Paris and jazz have long enjoyed a love affair. The city remains a top destination for local and American artists and boasts a lineup of clubs and nightly acts that often rival New York City. If you love music, seeing a live jazz show in Paris is a must.
But first some history.
Did she get your attention? That is Josephine Baker. Dancer and jazz/pop singer, she grew up poor under the yoke of discrimination in America. When she traveled to Paris she became a featured singer at ‘Le Ball Negre’ (more on that later) and her career took off from there. The Ball Negre was a cultural icon frequented by the cutting edge of Paris society in the 1920’s frequented by everyone from Picasso to Hemingway to F.Scott Fitzgerald. You can read more about it here https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bal_Nègre
With her stunning looks, eclectic personality and arresting voice (think Piaf meets Billy Holiday meets the personality of Cheavalier) she quickly became the toast of the town. Indeed, she was said to have received over 1,500 marriage proposals in her life as she became a cultural icon in France. For more information on her life go to her official website http://www.cmgww.com/stars/baker/about/biography.html
And no accounting of this period, however brief, would be proper without a mention of Gypsy Jazz and the great Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt who dominated the Paris scene at that time with his syncopated hyper fast picking.
From World War I on, Paris was a refuge for countless American jazz artists who enjoyed the open bohemian spirit of the city. Jazz artists who took up residence there in the included Sidney Bechet, Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis to name a few. And with the embrace of jazz by the French the feelings were mutual.
Today Jazz remains alive and well in Paris. You can hear it in small clubs throughout the city, on the radios of taxis and on the streets emanating from restaurants and bars. This recently renovated venue exemplifies this love. The aforementioned Bal Negre was located on Rue Blomet, a 15 minute walk from the Yellow Flat vacation apartment. It reopened on March 21 after lying in neglect and disrepair for years. This must have been a labor of love, just look at what it looked like.
The development was also the subject of controversy. The owner wanted to keep the original name, but in doing so, drew vocal protests of racism from the local community. It is an interesting question to ponder, when is an homage to a club and the use of a historical name inherently or explicitly a racist statement? Le Bal Negre was the name of the club with incredible historic significance. In any case, the controversy resolved, the club is open and the music is alive at Le Bal Blomet.
Many well-known clubs abound in the city. One place to start is New Morning where I enjoyed a recent show by vocalist extraordinaire Kurt Eling and his band. This large scale club presents a wide variety of music from around the world, so be sure to view listings in advance.
A tour of traditional and historically significant clubs always starts with the Duc De Lombard. The granddaddy of Paris jazz venues leans to swing and cabaret and draws top talent, playing there now is Michael Fienstein. Also located in the same part of the 1st district near Les Halles are Le Baiser Sale which has excellent open mike evenings and Caveau De La Huchette across the bridge in St Germain for more swing.
If you want to see Gypsy Jazz then a trip out to Saint Ouen for a Sunday afternoon to La Chope Des Puces. Its located at the flea market so you can combine the two sites in one day. Pay attention to the area and watch yourself when walking. Pickpockets abound. Other venues include the supper cub L’Atelier Charonne and Bouquet Du Nord, located near the Gare Du Nord.
And should you wish to feel a bit of Paris without leaving home, it is home to one the worlds great jazz stations TSF. Listen at: http://tsfjazz.radio.net
So be sure to get your bop on when visiting Paris. A little effort will be rewarded with a great time out.
The Yellow Flat is a one bedroom vacation rental apartment located a short walk from the Eiffel Tower. Bright, warm and secure, it is our home away from home when we visit Paris and the perfect short term rental for you, your family and friends. Returning guests always receive a 10% discount on their stay.