Louis Vola, together with Emil Savitry, can claim with some justification to have first discovered Django Reinhardt around 1932 in Toulon and introduced him to more sophisticated musical venues and the wider general public. They were his early mentors before Charles Delaunay took over that onerous and thankless task. Vola was one of the founding members of the Quintette du Hot Club de France and played regularly with the group until 1938 but never recorded with the New Quintet after Stephane Grappelli left. This was partly due to his prolonged sojourn in South America and, no doubt, to Django's preference for the significantly greater talents of bassists like Emmanuel Soudieux when he moved on to a more swing orientated combination. In fact, rather surprisingly, Louis Vola never recorded officially with Django after 1938 and the only evidence we have of them working together is the Brussels concert recorded on Django's own tape recorder where Lousson Reinhardt was the rhythm guitarist.
The first engagement Vola obtained for Django was with his band at the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes and Reinhardt started as he meant to carry on by often failing to turn up for the gig and flooding the area with the caravans of his many "cousins". Despite this behaviour, Vola knew Django was something special and worth nuturing even with the inevitable aggravation and consternation that would be involved.
Louis Vola was born in the Riviera town of La-Seyne-sur-Mer on 6th July, 1902 to an Italian shoe maker. He first started to play his father's accordeon and became passably competent on several instruments. His visits to the bal musettes fired his enthusiasm for music and after a brief spell as a baker, Vola learnt to play the double bass and became a full time musician.
He often acted as the peace maker between Django and Stephane but later expressed the view that their continual squabbling was very tiring. "I felt like leaving them to get on with it" he said.
By the outbreak of War, Vola was playing regularly with the Ray Ventura Orchestra and together with many of its members, he fled to South America where he remained for 8 years. Before doing so, he was featured in the 1939 Ventura film "Tourbillon de Paris" playing himself. When he returned to Paris, the music had moved on and left him somewhat marginalised. After a failed attempt to run a restaurant in Nice, Louis Vola joined the Shéhérazade, a fashionable Russian restaurant, where he remained for 30 years. "My double bass plays by itself" he joked.
In the late fifties he retired to Cachan and died there in August 1990.
Probably Louis Vola's greatest contribution to music was the discovery and early mentoring of Django Reinhardt and then acting as a catalyst between Reinhardt and Grappelli. However, he probably made the most of his rather limited musical ability and was, without doubt, a competent session musician working with many well known performers including Jacques Brel, George Brassens, Yves Montand and Charles Trénet. Perhaps Vola's attitude is best illustrated by the fact for his many years at the Shéhérazade he was primarily the bass player but also doubled on piano and drums and was paid accordingly.