Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920-1960

University of Chicago Press
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The Jazz Age. The phrase conjures images of Louis Armstrong holding court at the Sunset Cafe in Chicago, Duke Ellington dazzling crowds at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and star singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. But the Jazz Age was every bit as much of a Paris phenomenon as it was a Chicago and New York scene.

In Paris Blues, Andy Fry provides an alternative history of African American music and musicians in France, one that looks beyond familiar personalities and well-rehearsed stories. He pinpoints key issues of race and nation in France’s complicated jazz history from the 1920s through the 1950s. While he deals with many of the traditional icons—such as Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt, and Sidney Bechet, among others—what he asks is how they came to be so iconic, and what their stories hide as well as what they preserve. Fry focuses throughout on early jazz and swing but includes its re-creation—reinvention—in the 1950s. Along the way, he pays tribute to forgotten traditions such as black musical theater, white show bands, and French wartime swing. Paris Blues provides a nuanced account of the French reception of African Americans and their music and contributes greatly to a growing literature on jazz, race, and nation in France.
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About the author

Andy Fry teaches in the Music Department at King’s College London.
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Additional Information

University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jul 4, 2014
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History / Europe / France
History / United States / 20th Century
Music / General
Music / Genres & Styles / Jazz
Music / History & Criticism
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
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Eligible for Family Library

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Ted Gioia's History of Jazz has been universally hailed as a classic--acclaimed by jazz critics and fans around the world. Now Gioia brings his magnificent work completely up-to-date, drawing on the latest research and revisiting virtually every aspect of the music, past and present. Gioia tells the story of jazz as it had never been told before, in a book that brilliantly portrays the legendary jazz players, the breakthrough styles, and the world in which it evolved. Here are the giants of jazz and the great moments of jazz history--Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, cool jazz greats such as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's advocacy of modern jazz in the 1940s, Miles Davis's 1955 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman's experiments with atonality, Pat Metheny's visionary extension of jazz-rock fusion, the contemporary sounds of Wynton Marsalis, and the post-modernists of the current day. Gioia provides the reader with lively portraits of these and many other great musicians, intertwined with vibrant commentary on the music they created. He also evokes the many worlds of jazz, taking the reader to the swamp lands of the Mississippi Delta, the bawdy houses of New Orleans, the rent parties of Harlem, the speakeasies of Chicago during the Jazz Age, the after hours spots of corrupt Kansas city, the Cotton Club, the Savoy, and the other locales where the history of jazz was made. And as he traces the spread of this protean form, Gioia provides much insight into the social context in which the music was born.
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