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How Jazz Captivated France

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, April 8, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2313
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Django Reinhardt (Library of Congress)

How did jazz get more firmly established in France than, arguably, in any other country? What American musicians laid the groundwork for this daring new artform there? How did jazz take hold of the City of Light and shine a beacon across Europe? And in return, how did French jazz influence the course of American jazz prior to and after WWII?

John Edward Hasse, curator emeritus of American Music at the National Museum of American History, traces the roots of jazz in France to its African colonies, the introduction of American ragtime music at the turn of the 20th century, a craze for tango and other ballroom steps, and a curiosity about art that was new and daring.

Hasse draws on rare film clips, photographs, and original recordings to provide insight into how the quintessentially American art form jazz captured the fancy of dancers, musicians, and audiences here more than in any other non-Anglophone country.

View clips of the 1900 Paris world’s fair; tango dancing; U.S. Lt. James Reece Europe’s “Hellfighters” Band in WWI; American expat dancer Josephine Baker and musicians Louis Mitchell and his Jazz Kings; tours to France by Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway; and the legendary Belgian-French Roma musician Django Reinhart, who, despite losing fingers in a campfire, innovated a wondrous new way of playing guitar that won fame around the world. The fate of jazz in Nazi-occupied Paris rounds out the story.

Hasse is founder of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Jazz Appreciation Month.

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