Cover image for Making jazz French : music and modern life in interwar Paris
Making jazz French : music and modern life in interwar Paris
Jackson, Jeffrey H., 1971-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Durham : Duke University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Introduction -- The arrival of jazz -- The spread of jazz -- Jazz and the city of Paris -- The meanings of jazz : America, nègre, and civilization -- Making jazz familiar : music-halls and the avant-garde -- Making jazz French : Parisian musicians and jazz fans -- New bands and new tensions : jazz and the labor problem -- The discovery of hot jazz -- Epilogue -- Histories of jazz in interwar France.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3918.J39 J33 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Between the world wars, Paris welcomed not only a number of glamorous American expatriates, including Josephine Baker and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but also a dynamic musical style emerging in the United States: jazz. Roaring through cabarets, music halls, and dance clubs, the upbeat, syncopated rhythms of jazz soon added to the allure of Paris as a center of international nightlife and cutting-edge modern culture. In Making Jazz French, Jeffrey H. Jackson examines not only how and why jazz became so widely performed in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s but also why it was so controversial.

Drawing on memoirs, press accounts, and cultural criticism, Jackson uses the history of jazz in Paris to illuminate the challenges confounding French national identity during the interwar years. As he explains, many French people initially regarded jazz as alien because of its associations with America and Africa. Some reveled in its explosive energy and the exoticism of its racial connotations, while others saw it as a dangerous reversal of France's most cherished notions of "civilization." At the same time, many French musicians, though not threatened by jazz as a musical style, feared their jobs would vanish with the arrival of American performers. By the 1930s, however, a core group of French fans, critics, and musicians had incorporated jazz into the French entertainment tradition. Today it is an integral part of Parisian musical performance. In showing how jazz became French, Jackson reveals some of the ways a musical form created in the United States became an international phenomenon and acquired new meanings unique to the places where it was heard and performed.

Author Notes

Jeffrey H. Jackson is Assistant Professor of History at Rhodes College.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This is an outstanding little book-a highly readable history of jazz in interwar Paris and a brilliant case study of French cosmopolitanism, examining the ways in which French musicians and audiences adopted a distinctly American style of music and, ultimately, made it their own. Jackson (history, Rhodes Coll.) appears to have read all of the performance reviews dating from the 1910s, as well as the pertinent commentaries by French intellectuals. From those, he has abstracted colorful comments and insightful observations touching on the music and its potential impact, for good or ill, on French culture. Thousands of black GIs introduced jazz in Paris during World War I, and the French warmly welcomed the young soldiers with a colorblind fervor. At the time, Parisians were already fascinated with l'art negre-especially African art and sculpture. In their minds, jazz was simply another manifestation of black creativity in which white Americans had no part. Illustrating that point with a characteristically good anecdote, Jackson tells of a music hall director who booked a five-piece jazz band and sued for breach of contract when one of the five turned out to be white. In an appendix, Jackson discusses works similar to his own, explaining the other authors' varying approaches and his own reasons for disagreeing with them. Chris Goddard's Jazz Away from Home, for example, neglects to consider jazz within the larger context of French history, and Goddard ends his study before French musicians of the 1930s began to adapt jazz to French tastes. Entertaining, informative, authoritative, and broad in scope, Jackson's study will appeal to readers of varied interests and ought to be strongly considered even for small collections.-Harold V. Cordry, Baldwin, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Focused on the interwar years, this welcome and well-written book covers the history of jazz in France (its arrival, spread, cultural meanings, and expressions) from the cabarets of Montmartre and Montparnasse to the Hot Club de France, Panassie and Delaunay. Jackson (history, Rhodes College) locates jazz in the larger history of globalization and national identity by looking at the critical debate around the music. The French saw jazz as both foreign (American and African)--therefore a possible threat to French culture--and beneficial (as a way to reinvigorate French music with its influx of modernity). The author clearly explains jazz in the context of Franco-American relations, the interwar situation, the development of new technologies (records, film, radio), and unions in France. This otherwise erudite study has just two weaknesses: the relatively small place left to the voice of the African American jazz musicians who came to France, and the Paris centeredness of jazz, except for a mention of cities in the French provinces late in the book. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Nonspecialists to students and researchers. F. Martin Goucher College

Table of Contents

1 The Arrival of Jazz
2 The Spread of Jazz
3 Jazz and the City of Paris
4 The Meanings of Jazz: America, Negre, and Civilization
5 Making Jazz Familiar: Music Halls and the Avant-Garde
6 Making Jazz French: Parisian Musicians and Jazz Fans
7 New Bands and New Tensions: Jazz and the Labor Problem
8 The Discovery of Hot Jazz
9 Epilogue
Appendix: Histories of Jazz in Interwar France
Selected Bibliography