In 1948, the first-ever jazz festival in France took place in the city of Nice, but if you want to know about its history, you have to go beyond that. So, in this article, we are going to talk about the history of French jazz and explain how the cultural landscape of France became synonymous with jazz.
The inception of Jazz music in France
Initially, jazz music came to France with African-American soldiers. During the World War I, they were stationed in France. However, in the early 1920s, jazz music took off to a flying start as F Scott Fitzgerald labeled the 1920s as the jazz age. After the World War I, French and US people were left with traumatic experience but this is when jazz music gave them life with its soothing and lively sound, becoming a perfect antidote to their sufferings. In fact, jazz music was a definitive source of purging the horrible memories of World War I.
French Riviera in the 1920s and the Jazz music
During the 1920s, France had a flamboyant time when people find it difficult to come to terms with World War I. As we have said, jazz music helped people to forget the horrific memories, many people from around the world would come to France, especially the Russian and American artists, musicians, and writers. They would head to straight to Paris which is famous for its liberal way of life. In fact, Paris was a destination for all kinds of people who want to party and enjoy the natural climate and beautiful sceneries. With the influx of these artists, the French Riviera, especially Nice, Juan-les-Pins, and its neighboring cities had become a place to live a carefree life with jazz music.
Now, in 1926, F Scott Fitzgerald had published The Great Gatsby and he had arrived in Juan-les-Pins. He instantly hired the best jazz musicians and started to live in Villa St Louis (now the Hotel Belles Rives). The local people had observed that along with Fitzgerald, those American and Russian artists had thrown parties with jazz music. Those parties tend to last until sunrise with people enjoying the enticing and peaceful sound of jazz music. However, all of these would take a blow with the Great Depression in the 1930s. The Americans would return to their home but the jazz music in France would survive this tough time
French Riviera during World War II and the evolution of Jazz music
The jazz music in France would continue its trend post-1930s, especially through an organization, named – The Hot Club. This club was founded by the Parisian students who continued to promote jazz to the French people. Within a short space of time, this club would become a symbol of jazz music, drawing top talents from all over the France. Even the club would bring American jazz musicians onboard with Louis Armstrong became the Honorary President of the Club.
When the World War II hit the world to its bottom, jazz music became more intertwined with the French culture. People viewed the jazz music as some sort of resistance to Nazi movement. Various jazz concerts were held to show support to the World War II victims, ultimately becoming a source of a rebel to the illicit political regime of Hitler. The Hot Club would then worked hard to make jazz music ‘Frenchify’ and make it a symbol of peace and hope in the eyes of French people.
The very first International Jazz Festival in 1948
When the World War II was finished, jazz music was fully established in France. And in 1948, Nice put the jazz music on the Riviera map. Louis Armstrong along with his all starts band came to Nice to perform at the first ever Nice International Jazz Festival. On that festival, renowned jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis had rocked the world with their amazing performances.
In this way, jazz music was born and established its trend in France. Along with the Nice International Jazz Festival, another jazz festival would make its way into the French culture, which is known as the Jazz à Juan Festival. This festival was first held in 1960, hosting numerous global jazz musicians.
From that time onward, these two jazz festivals have entertained millions of people. The Nice festival starts things off in July and the Jazz à Juan Festival cap the month of July in a stylistic manner.