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October 12, 2009

jazz in france: purely speculation

Posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2009 4:09 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

I like thinking about the American jazz musicians who went to France. I like to think of the African American musicians, persecuted and segregated and marginalised while record companies and promotors made squillions from their music, escaping to Paris where they were appreciated and valued and feted as musical giants.

I like thinking about American musicians meeting French and European musicians in Paris and getting together to make new music. I like thinking of the gypsy tradition getting together with the African American tradition and making music which subverted and transgressed and basically broke all the freeking rules.

I think this is why I like this album. You can hear Django and Stephan quite clearly, and you just know they were having lots of fun. I like imagining these guys getting together in a small back room and playing their hearts out. The locals excited to be playing with American friends they'd admired from afar; the American visitors excited to be playing with the amazing local talent.

I like this album as well. The story behind these recordings is a good one. After Glenn Miller was lost at sea during the war some members of his band were left in France with little money to cover their expenses. So they recorded some action with some local talent, including Django. These recordings are far hotter and more exciting than any of Miller's later work (though his early gear is fully sick).

I don't know much about American jazz in France, but I like thinking about it. It also reminds me that Ken Burns' Jazz documentary sold itself (and its audiences) short with its insistence that jazz is a purely American phenomenon.
This sort of thinking also reminds me of the effects of musicians touring in Australia during the same period. Not to mention dancers.

As I said, I know next to nothing about this. But it's something I like to imagine. Especially the bit about black American musicians leaving a country where they couldn't even stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as white musicians, and arriving in France where their music was massively popular and the people were really excited just to meet them.

Posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2009 4:09 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and music