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Paris BluesAfrican American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920-1960$
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Andy Fry

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226138787

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226138954.001.0001

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“That Gypsy in France”

“That Gypsy in France”

Django Reinhardt’s Occupation Blouze

(p.172) 4. “That Gypsy in France”
Paris Blues

Adny Fry

University of Chicago Press

This chapter tackles the complicated position of jazz in wartime Paris, by means of a sideways glance at France’s most celebrated jazz export, Django Reinhardt. He is encountered first via his surrogate, Emmet Ray, in Woody Allen’s “mockumentary” Sweet and Lowdown (1999). The film provides a narrative device that is used to present three conflicting version’s of jazz’s fate: that it was expelled tout court; that it survived on the margins as the music of resistance; and that it was tolerated, thanks to careful positioning by critics, but covertly contested the regime. None hold up under scrutiny, linked as they are by what Henry Rousso has called France’s “Resistancialist myth.” Rather, jazz prospered during the war, and the terms in which it was defended by critics Charles Delaunay, André Coeuroy and Hugues Panassié evolved naturally out of prewar discourse. If the nationalistic language that framed Reinhardt’s success was scarcely original, however, paradoxically his wartime music often sounded newly brassy and American. Some might locate resistance in that gap; others would, on the contrary, recognize a collaborating opportunist. This dispute is anachronistic, it is argued, since jazz promised “national regeneration” without political affiliation – but equally without political commitment.

Keywords:   Django Reinhardt, wartime jazz, jazz criticism, resistancialist myth, Charles Delaunay, André Coeuroy, Hugues Panassié, national regeneration

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