Night Lights Classic Jazz

Paris Noir: African-American Jazz Musicians In France

Jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Don Byas spent long periods of time on the European continent and made many recordings there.

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Dexter Gordon Our Man in Paris

Photo: Album cover art

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was one of many African-American expatriates, spending much of the 1960s and 70s in Paris and Copenhagen.

In the years following World War II, a number of African-American jazz musicians took up residence in France, inspired by the relative lack of racism, the working opportunities, and the appreciation that French audiences showed for their art. Jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Don Byas spent long periods of time on the European continent and made many recordings there; we’ll hear from them as well as trumpeter Bill Coleman, tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson, avant-garde group the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and more.

Tyler Stovall’s book Paris Noir: African-Americans in the City of Light provides a thorough history of the 20th-century black expatriate community, including 1920s and 30s jazz artists who paved the way for the post-World War II generation. Bill Moody’s book Jazz Exiles covers some of the French-based American musicians, and the blog Living With Music has an extensive post about Universal’s Jazz in Paris series.

Watch Lucky Thompson and Bud Powell play “Anthropology” at the Blue Note club in Paris in 1959:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_U_QwOAl20

You can also watch Bud perform “Get Happy”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IQpPPoJZHE

and “John’s Abbey”:

Each year around Bastille Day, we’ll do another show devoted to the many superlative recordings made by black jazz musicians who found an artistic home in France. Special thanks to Guy Kopelowicz for his assistance with this program.

Music Heard On This Episode

There's No You
Lucky Thompson — Modern Jazz Group (Universal France, 1956)
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There's No You
Lucky Thompson — Modern Jazz Group (Universal France, 1956)
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Laura
Don Byas — Laura (Universal France/Blue Star, 1952)
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All the Things You Are
Sidney Bechet/Martial Solal — When a Soprano Meets a Piano (Inner City/Vogue, 1957)

Notes: With Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums.

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Oblique
Kenny Clarke — Kenny Clarke Sextet Plays Andre Hodeir (Universal France/Philips, 1956)
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Willow Weep for Me
Dexter Gordon/Bud Powell — Our Man in Paris (Blue Note, 1963)

Notes: With Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums.

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Parisian Thoroughfare
Bud Powell — Bud Powell in Paris (Warner/Reprise, 1964)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Once in a While
Sonny Criss — Mr. Blues pour flirter (Universal France, 1963)
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Colemanology
Bill Coleman — From Boogie to Funk (Universal France/Brunswick, 1960)
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A Jackson in Your House
Art Ensemble of Chicago — A Jackson in Your House (BYG, 1969)
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Blase
Archie Shepp — Blase (BYG, 1969)

Notes: With Jeanne Lee on vocals.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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  • Pingback: Jazz Impressions of Paris | Night Lights Classic Jazz Radio Program and Jazz Blog | WFIU Public Media

  • dlwilson26

    I enjoyed this program a lot because I lived in France for 2 years in the 70s.  I lived in Paris for only 1 month but spend most of my time in the south.  But there sure was a lot of good music.  A few years earlier when I was in college I traveled through Europe in the summer.  Had to make the pilgrimage to the Club Metropole in Denmark to catch Dexter Gordon’s gig. 

    You program showcases music by African Americans in Paris and you call it “Paris Noir.”  There was another type of noir there too–blacklisted white film makers, writers, and musicians.  Just like Dexter Gordon and Bud Powell taught the French how to play jazz, Jules Dassin was teaching the French how to make film noir.  And he enlisted Larry Adler to play on the soundtrack.

    Great program

    David Wilson
    loudcaster.com/channels/1015-hipjukebox

  • Dotascj

    David, I’m doing some research into jazz musicians who lived or played in the south of France.  Would love to communicate with you about any one you may have heard when you lived there.  Email is best:  dotascj@jmu.edu
    Thanks,
    Chuck Dotas
    Director of Jazz Studies
    James Madison University
    Harrisonburg, VA

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