Fred Elizalde, influential musician and band leader
this page first published by John Wright, 25 March 2000
last update 28 April email@example.com
A visitor to this website, Alan Brigden, asked me for information on Fred Elizalde. Alan remembers a meeting with Fred Elizalde back in 1973 unaware of Fred's music career in England and the impact it had had on the whole popular music scene of the 1930's. I wrote back to Alan with a brief summary of Federico Elizalde's career:
To Alan Brigden
If you met Fred Elizalde then you met one of the most influential musicians in Britain during the late 1920's, but his career is only well documented up until 1932.
Fred (Federico) was born in 1907 in Navarra, Spain, into a plantation-owning family in the Philippines *. (information from Myriam Horngren, a grand-daughter of Federico). Federico studied piano as a child until he and his brother Lizz (Manuel) were sent to USA (Stanford) to study law. Here they found jazz and embraced it to the detriment of their law studies. Lizz was moved to England (Cambridge) to continue his studies. Lizz soon joined The Quinquaginta Band, playing alto sax. When Fred came over to England he took over leadership of the band, and changed it's name to The Quinquaginta Ramblers. By 1927 the band were already making records (Brunswick), including Elizalde compositions. The hot arrangements caught the attention of record buyers and leading London band leaders.
The Savoy Hotel seized the opportunity to sign up the 19 year-old and his band for their second ballroom. (A new Savoy Orpheans band, led by Reg Batten, remained the main band). Fred sent Lizz to the USA to recruit some jazz musicians and was fortunate to attract Adrian Rollini (pictured right), Bobby Davis and Chelsea Quealey - all ex-California Ramblers. Soon the Savoy was echoing to the sounds of the blues and hot jazz. The new sound attracted a lot of attention, the BBC broadcast the band and Fred soon became the darling of London society.
The Savoy became concerned about mounting criticism of Fred's style of music which was not appreciated by many of the richer clientele of London's top hotel, and eventually they terminated the contract in 1929. Fred took the band on tour but this venture failed, his music was too far ahead of its time for most people.
I am grateful to Nick Dellow for further details on the career of Fred Elizalde, which Nick contributed to John Chilton's "Who's Who Of British Jazz" and which are reporduced below with Nick's permission.
After the Savoy residency ended, Elizalde's band recorded two of Elizalde's film scores, then toured the North of England (September 1929) and Scotland (December 1929). Elizalde wrote the music, and provided the band for, the short-lived Intimate Revue in March 1930, then disbanded and moved to Biarritz, where he studied and composed classical music. Did world concert tour (1931) then moved to Paris. Visited London in 1932 for popular music recordings, then moved to Spain and wrote the opera Le Pajara Pinta. Studies with Manuel de Falla. Conducted various orchestras in Spain, brief return to London in late 1933 for recordings, then moved back to Biarritz in May 1934. His Sinfonie Concertante was premiered in Spain in April 1935. Composing and conducting 1935-6, then served as an officer in General Franco's Army (as part of a Basque regiment) during the Spanish Civil War. Wounded at Oviedo, decorated and invalided out of the army. Moved to the Philippines in late 1937, returned to Paris in the late 1930s and remained confined to his chateau at Bayonne during the German occupation. He continued to compose. Moved to Santa Monica, California (1946), performed own Piano Concerto in London (1948). His Violin Concerto was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in 1950. During the 1950s directed the Manila Symphony Orchestra and was President of the Manila Broadcasting Corporation. In the 1960s he briefly directed the Orchestra of the Japanese Broadcasting Commission, but returned to Manila, where he conducted his last concert in 1974. He was an avid sportsman and led the Philippines' shooting team in the 1954 Asiad, where they gained four gold medals. Fred Elizalde died in Manila in 1979.
The silent film The Woman He Scorned has recently been discovered with a musical sound track. Starring Pola Negri, this film's sound track is believed to to have been composed by Fred Elizalde. I received a review video copy of the film and gave my opinions of the music before the film was released on DVD. I excahnged notes with writer David Gasten who was very impressed by the music. It is very modern sounding for 1929, atonal and very atmospheric, and is certainly the most interesting soundtrack on an British silent movie, catching Fred Elizalde during his transition between jazz and classical music. It contains some very effective almost symphonic music during harbour and ship-at-sea scenes but much of the incidental music is tango music.
My colleague Steve Walker has now studied the soundtrack very carefully and offers his report: Steve Walker's report
Grapevinevideo.com (USA) have now released the film on VHS and DVD (in an all-region format). Check their website regarding availability. http://grapevinevideo.com
Fred will be remembered for bringing exciting music to London and influencing countless musicians and bandleaders; his affect on the jazz/swing development in Britain in the 1930's was significant though his fame is now really only acknowledged among record collectors and jazz students.
The photo below of the Elizalde band in 1928 features several important personalities, including Norman Payne back row second from left, also in the back row Al Bowlly is fourth from left, Ben Frankel is back row third from the right, Adrian Rollini is back row second from the right. Fred Elizalde is standing in the front row.
The band recorded throughout 1928-1930 and strongly influenced many British musicians working in London, and for a time Al Bowlly was the vocalist. The excellent British musicians featured on these recordings included Norman Payne (tr), Phil Cardew (ts), Harry Hayes (cl,as), Ben Frankel (vn), Len Fillis (bj, g) and Cecil Norman (piano). Brunswick issued a set of Elizalde records specially packaged with informative notes. At this time Fred Elizalde also recorded some piano solos.
go to Meeting Fred Elizalde by Alan Brigden
There is an active discussion group where you can talk about Fred Elizalde and other bandleaders:
or check out the group site first at http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/british-dance-bands/
Any further information on the career of Fred Elizalde will be much appreciated. Please e-mail John Wright with any additions, corrections
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