Django in Canada 5/6th Nov ’46

Django @ Kitchener Memorial Auditorium

5th Nov 1946


I was thrilled to find a great deal of information recently on your Site regarding Django‘s North American Tour with Duke Ellington in 1946.  I live on the edge of Kitchener Ontario (Canada), which was one of the 2 Canadian Cities in which Duke Ellington‘s Orchestra performed during that tour. The Kitchener date was at the Auditorium Gardens on Queen Street East on 5th November 1946. The Show (Dance) went from 9:00 – 1:00 and Tickets were $1.25. Kitchener is about 100km from Toronto, which was where the 2nd Canadian Performance took place, the next day, before the Band returned to the USA.  I found it very interesting to read the quote on your Website from a Toronto Jazz enthusiast, George Foley, who said he saw Django perform with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the old Mutual Street Arena in Toronto on 6th November 1946. That is not consistent with what I have always understood, so I decided to do some more research. In 1966, my father wrote a letter to Patrick Scott, who was the City Editor of the Toronto Newspaper, the Globe & Mail, to ask Mr Patrick Scott if he saw Django when the Band came to Toronto. Mr Scott, who was at the same Concert as Mr Foley, wrote back to my father and said that he stood right next to Django and watched the Ellington Band play, but Django didn’t perform due to “some Union red tape”. I have a copy of that letter. Until now, I never realised the other date was right here in my home Town, so I have spent a few hours in the local Libraries trying to find out more about both Dates. I have found the advertisements for both of the Canadian Concerts as well as reviews of both Concerts in the old Archives from 2 Newspapers. Unfortunately, Django wasn’t mentioned in either the ads or the reviews.  I have always assumed that Django didn’t perform in Toronto, based on the letter my father gave me. Mr Foley’s account makes me wonder what really took place, but I have to think that Patrick Scott would have been correct, because he was a Journalist and was very clear in his account of the events in his letter, which was written only 20 years after the Concert. I wish I could find out more about Django’s stop here in Kitchener, but I haven’t been able to come up with any more than these Ads & Newspaper articles, which provided no information about Django. I will keep on searching. If anyone has any additional information about Django’s short visit to Canada, I would love to hear about it. – Keith Murch

Having read Keiths Newspaper cuttings it is also true to state that within the Reviews there is no mention of individual Members of the Ellington Band so Django’s presence remains a mystery.   I think that both claims can be true: Django only played in Ellington Concerts but not when Duke was playing for dance events. Dregni in his book on Django indicates that the band played for dance at Toronto’s Mutual Street Arena. So the Canadian Concert should have been Django’s 2nd Concert with Ellington after Cleveland There is the same situation (Concert one day and Dance the other day) in that Tour when Django played at the Pla-Mor – Spatzo

Many of Django’s failings in his American Dream were due to him being alone and unaccompanied by his long associated European Musicians and being illiterate, unable to read Music or discuss musical Key’s or communicate with his Audiences and generally make himself more understood to his fellow Musicians & Sponsor.  Ellington had expected the full Hot Club Quintette and Django as Sole representative posed a problem with supporting arrangements and integration of his style within a full Swing Band ensemble.  Django’s isolated set was confined to short a Medley of about 4 numbers punctuated by the odd Band Intro, Riffs & Crescendo.  The Audience & Promoters may have been confused as why they were being exposed to this unfamiliar Soloist Musician (who was struggling to Master his acquired Gibson ES-300 & hybrid amplifier).  There was no full arrangements featuring the Ellington All Stars. What would have happened if Django had been able to address a French speaking audience directly in Quebec or Montreal.  There were many Guitarists of different levels of prowess already established throughout America and more familiar with the required balance & control of their new Amplified Archtop Guitar Instruments within a Big Band.  A solitary man with a Gutbox and very little advance publicity would have a major problem holding down the attention of a large Audience even when Billed alongside the Ellington Band as The Worlds Greatest Guitarist but lacking his favourite Selmer/Maccaferri Instrument.  Without a fully crafted stage presence Django also had the same difficulties in the more intimate Cabaret Gigs like the Cafe Society (Uptown) in NYC where the American Audiences expected announcements, humour & anecdotes between the musical interruptions to their constant noisy drinking & table babble. 

Django in Toronto – Mutual Street Arena


Arena Gardens – Big Band Venue
Artie Shaw Orchestra – Tues., Sept. 23, 1941 Mutual Arena, Toronto, Canada
The Glenn Miller Big Band played at the Arena in January 1942, the Band’s only appearance in Toronto


Duke Ellington & Django Reinhardt  Nov 6th 1946
The original purpose of the Arena Gardens was suppose to be a new Opera House, but the investors & builders figured that they would make more money if it were a Professional Hockey Arena.


Toronto – Mutual Street Arena
Following the War, Django Toured in North America with Duke Ellington. One ‘Classic Jazz Society of Toronto’ enthusiast, George Foley, saw Django at the old Mutual Street Arena in 1946, where he fronted the Ellington Band.  As George remembers, he looked distinguished in a white dinner jacket and played a short Set that gave Torontonians their 1st live & unforgettable taste of Electric Gypsy Swing.

I was amazed to learn that during his 1946 US Tour with Duke Ellington, Django actually played in Toronto at the old Mutual Street Arena

It is claimed Django certainly played Toronto and perhaps also the Town of Kitchener within Duke’s Canadian Engagements and it begs the question as to how much more famous Django may have been in the French speaking province of Quebec.  Charles De Gaulle had considered retiring there if he failed to win the French support post War in Exile.

Fly Fishing

As Canada’s 2nd largest province, Ontario encompasses an area of 535,000 sq miles (892,000 sq km’s) and has a population of 10,700,000. Home to Canada’s largest Metropolis, the Great Lakes and 1,000s of sq miles of wilderness, Ontario is one of Canada’s most diverse Provinces. Ontario is the Financial & Industrial hub of Canada’s Economy as well as boasting some of the richest mineral deposits & natural resources in the world.

Echoes of Django – 60 Years On – French Canada

  • The Grande Bouche Swingtette
    Gypsy Swing in the style of Django Reinhardt
    Tranzac Club, Brunswick Ave, Toronto (just south of Bloor) – 9 to 12 pm

    The Hot Club of Mars

    Micheal Dunn on the origins of the group:
    “The Hot Club of Mars is a direct descendant of The Kitsilano Kat Kickers, one of the first groups to play hot swing around Vancouver, BC, in the late 70s. Having gone through an enormous body of musical alumni since then, the present band still does “Gypsy Jazz“.  “Our musical scope has widened considerably from the original format to include tangos, some original songs, and a completely reworked version of a favourite Django classic, Douce Ambience. Our gifted chanteuse, Deanna Knight, has brought some of her own creations to the group which have evolved somewhat here from her original concepts.
    “So our present live concert repertoire represents a confluence of several different genres, all of which have contributed to the eclectic mix on Gypsy Fire.”

  • Club Django Sextet of Toronto
  • Hot Club de ma Rue (Hot Club of my Street) with Francois Rousseau
  • Marc Atkinson Trio, Ontario
  • Swing de Paris with Wayne Nakamura, Toronto
  • Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Van Django is a group of 4 talented Musicians inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli’s 1930s Gypsy Jazz Group “Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France”. Their arrangements and original compositions draw on a galaxy of musical styles while remaining true to the classic sound of the quintet.  With skill zest and humour Van Django weave their magic, combining the rich gypsy tradition with their many diverse musical influences.  The lads are forging an original Westcoast sound, featuring virtuosic solos, bouncy rhythm, witty arrangements and an infectious sense of fun!
    Vive le Gypsy Jazz mes amis!