Sunday, February 16, 2014

the history of Jazz in Paris. Why Jazz Matters to Paris!

France has a long history with jazz music.
Jazz began to become significant in France starting in the 1920s. As with Brazil (see Brazilian jazz), the French were at first concerned it was too American of an influence before "making it their own." Although in the case of the French the adjustment proved faster as by the 1930s jazz had become acceptable. An important event in that is the creation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. This is among the most significant jazz groups in European history.[1]

Starting in the late 1940s the Le Caveau de la Huchette would become an important place for French and American jazz musicians to work. Many American jazz artists have lived in France from Sidney Bechet to Archie Shepp. These Americans would have an influence on French jazz, but at the same time French jazz had its own inspirations as well. For example Bal-musette had some influence on France's form of Gypsy jazz. In a related vein violin, and to an extent guitar, were traditionally more popular in French jazz than American. Related to that Jean-Luc Ponty and Stéphane Grappelli are among the most well-respected violinists in the history of jazz. That stated the violin is also popular in Eastern European jazz.

The Jazz Age in Paris
As a beacon of personal and artistic freedom, Paris, the "City of Light," lured thousands of American musicians, artists, and writers in the 1920s and 1930s. They crossed the Atlantic, bringing with them a unique facet of the modern age--jazz.
This Smithsonian traveling exhibition tells the amazing tale of this transcontinental cultural exportation and celebration. Organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), "The Jazz Age in Paris" premiered at the Smithsonian's Center for African American History and Culture in Washington. The exhibition features images, artifacts, testimonies, audio and video recordings.
In the 1920s, Paris rebounded from World War I with frenetic jubilation and artistic creativity. Contributing to the energy were the Americans, including many African Americans, who either served in the armed forces during the war and declined to return home, or who traveled to Paris to experience its cordial racial and artistic climate. Parisians openly encouraged the unique talents these new residents brought with them--especially their music. "The Jazz Age in Paris" tells the story of the American expatriates who so richly contributed to modern culture.
To experience the magic of the era, visitors will enter the exhibition through a replica of an old Montmartre boulevard. Montmartre is the region in Paris where many African Americans lived and worked, famous for its jazz clubs including Le Grand Duc and Bricktop's.
A major portion of the exhibition presents material in the form of large "scrapbook" pages, inspired by the original scrapbooks of comedian Johnny Hudgins, one of the best-known American entertainers in Paris in the 1920s. Photographs, letters, postcards, caricatures, advertisements, music manuscripts, reproduced drawings and paintings are presented, with each section addressing themes of the era, such as Old Montmartre, the Cake Walk and Ragtime music, the Parisian taste for exotic entertainment, the impact of World War I, the expatriate experience, cabaret life and café society, and changing social and artistic developments during the 1930s.

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Free-standing kiosks, like those used in Paris to post fliers for concerts and events, present the stories of eight important Jazz Age personalities including James Reese Europe, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, Sidney Bechet, and Josephine Baker. Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, composer Darius Milhaud, and writers Hugues Pannaisié and Charles Delaunay represent the Europeans who influenced and were influenced by the new sounds, ideas, and spirit of the day.
The exhibition closes with a section featuring 12 original art posters created by artists in Paris during the Jazz Age. Works by Jean Cocteau, Paul Colin, Miguel Covarrubias, August Herbin, Charles Gesmar, and Leonetto Cappiello visually re-create the fervor of the time.
"The Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1940" has been made possible through the generous support of Nissan Motor Corporation, U.S.A.

The following audio clips, taken from the Curriculum Guide for The Jazz Age in Paris, require the free RealAudio G2 player available All recordings are © 1998 Smithsonian Institution.
Maple Leaf Rag, Music of Scott Joplin
Cake Walking Babies (from Home), Music of Clarence Williams' Blue Five
The Man I Love, Music of Coleman Hawkins Quartet
He's Funny That Way, Music of Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra

The Jazz Age in Paris Bibliography

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence that Paris, much like New Orleans, Chicago and New York, has had on jazz music, its health and evolution both in America and internationally. As such, it would take volumes to document the story thoroughly—significantly more, at any rate, than the 156 pages in Luke Miner's pocket-sized (well, for a big pocket) Paris Jazz: A Guide. Paris Jazz makes no claims toward comprehensiveness, however, and instead aims to be a companion to the jazz fan who finds himself on a Parisian musical pilgrimage of sorts, or perhaps eager to explore beyond the city's de rigueur tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

The book is arranged according to neighborhood and, insofar as it's possible, chronology, beginning with Montmarte and Louis Mitchell's Jazz Kings circa 1918, and concluding with Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the declining health of Lester Young and Bud Powell. It offers pithy and engaging overviews of larger Parisian jazz establishments as well as smaller ones, including their pre and post-jazz history, their place in a wider musical context, famous (and infamous) performers and clientele, relevant photographs, anecdotes, quotes, up-to-date contact information, and maps indicating extant venues and the original sites of now-demolished clubs such as the Grand Duc, Bricktop's and the Hot Club de France. At the end of each chapter, Miner lists venues for catching live jazz gigs today. The book itself is capped off with more jazz venues (some mentioned earlier in the book), a brief list of recommended listening, and a selected bibliography.

Though the oppressively pedantic might have niggling complaints (that, for example, the ballet Parade was written over 1916-1917, not 1917 alone), Paris Jazz doesn't really enter into enough specific detail or speculation to take issue with any information it puts forward; but what it does offer should be more than enough for the kind of walking tour the book lends itself to. Even the armchair traveler might enjoy a copy for the coffee table.

Having landed in France with the American troops fighting in the First World War, jazz settled in well in Paris, the city which made Josephine Baker its muse during the Roaring 20s and adopted swing as a lifestyle in the cabarets of Pigalle and Montparnasse. Thanks to Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, France saw the emergence of the first original style of jazz which was not born in America. More than half a century after the death of the affable gypsy, jazz is thriving in this city where the memory still lingers of the great jazzmen who made it their home, from Sidney Bechet to Bud Powell via Dexter Gordon and even, as an echo of the rumour in May ‘68, the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It was in a Parisian studio that Miles Davis recorded the music which made Louis Malle’s film, Ascenseur pour l’Échafaud, famous. The singer Dee Dee Bridgewater revealed her talent here. And even nowadays, it is not uncommon to come across the familiar silhouette of saxophonist Archie Shepp in the shadows of a club.

Previously with Martial Solal and Michel Petrucciani, today with musicians such as Julien Lourau and Baptiste Trotignon, French jazz has nothing to be ashamed of in comparison with other international venues. Experimental, traditional, eclectic, fertile – jazz in Paris does not stay still for long. It takes on the colours of Africa or the Caribbean, it tunes in to electro, it cultivates the memory of bebop, it keeps the gypsy flame burning, it freely plays at being a “sorcerer’s apprentice”, and finally gains the female touch, it always dances, mingles with hip-hop, confronts slam poetry… In short, jazz is changing and growing. Solo in an art gallery, in a big band in a large hall, in a small group in a club, in front of the stalls of the leading theatres – it is at home everywhere. It is up to you to choose yours.

And there is no shortage in supply. Apart from the various clubs and bars which regularly host jazz, it is on the bill in Paris and the Ile-de-France at an impressive number of festivals throughout the season. So much so that there is always something to discover: the various forms of African-American music and avant-garde at Sons d’Hiver (Val-de-Marne) and Banlieues Bleues (Seine-Saint-Denis), European jazz with JazzyColors which takes place in the cultural centres of the capital’s foreign institutes, the creativity of modern-day jazz with Jazz Au Fil De l’Oise (Val-d’Oise) or Jazz aux Arènes de Montmartre, free open-air concerts at La Défense Jazz Festival (Hauts-de-Seine) or the Paris Jazz Festival in the Parc Floral, a whole district moving to jazz during the Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the diversity of contemporary styles and traditions at the jazz festival in La Villette, the jazzmen topping the bill at the CareFusion Jazz Festival, the Festival All-Stars at New Morning , at Sunside ’s American Jazz Festival and at the Enghien Jazz Festival, the liveliness of gypsy swing at the Django Reinhardt festival in Samois-sur-Seine or the Jazz-Musette des Puces festival in Saint-Ouen, or various fusions at the Jazz ‘n Klezmer festival… It is impossible not to find one to suit your taste!

t is Paris, 1961. Word has flashed through the city that royalty is in town. Jazz royalty. Duke Ellington is staying at the Hotel de la Trémoille, off Avenue George V, as is Louis Armstrong. Both men are at the height of their fame and powers, so a photographer is dispatched from Paris Match to capture the meeting of the giants.

They agree to appear on adjoining balconies, while, in the street below, members of their respective orchestras play – a friendly battle of the bands. In the ensuing photograph, Duke is regally raising his hand, as if greeting his subjects, while Armstrong is waving his trademark white handkerchief (originally used to hide his finger movements from rival trumpeters who might try to mimic his formidable technique), and both wear smiles of great glee.

Forty-seven years later, the woman standing next to me in front of the same image, which hangs in the foyer of La Trémoille, points at Satchmo: “My mother was a dancer with Louis Armstrong. Not when this was taken, but earlier. My parents always promised to bring me to Paris. They never did, so I thought I’d better get myself here.”

Ricki Stevenson is a journalist and broadcaster who runs black-history tours of Paris. And a lot of that has to do with jazz. “All round here,” she says, waving her arms, “was jazz central.”

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By “here”, Ricki means the golden triangle of the Champs-Elysées and Avenues George V and Montaigne – these days associated with exorbitantly priced shopping, sleeping and eating. “Duke loved this hotel. Armstrong would stay here or at Powers, on Rue François, because they let him cook his own food in the kitchen.

“Josephine Baker lived on this very street after the war. In the Fifties, Sidney Bechet had his own club across on Rue Pierre Charron.” In the Thirties, he had a gunfight with his bass player on stage because the bassist wasn’t keeping time. Three people were wounded in the crossfire and Bechet spent a year in jail. He was a hard taskmaster.

The photograph of Duke and Louis we are staring at was stored in La Trémoille’s basement for years. When the hotel was renovated, the neglected picture was uncovered and the management subsequently decided to create two new “jazz suites”, one named after Ellington, the other Armstrong, which opened this year.

When not occupied, they sometimes form part of Ricki’s tours. Both are elegant, understated and huge: there is room to swing a very hep cat in there.

But why is Paris steeped in jazz history in a way that, say, London isn’t? “That’s because of the Harlem Hellfighters,” Ricki says, and she tells the story of the Afro-American infantry unit from the first world war and James Reese Europe, its band leader, who brought to Paris what Alex Ross, in his masterly book on 20th-century music, The Rest Is Noise, calls “syncopated music that was a step or two away from jazz”.

Europe was one of the first people to travel back to America to tell a story of a promised land, where black players were welcome and their music taken seriously. You could argue that it was Europe who first released the musical virus of jazz that found such a perfect host in Paris.

Later that night, sitting at the bar of a crowded club called the Duc des Lombards (see info below), watching astonishingly assured young French pianist Baptiste Trotignon captivate the audience, I ask the same questions of expat Mike Zwerin. In his own way, although he would bristle at the description, Zwerin is Parisian jazz royalty.

A stellar writer on the subject, including the excellent Parisian Jazz Chronicles, and friend of Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis, he is also a gifted trombone player. When Zwerin was 18, Davis recruited him for what is known as the Birth of the Cool band.

When I mention this, he shakes his head: “Yeah, that was 60 years ago. How long can I keep playing that card? It gets a little embarrassing.” I remind him that in his book, he says everything always comes back to Miles.

He nods, smiles at the truth of it, then answers my question: “I think jazz took root in Paris because American musicians could get work permits here easily and they were well looked after. The French got to play with them, which encouraged and influenced the local musicians. That was very important. It’s still possible to go out and hear good jazz in this city almost every night.” He cocks an ear: “Why do saxophonists always have to play in double time?”

He’s right, not only about sax players, but that there’s excellence to be found, not just in the clubs but also over the next few weeks at the Paris Jazz Festival, one of the great bargains of the genre. This year, it takes place every weekend from June 7 to July 27 at Parc Floral, an attractive area of woods and lakes at Château de Vincennes.

There you can see artists of considerable standing for the price of admission to the park: a whisker under £4. In previous years, I’ve watched well over 2,000 people being mesmerised by the ruminations of Brad Mehldau and the trumpet of Wynton Marsalis.

This time round, the trumpet stars du jour are Erik Truffaz (June 7) and Tomasz Stanko (June 15); and there are performances by the likes of the James Taylor Quartet (June 28), Dianne Reeves (July 20) and Angélique Kidjo (July 19). The main concerts start at 3pm; if you want one of the 1,200 seats (plastic, bring cushions), you need to get there early, but it’s as much fun to bring a picnic and enjoy the jazz in a city where it feels right at home. James Reese Europe’s benign virus is still here and thriving.

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