Hot Clube is a jazz club located in Praça da Alegria, close to Avenida da Liberdade. You can find it easily by the all-black entrance. It is a live music venue, with a small bar inside, where the Hot Clube associates and the wider public meet to enjoy a good concert or a jam session. It played a central role in the development of jazz music in Portugal, but the history of Hot Clube is also the story of Luiz Villas Boas, of his love and dedication to the music and its musicians.
In the 1940s, the country was lead under the Estado Novo regime. Portugal was very closed to the foreign, access to outside culture was extremely limited. The enthusiasts and curious of the afro-american music would meet up at each other's houses, to play, discuss and listen to the records, brought surreptitiously to Portugal. Luiz Villas Boas was one of these first jazz lovers.
The first step in the formation of the club was a radio show. Villas Boas got his spot in 'Programa da Manhã', a show that aired in Emissora Nacional, the regime's radio station. In contrast to the usual programme, Programa da Manhã was less formal and lighter. He wrote the text for a segment called 'Hot Clube', a name derived from what was then the expression used for jazz: hot music. It first aired in November 1945.
The host would present the music of the moment, and then there would be a jam session, played by the few portuguese musicians who could do it. The show was suspended after 3 emissions, because a new directive imposed that the national station should only divulge the cultural production of the country. Eventually, the program was re-aired in a second radio station, this time in Radio Clube Português. Meanwhile, the jazz audience was growing.
During the show, Villas Boas expressed the idea of forming an group of associates to promote jazz in Portugal. Many listeners responded to this. Mainly young intelectuals and students, they sent letters and cards expressing their will to join the group. The first proposal for the officialization of Hot Clube de Portugal as a society is made in 1947, but it would take 3 years for its approval, mainly due to bureaucracies. The group was active before that, since in 1948 Villas Boas had already signed the form of associate number 1. Finally approved in 1950, Hot Clube's slogan read 'for the promotion and diffusion of jazz in Portugal'.
Throughout the years, the club would grow, with jam sessions every night, and many american musicians as guests. Due to the limitations of aeroplanes, touring musicians had to stop in Azores or Lisbon on their way to central Europe. Because Villas Boas actually had an important job at the aeroport, everyone knew to direct the foreigners to the club in Praça da Alegria. This allowed for a great number of renowned jazz greats to meet and play at Hot Clube, leaving their mark in its history, and in the portuguese audience. Sidney Bechet, Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, all of them passed there.
The decades went by. Along with concerts with the big jazz cats, music festivals started popping up, and records were made. Connected to Hot Clube, the Escola de Jazz Luís Villas Boas came to be in 1979. Focused in the practical aspects of jazz and its language, the school has a known history of raising some of the top musicians of Portugal, and many of them end up teaching there too. Meanwhile, Hot Clube would continue to host the greats: Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Haden, Max Roach and Pat Metheny are a few examples.
Today sitting in 48, Praça da Alegria, Hot Clube de Portugal is the oldest running jazz club of Europe. Throughout the month there is an extensive programme of concerts, with local and foreign bands, the Hot Clube's own band, and of course the obligatory jam sessions. It has received numerous awards and been listed among the best jazz clubs in the world. Its interior is somewhat minimalist, with an elevated stage enclosed by dark courtains, and little to distract from the musicians. The bar inside adds a bit of flair to what is otherwise a dedicated music venue. The club opens at 22h, tuesday to saturday. Check their programme out and meet up there with other jazz enthusiasts for a great night of hot music!
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