|Home: Paris Between the Wars||Les Six||Opera||Ballets Russes||Jazz|
This website is related to the Curtis Institute of Music's 201011 all-school study, the Paris Project.
The war ended, but the music stayed. American jazz bands had entertained troops and civilians in France during World War I. African-American, along with white, musicians and dancers continued to perform in the 1920s and '30sin cafés, cabarets, music halls, dance halls, nightclubs, and even the Paris Opéra. Some revue numbers reinforced stereotypes of African jungles and of American slavery. There was also room under the title "jazz" for the orchestrations of Paul Whiteman, whose band added the musical traits of classical and pop to jazz. The music played on the radio and records, and in the movies. It was popular in the Right Bank neighborhood of Montmartre, considered to be a Harlem in Paris for its numerous African-American residents during the '20s, and the Left Bank's Montparnasse, home to a diverse community of immigrants from throughout Europe, the United States, Africa, and Asia.
Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story, an introduction to a PBS-broadcast documentary on African Americans' role in jazz in Paris, with musical examples and images, based on William A. Shack's book (Independent Television Service, ITVS, 3:33)
Jazz music and dance took root throughout Paris, influencing both local musicians and the classically oriented composers of Les Six. Among the numerous well-known performers who bridged World War I and the jazz period to follow were these:
Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston at the Folies Bergére, ParisRevue Nègre Dance (1926)
One of the Americans with a club in Montmarte was dancer Josephine Baker. When she opened Chez Joséphine in 1926, she was a star. Her 1925 debut in La Revue Nègre played up stereotypes of African Americans and jungle savagery. Members of the show had already played clubs in Berlin and Paris, including clarinetist Sidney Bechet, choreographer Louis Douglas, pianist Spencer Wiliams, and orchestra leader Claude Hopkins. Baker went on to shimmy in skirts made from grass or bananas in La Folie du jour, before taking a European tour that redefined her image. Her reappearance in Paris, in 1930's Parts Qui Remue at Le Casino de Paris, presented evening-gown glamour that rivaled French music hall stars. Identifying herself as Parisian, Baker became a French citizen in 1937.
Jazz musicians and critics pointed out Baker's lack of musical talent. She was a celebrity and a success, if not an advocate for jazz.Back to top
Jazz expanded its footprint in Paris in the mid-1930s, thanks to Le Hot Club de France, which organized concerts of French and American jazz musicians in various venues, promoted and then released jazz recordings, and offered lectures. The club's influence spread, with chapters throughout France and Europe.
Hot jazz traced its roots back to New Orleans musicians Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and Louis Amrstrong and Chicago's Bix Beiderbecke and Jimmy MacPartland. Among its key elements was improvsation. A 1933 Paris appearance by Duke Ellington advanced hot jazz toward the mainstream.
Violinist Stéphane Grappelli and Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt brought their string sounds to the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Joining them were Joseph Reinhardt, rhythm guitar; Louis Vola, bass; and Roger Chaput, guitar. The group gained recognition through its jam sessions, and it invited performers such as Duke Ellington and Benny Carter to perform with them.
Another ensemble, the Hot Club Orchestra, starred American musicians Freddie Johnson, Arthur Briggs, and Big Boy Goodie. Other musicians featured by the Hot Club included:
The Hot Club also produced a journal, Le Jazz-Hot. Written in French and English, it included reviews of jazz performances and recordings in France and the United States, plus advertisements for amateur and professional performances. The publication debuted in 1935, during intermission of a Coleman Hawkins concert; it was printed on the back of the program.Back to top
LISTEN: James Reese Europe recordings, early 20th-century recordings of songs by Europe, performed by the Metropolitan Military Band, among others; select a song title, then the recording under "Audio Formats" (Library of Congress)
LISTEN: Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli (Pandora Internet Radio)
Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli photos, video, and recordings (Last.fm)
Harlem in Montmartre (ITV website)
PRINT AND ELECTRONIC RESOURCES ON INTERWAR PARIS AND THE ARTS
Grove Music Online, The Oxford Companion to Music, and The Oxford Dictionary of Music
Jackson, Jeffrey H., Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (Durham: Duke UP, 2003)
Mann, Carol, Paris: Artistic Life in the Twenties and Thirties (London: Laurence King, 1996)
Nichols, Roger, The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 19171929 (Berkeley: UCalifornia P, 2002)
Shack, William A., Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars (Berkeley: UCalifornia P, 2001)