Django in Spain 1936

Django in Spain

29th Jan – 2nd Feb 1936

Quintetto del Hot Club de Francia

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The Hot Club of Barcelona was founded in 1935, Madrid. and also many other small Spanish towns (specially in Cataluña), such as Manresa, Vilafranca del Penedés formed associations.

After 2 minor Festivals in the summer and the autumn of 1935, the Hot Club of Barcelona went to town signing Benny Carter and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France including Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli for the 3rd Festival de Jazz (January 1936).  Quintet of the Hot Club of France band members were playing in a variety of ensembles and regrouped for the Spanish Tour; telegrams were sent to Stéphane in Monte Carlo, and he flew to Barcelona to join the ensemble.

The 2 Barcelona concerts took place on January 29 and 31, 1936, at the Cine Coliseum and the Palau de la Música Catalana, respectively. On both concerts, Benny Carter played accompanied by the Hot Club of Barcelona Orchestra, conducted by pianist Antonio Matas and made up of outstanding jazzmen from the best orchestras in town, such as Sebastián Albalat (tenor sax), Magín Munill (trumpet) and José Bellés (drums) from the Napoleon’s Band, Francisco Gabarró (trombone) from the Miuras de Sobré, José Domínguez (alto sax) and Fernando Carriedo (trombone) from the Matas Band, José Ribalta (trumpet) and Steve Ericsson (guitar) from the Demon’s Jazz, Antonio Russell (bass) from the Casanovas Orchestra and José Masó (trumpet) from the 16 Artistas Unidos.


Cine Coliseum


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The Cine Coliseum opened on 10th October 1923 with Maurice Chevalier in “Innocents of Paris”. the original seating capacity was for 1,815. Nineteen firms were involved in its construction. The Architect Francisco de Paula Nebot was inspired by the Paris Opera House in his design for the Coliseum. The interior designers were Fernandez Casals, Gonzalo Batlle and Torra Pasan. Decorative metalwork in the building was carried out by Torres Herrerias.  Seating is provided on 3 levels; orchestra, mezzanine and balcony and includes seating in 50 boxes around the auditorium. The boxes along the sides of the auditorium have elaborate metalwork on their fronts.  Initially independently operated it was taken over by Paramount Pictures and became their showcase cinema in Barcelona until 1939 when they relinquished the lease. In 1937 the cinema had a narrow escape from serious damage when bombs from the Spanish Civil War exploded nearby.

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Palau de la Música Catalana

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The rich decoration of the façade of the Palau, which incorporates elements from many sources, including traditional Spanish and Arabic architecture, is successfully married with the building’s structure. The exposed red brick and iron, the mosaics, the stained glass, and the glazed tiles were chosen and situated to give a feeling of openness and transparency. Even Miguel Blay’s massive sculptural group symbolizing Catalan music on the corner of the building does not impede the view into or out from the interior. As Carandell and co-authors have pointed out, in the Palau “the house as a defence and protected inner space has ceased to exist.”

Two colonnades enjoy a commanding position on the 2nd-level balcony of the main façade. Each column is covered uniquely with multicolored glazed tile pieces in mostly floral designs and is capped with a candelabrum that at night blazes with light

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PalauMusicaBarcBoxBoth concerts were a great success and reviews on newspapers were unstinting in their praise, except for JLL from La Veu De Catalunya, who called Benny Carter “an authentic black man playing the most ignoble of the musical instruments” and described the Quintet of the Hot Club of France as “5 white men mimicking black men’s primitivism”. In return, Benny Carter praised the Spanish musicians’ musicality and their outstanding ability to improvise, stating that “I’m amazed by your jazz professionals” This dedication was published on the cover of Jazz Magazine (official magazine of the Hot Club of Barcelona), #5, February 1936:-

“In as few words as possible I should like to thank the members of the Hot Club and also the general public of Barcelona for the enthusiasm shown at my concert. I may truly say that I have enjoyed playing for you much more than you enjoyed listening. Nevertheless, thanks for listening.
Musically Yours,
Benny Carter”

Grappelli recalls that “we had a magnificent reception marked by all the warmth and enthusiasm the Spaniards are capable of. After each concert, hats rained down onto the stage as though it were a bullfight. It was marvellous!”

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Teatro Olympia, Valencia

TeatroEnt TeatroAd-José María García Martínez, in his book Del Fox-Trot Al Jazz Flamenco. El Jazz En España 1919-1996 (Alianza Editorial, 1996), mentions an extra concert at the Teatro Olympia, Valencia with Jaume Vila sitting in for Stéphane Grappelli, who refused to play.

The private Olympia Theatre is owned by the Fayos family, and it has just celebrated its 80th anniversary. The family has always taken great care to offer a wide variety of spectacles that range from the most traditional to the most modern (musicals, operas, and classical theatre productions). With these principles and the quality of the Theatre itself, the family manages to attract a varied audience who all enjoy this great theatre’s cosiness and modern comforts. The entrance fee and schedule change according to the shows.

-Michel Dregni, in Django: The Life And Music Of A Gipsy Legend(Oxford University Press, 2004), states that “the tour began at the Cinema Coliseum on January 29 and 30 and continued at Musica Catalana (sic) on January 31 and February 1 In the end, the Spanish tour was a resounding success and the Quintette played double the concerts scheduled”. In my opinion, according to advertisements and reviews published in La Vanguardia (see images), this possibility is nearly ruled out.

Benny Carter

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Benny Carter travelled to Paris in 1935 to play with the Willie Lewis Orchestra, at a club called Chez Florence. After 9 months, at the instigation of music critic Leonard Feather, he moved to England to work as an arranger for the BBC dance orchestra, writing 3 to 6 arrangements weekly for a period of 10 months. As he spent the next 3 years travelling throughout Europe, Carter became influential in spreading jazz abroad performing with bands in England, France, and Scandinavia. He worked with the BBC orchestra in 1936 and joined saxophonist Coleman Hawkins for a recording with guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli in 1937.

Dregni also tells this story, not mentioned neither in Chema García’s book nor in Jazz En Barcelona 1920-1965 by Jordi Pujol Baulenas (Almendra Music, 2005) and for which there is no evidence in the archives of the newspapers from this period. According to Dregni, “when the applause ended, a surprise awaited Benny&BennyCarterthe musicians. The concert organizer had departed with the proceeds. The band was paid an advance of 3.000 francs before leaving Paris, but now the balance of 4.000 francs plus their travel expenses were gone. Django, Carter, and the bandmates pooled the money in their pockets to afford train tickets home, with one lone Catalonian sausage to slice up between them to quell their stomachs on the long journey to Paris”. You can smell a faint whiff of literature –call it fable or legend- in this passage.

Benny Doubles Up – He was a Multi Instrumentalist

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