1987) was a Chilean guitarist, who had started his career playing jazz in his homeland in the 1930s and further had founded the QUINTETO SWING HOT DE CHILE after discovering Django Reinhardt. He made some records with this combination in Chile 1943-44, and according to the scarce discografical info the 1943 sides also comprised Hernán Oliva on violin. Silva might have come to Buenos Aires in 1944 at the request of Hernán Oliva, but info on the circumstances of his involvment with Vola's quintet is not available. Fact is, however, that Silva had the  guitar solo part in the eight sides with Vola's quintet for Victor recorded from September to December 1944. 

Silva's technique is well developed and he has some great solo spots (- very different from Django) as well as competent interplay with Oliva and the rhythm section on the eight sides with Vola's quintet. Here is an example of Silva's fretwork in the recording of 'The Sheik of Araby' from September 1944.

After Luis Silva left Vola, he returned to Chile and gave up playing jazz continueing his career in Chilean folk music. You have the opportunity to read more about Luis Silva in an article in Spanish published here.

Henri Salvador
 The March-April 1945 sessions have changes in personnel, another lead guitarist named A.Rivera of whom no info is available takes over Luis Silva's chair, and there is added vocal by a female singer named Alice Burton, who contributes the lyrics in English on 'Undecided'. Alice Burton may be a stage name for a local artist, again no info is to be found, however, she also contributes with her vocal on a few more sides of the remaining Victor recordings by Louis Vola's quintet. 

The May-June and August 1945 sessions reunite Henri Salvador with the quintet, he is now featured as the lead solo guitarist and contributes with some noteworthy solo spots, i.e. in the recording of 'Django Blue(s)'

Henri Salvador (1917-2008) was a member of Ray Ventrua's orchestra like Louis Vola and had embarked on the tour of South America with the band, where he both had vocal spots and played the guitar. The career of Henri Salvador is too extensive to refer here, enough to tell that he had learned guitar from his brother, Tony Salvador, and that he knew Django and had recorded with him in France before the war in the orchestra of Fred Adison

His style of playing the guitar is more modern than Luis Silva's and he is said to have prefered chord solo contributions instead of single string. However, his playing on the shown 'Django Blue(s)' has fine examples of single string playing, and the same technique is used in one of the highlights of the Victor recordings by the Louis Vola's quintet - 'Tiger Rag' - a show piece for Hernán Oliva's violin

The last four recordings for Victor April-May 1946 again have a change of personnel. Henri Salvador had left Buenos Aires at the end of the war in August '45 together with Ventura, as replacement Salvador López sat in with the quintet in three of the sides as a piano player. Further, Oscar Alemán's rhythm guitarist of his first quintet, Dario 'Johnny' Quaglia, also is featured and female vocalist Alice Burton again contributes with lyrics in English. The last recording, 'You Never Say Yes...', replaces Salvador López with Jorge Curutchet on el-guitar.

Private issue (Virgil Jazz, CD 111)
The Victor recordings by Louis Vola's quintet (1944-46) have never been reissued by an ordinary company, however, private collectors in Argentina of the original discs have released  the 24 sides on a CD, which may be hard to find outside Argentina. The shown CD from Virgil Jazz (CD 111) is an example of such a collection. A similar collection was also issued by the Buenos Aires Tango Club (CD Jazz 8004). 

Nevertheless, these recordings are of historic importance and document the direct influence of the original QHCF in 
Argentina by one of its founding members, double-bassist Louis Vola.


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