Saturday, April 11, 2015

J = Jazz, Americans in France, French Faves - A to Z Challenge 2015

Jazz and American musicians/performers in Paris: a pairing of appreciation

Selmer trumpet, from King George V to Louis Armstrong.WC-CC

J = Jazz, American Style

Jazz gained popularity in France as early as the 1920s. I'm highlighting three performers who found they liked Paris and the French people liked them. Many Americans musicians visited and stayed in France for a while, leaving only when war threatened.

An important event in the French Jazz World was the creation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. The Quintette evolved into one of the most significant jazz groups to come out of Europe. In addition, in the 1940s, a club, the Le Caveau de la Huchette became the gathering place and showcase spot for French and American jazz musicians.

African American musicians, artists, and writers found 1920s Paris a welcoming city. Montmartre became the center of the small community with jazz clubs such as Bricktop's flourishing. 

For more on bistros and cafes catering to Jazz tastes in later decades, refer to my 21st Century Journal Blog, about Bricktop'sLe Dome, La Coupole, Le Rotonde, and Le Select.

DG Hudson - 21st Century Journal


Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, performer, WC-PD

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was an American born French dancer, singer, and actress. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she was named Freda Josephine McDonald. Fluent in English and French, she became a French citizen in 1937. Her erotic dancing and skimpy costumes made her an instant success on the French stage. While prohibition ruled in the States, thousands flocked to Paris to see this new performer and to enjoy a drink.  It was the new age, the Jazz Age.

Baker was also known for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, and assisting the French Resistance during WWII. She received the French Croix de guerre, a military award, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.  Her name lives on today. Her history is legendary among performers.


Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, musician, WC-PD

Louis Armstrong, (1901 - 1971) aka Satchmo or Pops was an American jazz trumpeter, singer and influential figure in jazz music in the USA and in France. With his unique voice, gravelly and deep, everyone knew who he was as soon as he spoke or sang. His trumpet playing was equally recognizable. He could put his own stamp on whatever song he chose.  

He was also a skilled scat singer. In scat singing, the singer vocalizes with the sounds of the instruments and certain syllables rather than lyrics. One of Louis' well-known songs was 'Hello Dolly', a song in which he captured the essence of the lyrics. Louis played with the New Orleans river boat bands early on, and sang with many other performers like Jack Teagarden. The list of bands and other musicians he played with is too long for this post. 

Louis is in our own library of music as well as the performer who follows, Miles Davis.  Both had a profound effect on the music of their times and the people who heard them perform.


Miles Davis

Miles Davis, musician and composer, by tompalumbo - CC

Miles Dewey Davis III (1926 - 1991) was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, band leader and composer. Considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles was involved with several major developments in jazz music that became popular in his lifetime. His personal problems didn't overshadow his genius.

At 22 years of age in 1949, Miles travelled to Paris, the first foreign city he had ever experienced and one of the last that he performed in before his death, September 28, 1991. In France, there was no segregation, but nothing prepared Davis for the reception he received in Paris. They loved him and his music.

Davis was introduced to Picasso, and Jean-Paul Sartre, whom he would sit with in cafes and clubs in the Saint-Germain district, using broken French, broken English and sign language to communicate.  Davis was also introduced to Juliette Gréco, an actor and singer of similar age. She was the 'it' girl of her times with long dark hair and eyes and petite frame. They were entranced with each other and fell in love. It was destined for tragedy,however, which is explained in the Guardian article at the link below.

Have you heard the names: Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis, even if you aren't a Jazz fan? Did you know so many musicians such as Duke Ellington and other Big Bands, even Cole Porter, visited Paris frequently?

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by, and if you are part of the A to Z Challenge. I'll be sure to check your blog, and reciprocate. If you're not in the challenge, thanks for stopping by to visit! I try to reply to all comments.


The A to Z Blog Challenge is brainchild of Lee, at Tossing It Out.  Please visit the A to Z blog site to find out more information and the participant list.  There are also Twitter and Facebook presences if you want to check those!

References: French Jazz African Americans in France Jazz Age Paris

Image Credits

Josephine Baker in Cuba-Image

Photo by Rudolf Suroch of Josephine Baker. Havana, Cuba. 1950
This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice. Unless its author has been dead for several years, it is copyrighted in jurisdictions that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works
The photo is credited, in French, as a promotional photo in the public domain, courtesy Bibliotheque nationale de France

Portrait of Louis Armstrong

This photograph is a work for hire created prior to 1968 by a staff photographer at New York World-Telegram & Sun. It is part of a collection donated to the Library of Congress. Per the deed of gift, New York World-Telegram & Sun dedicated to the public all rights it held for the photographs in this collection upon its donation to the Library. Thus, there are no known restrictions on the usage of this photograph

First Image - Selmer trumpet, given as a gift by King George V of the United Kingdom to Louis Armstrong. Property Louis Armstrong Museum.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

*** Miles Davis Portrait

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
This image was originally posted to Flickr by tompalumbo.