Friday, 01 February 2008
It seems as if the French have always loved jazz, at least ever since Josephine Baker caused a sensation in the mid-1920s with her act at the Folies Bergere. Considered a haven from racism in the 1930s, France welcomed many American jazz musicians, treating them as artists, including Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, all of whom spent periods in Europe. The remarkable Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt often played in France with French violinist Stephane Grappelli, and even under the very dangerous conditions of the Nazi occupation, some French jazz musicians were able to keep on recording and performing.
After World War II, France acted as a home for pianist Bud Powell, tenor-saxophonist Don Byas and many other expatriate American musicians. At the same time, France started producing major jazz artists itself. Chief among those were the still-active Martial Solal, ...