Elizalde, Fred [Federico]
(b Manila, 12 Dec 1907; d Manila, 16 Jan 1979). Filipino bandleader, pianist, conductor and composer of Spanish parentage. He studied at the Madrid Conservatory, with, among others, Trago and Perez Casas. In 1921 he went to England for two years' study at St Joseph's College, London, and later entered Stanford University, California, where his parents intended him to study law. However, under the influence of Bloch, with whom he had composition lessons, he left in 1926 to give his attention to music. At this point his fascination for jazz and dance music began, and he led the Stanford University Band for a season at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, while continuing formal composition studies. After cutting his first discs with his Cinderella Roof Orchestra in Hollywood, he returned to England to read law at Cambridge University (where his brother, the saxophonist Manuel (Lizz) Elizalde, was also a student) in September 1926.
Over the next three years Elizalde became the single most influential figure in the development of jazz in Britain, and he abandoned his university career after a year to concentrate on bandleading, finally breaking up his orchestra on Christmas Eve 1929, in the wake of the Wall Street Crash. His importance was to instil in his musicians a sense of American rhythm, making their efforts at jazz far more convincing than most stilted European bands, which he derided as �Viennese�. Nevertheless, he wrote a number of no less stilted compositions himself, which attempted to blend elements of jazz with European concert music; these include the suite The Heart of a Nigger, first performed by Ambrose and his orchestra at the London Palladium in June 1927, with dancers and d�cor by Oliver Messel, and the symphonic poem Bataclan, first performed by Elizalde's own band at the Shepherd's Bush Pavilion in June 1929.
By March 1927 Elizalde had already made his first British jazz recordings, with a group of fellow students initially called the Quinquaginta Ramblers, but whom the record companies styled as his Varsity Band or his Cambridge Undergraduates. These discs consisted of well-known jazz tunes arranged by Elizalde, but his talent for original jazz composition was revealed in his miniatures for piano such as Siam Blues, Pianotrope (both 1927, Bruns.) and later pieces such as Vamp til Ready (1933, Decca). In the autumn of 1927, he was invited to bring a band into the Savoy Hotel, for which he assembled several of Britain's leading jazz musicians including the trumpeters Norman Payne and Jack Jackson and the saxophonist Harry Hayes, together with a number of their New York counterparts, including the trumpeter Chelsea Quealey and the saxophonists Bobby Davis, Fud Livingston and the brothers Adrian and Arthur Rollini. This versatile and accomplished group not only played jazz standards, but original compositions by Elizalde and his bandmembers, including Livingston's Singapore Sorrows (1929, Parl.).
Despite complaints to the BBC about out-of-tempo introductions, and the difficulty of following the tune during jazz improvisations, Elizalde's band remained at the Savoy until July 1929, and broadcast regularly, winning the 1928 Melody Maker readers' poll as most popular dance orchestra. It was augmented with strings for formal dances and quasi-symphonic pieces, but by using a smaller sub-set of his band for �hot� playing and recording, and encouraging the solo improvising of Livingston and the Rollini brothers, he introduced the sounds of American jazz at first hand to the British public. The onset of the Depression, which forced his American musicians to return home, and a disastrous tour of Scotland in late 1929, led him to disband, although he temporarily reassembled a group to play for the Intimate Review at the Duchess Theatre, London, in 1930. He made his last jazz recordings on a brief return visit to Britain in 1933.
By this time, he had already shifted the focus of his musical attention, having returned to the Philippines to conduct the Manila SO in 1930, and spent successive periods in Biarritz, Paris and Madrid, interrupted by a world concert tour as a conductor in 1931. In Paris he worked as a guest conductor and associated with Ravel and Milhaud. In Spain he struck up a close friendship with Falla, with whom he studied. He integrated himself with Spanish intellectual life, writing an opera La Pajera Punta, a sinfonia concertante for piano and orchestra (first performed at the ISCM Festival in Barcelona, 1936) and settings of Titeres de Cachiporra and Don Pimperlin by Lorca. He served in the Basque regiment under Franco in the Spanish Civil War, but was invalided home to Manila, before returning to France, where he was confined to his ch�teau near Bayonne during the World War II German occupation.
His confinement led to a fruitful period of composition, including the opera Paul Gauguin (libretto by Th�ophile Briant, 1943; first broadcast by French radio, 1948), a violin concerto, string quartet and piano concerto. He gave the first London performance of his Piano Concerto in 1948 (after a brief period in Santa Monica, California), and his Violin Concerto was recorded by the LSO in 1950. He returned to Manila in 1948, where he became president of the broadcasting company, conductor of the Manila SO, and founder of the Manila Little SO. He worked as a guest conductor in Japan, but an increasing range of family business interests and his work in broadcasting curtailed extensive international travel until his retirement in 1974, apart from occasional journeys as a competitive sportsman, when he captained the Philippines shooting team, winning several gold medals in the 1954 Asiad.
A. McCarthy: The Dance Band Era, 1910�1950 (Philadelphia, 1971)
P. Tanner: �In Defence of Elizalde�, Storyville, no.36 (1971), 216�18
P. Tanner: �Stompin' at the Savoy with Fred Elizalde�, JazzM, no.191 (1971), 26�30
E.S. Walker: �Fred Elizalde�, Storyville, no.33 (1971), 92�6
A. Rollini: Thirty Years with the Big Bands (London, Urbana, IL, and Chicago, 1987)
J. Chilton: Who's Who of British Jazz (London and Washington DC, 1997, 2/1998)
WALTER STARKIE/CHARLES FOX/ALYN SHIPTON