52th JAZZ A JUAN
From the 12th to the 22nd of July 2012
To know the programme and reserve your tickets, click here
A small lesson of history
Juan-les-Pins is the town which welcomed the first European Jazz Festival in 1960, and this was no coincidence. Nearly 42 years earlier, as soon as the phenomenon began, jazz arrived here as if by miracle. This is where the worldwide myth of the “Jazz Age” and Enfants du Jazz came into being.
It all began with a real fairytale in 1923, the year when Louis Armstrong recorded his first 78 rpm records, the first jazz masterpieces, with King Oliver in Chicago. That year, a young American couple, good-looking and immensely rich, set up home on the cape of Antibes where they had a beautiful villa built, baptised ‘America’ as is only right and proper. And so began the passionate story which made Antibes a major melting pot of Afro-American music, and also of modern art and culture.
Gerald Murphy was born in Boston in 1888. His father made his fortune in New York by importing all kinds of precious objects emblematic of Europe that could seduce the local middle class. Having broken away from this commercial environment, Gerald preferred to devote his time to his two passions: music and painting. In Paris, he became close friends with Igor Stravinsky, and undertook to improve Igor’s knowledge of his own favourite musical style, that of the Black Americans. Up until then, Stravinsky, whose works were already inspired by early forms of jazz, had only experienced it through sheet music or transcriptions. Gerald Murphy arrived just at the right moment to help him, as well as his other friend Cocteau, discover jazz in a more direct way by sharing his record library with them. For in his house on the Cap d’Antibes he had assembled the first big collection of the best 78s of blues, ragtime, spiritual Negro and jazz.
Incredible but true: in 1928, in the harbour of Antibes, Gerald Murphy launches his yacht and during a sumptous celebration baptises it ‘Weather Bird’, after the title (Weather Bird Rag) of the masterpiece which Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines had only just recorded together… and which remains, seventy years later, one of the pinnacles of jazz.
At this period, songs and the music-hall were generating the majority of famous newcomers to Juan-les-Pins: as soon as it opened, the casino became the main annexe of the big Parisian halls; Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett came to celebrate their romance. Mad about Juan, Mistinguett even opened her own cabaret with its risqué reputation, La Cage à Poules. In 1929, in the heart of the pine grove, Mayol inaugurated the open air Théâtre de Verdure, the ancestor of the Jazz à Juan stage. Almost every musical star could be seen passing through (and often staying in) Juan.
During its second season, Juan’s new casino welcomed a troupe of charleston dancers one evening. Captivated by the atmosphere of this crazy night, the Murphys decided to stay longer and organised a private party. This evening was to inspire Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel, ‘Tender Is the Night’, and the Murphys’ lifestyle in Antibes would serve as a model for his other masterpiece, ‘Les Enfants du Jazz’.
In 1928, Gerald left Antibes for Hollywood, where the film maker King Vidor asked him to be his adviser for the shooting of Hallelujah, the first film played entirely by black actors and dedicated to their culture. It’s a unique testimony, since it shows the first audio images of Afro-American music.
But jazz in Juan, at this period, remained carefree. As early as 1927, the Auberge du Pin Doré welcomed the Blue Lagoon Orchestra, and the following year, the inauguration of the Pré-Catelan took place to the sounds of Danny’s Jazz Band. In 1932, Juan celebrated the 250th anniverary of champagne and for this tribute to Dom Pérignon, the new club Maxim’s accommodated no less than three orchestras: jazz, tango and rumba. For the musicologists, this was a good indication as to which musical styles ‘worked’ and who were in favour with the couple Maurice Chevalier/Mistinguett.
While a very young Claude Bolling was learning to walk on the beach of Juan-les-Pins, jazz-bands performed one after another at the Casino which welcomed, in 1935, Fred Ermelin’s orchestra with piano virtuoso Herman Chittison. That same year, and for the first time, Juan welcomed one of the jazz geniuses, Benny Carter, accompanied by the first great French saxophonist Alix Combelle. The following year, at the Casino, the big band Eddy Foy was a sensational hit, while Radio-Méditerranée set up its transmitter on the Saint-Jean plateau in Antibes. From then on, in Juan-les-Pins, jazz was to be a permanent part of the landscape.
Even before the talent of young Louis Armstrong blossomed, Sidney Bechet very quickly became one of the best interpreters of soprano saxophone, exercing a considerable influence on all the specialists of this instrument, in the future too, in contemporary jazz (Steve Lacy, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter…). Proud of his double origins, African and French, he lived a passionate love story with France, accompanying right from the 1920s Josephine Baker’s famous show « Revue Nègre», before settling down there and becoming a true star.
In the heart of the 1950s, the Giordanengo brothers’ club le Maxim’s embraced all partying souls of the French Riviera. Its greatest competitor of the time was le Vieux Colombier, summer residence of the whole troupe from the Paris jazz mecca bearing the same name; they all came down in 1949 to spend three months on the Côte d’Azur, with Juliette Gréco, Claude Luter, Moustache and Maxim Saury, the undisputed stars of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés club. All these lively fellows, firstly performing at the Antipolis cinema, quickly found their way to roguish Juan-les-Pins and le Vieux Colombier, where their performances guaranteed wild evenings.
Sidney was there of course. His marriage in Antibes in 1951 was a national event. The press talked of nothing else! On 17th August 1951, after the civil ceremony, he brought his wife Elisabeth in a dizzying carnival as far le Vieux Colombier, where the party continued until late in the night. Three kilometres of madness and mascarade with, among others, Picasso, who didn’t fail to observe this astonishing alchemy between Antibes’ prestigious past and the happiness of living there in the immediate present, by naming one of his famous paintings both «Antipolis» and «la joie de vivre». In order to thank his friends, Sidney danced a memorable bebop, encouraged by his wildest guest: Mistinguett.
As a tribute to the great Sidney, in 1960, Jacques Souplet and Jacques Hébey created, with the town’s support, the 1st European Jazz Festival of Antibes Juan-les-Pins. It was launched on 7th July 1960. Praise was given to Sidney Bechet of course, with the inauguration of his bust, the parade Dans les rues d’Antibes and the final evening of the festival on public holiday 14th July: jazz all along the Côte d’Azur with dances, traditional lantern parades, fireworks and galas in the grand hotels. Ever since, in the history of jazz in Europe, we speak about before and after Juan. Claude Nobs himself, inventor of the great event Montreux, said: «If I hadn’t been to Antibes, Montreux wouldn’t exist».
1960-2010 : 50 years of Jazz
Dapper dean of European festivals, "Jazz in Juan" has emerged over the decades as one of the places where legendary jazz elaborated memory, but especially when affirmed his eternal renewal.
And since the first editions that greeted the revolutionary Charlie Mingus, came on the baptismal wear free jazz, a "Genius" named Ray Charles for his first European concert, Miles Davis, creating the event to each of his appearances, Ella Fitzgerald improvising a memorable duet with a cicada, John Coltrane and his now legendary performance of "Love Supreme" in 1965 ...
Never fail in its tradition while at the chic, elitist and popular, but also eclectic, "Jazz in Juan" has presented since 1960 all jazz, all jazz. Any jazz, would this mean if we are to believe some really jazz? Go figure! Cecil Taylor admitted: "We do not really know now if jazz is an adjective or a name ... "Jazz is actually a name that comes over the trends and changes, so there are more than ever. Swing, bebop and post-bop, gospel and roots, soul, funk and rock, African, European or American, contemporary or "new orleans", black or white ... We no longer know which is better! Except for jazz fans "envinylés", the jazz fans and other dusty certainties jazzmaniaques enthusiasts boxes labeled boxes?
Jazz, reggae, Africa, Brazil ... Labels swinging and indeed the public exchange. Younger, more than ever, looking, curious, exciting. For him, this is the essence of the popularity of a universal type has never wavered, jazz, the one offered last fifty years the Gould pine, found in its different expressions and a new eternal youth, freeing themselves from shackles in which some people wanted to lock-total contradiction-a music born of a yearning for freedom and diversity. Since its birth, jazz is new, so pluralistic. A wonderful adventure Antibes Juan-les-Pins is a privileged witness.
Juan today? The festival celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2010, many jazz musicians who illustrate them have not yet: Jamie Cullum, Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, Avishai Cohen, Kyle Eastwood, Manu Katche, Melody Gardot ... This year again, with a Master of Ceremony "which is none other than the young and prestigious Marcus Miller, Jazz in Juan" is full of surprises, and best, no doubt. The family album is not finished expanding. If, in the words of Jean Cocteau, light jazz was slow to reach us, it shines permanently under the stars and the pinewood sunlights Gould. For 50 years, forever! And the eternal question "After the end of jazz, what? "Found his answer:" What Jazz! ".