Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story Between the Great Wars

TitleHarlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story Between the Great Wars
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsShack, William A.
Number of Pages191
PublisherUniversity of California Press

During the years between the world wars, a small but dynamic community of African American jazz musicians left the United States and settled in Paris, creating a vibrant expatriate music scene and introducing jazz to the French. While the Harlem Renaissance was taking off across the Atlantic, entertainers in Montmartre, the epicenter of the Parisian scene, contributed enthusiastically to a culture that thrived for two decades, until the occupation of the city by German troops on June 18, 1940. This book looks at this cultural moment, one in which African American musicians could flee the racism of the United States to pursue their lives and art in the relatively free context of bohemian Europe. It is a comprehensive treatment of the rise and decline of the African American music community in Paris; it considers the international dimensions of black experience in the modern era, and explores the similarities and differences between Harlem-style jazz and culture in Europe and America. The author focuses on some of the people who played critical roles in shaping the jazz scene in Montmartre—Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and Bricktop—but also discusses others who opened clubs, underwrote loans, and contributed their musical talents, paying particular attention to club culture. He describes the musicians' experiences, the settings in which they performed, and the response of French audiences. Fusing biographical, sociological, and historical details, the book brings this unique era to life.

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