PARIS.- Jazz, along with cinema and rock music, constitutes one of the major artistic developments of the 20th century. Born at the beginning of that century, this musical hybrid marked every aspect of world culture with its sounds and rhythms. More than a simple musical genre, jazz not only revolutionized music but also introduced a new way of life in 20th century society, which has deeply influenced the history of art of the last century.
With nearly 2,000 m2 of exhibition space, The Jazz Century invites the public to see to what extent the soundtrack of jazz has influenced the other arts, of painting, photography, cinema and literature, not forgetting the graphic arts, comic strips and animated cartoons. It offers a multidisciplinary and lively reading of the complex history of this music through ten chronological sections and nearly 1,000 works; objects and documents, illustrated musical scores, posters, records and sleeves, photographs, audiovisuals, etc.
The variety of the numerous documents shown bears witness to the variety of disciplines affected by the Jazz phenomenon: paintings by Léger, Pollock, Dubuffet, Basquiat or Bearden mixed with photographs from Man Ray, Carl Van Vechten, Jeff Wall and lesser known European artists. The exhibition includes copies of the Survey Graphic review, Columbia and Atlantic label covers, comic strips by Loustal and Guido Crepax, Chasing the Blue Train, an installation by David Hammons, nearly 40 sound sources, including the famous Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday, notably revived by Maria Schneider. A room devoted to the cinema presents numerous film extracts, such as Begone Dull Care, an abstract film by Norman Mac Laren, Ascenseur pour léchafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) by Louis Malle and even Jammin' the Blues by Gjon Mili (1944) shown in its entirety.
The Century of Jazz, shown at the musée du quai Branly offers a new perspective on a section of African American art, a specific aspect of American culture still little known on this side of the Atlantic and which has resulted in numerous artists being shown in the exhibition.
A history of jazz, a red thread guides us through the century
The exhibition is chronologically based around a red thread consisting of a timeline, a large showcase, 50 metres long, which follows year on year, the main events of the history of jazz. The numerous music scores, posters, records, reviews and magazines, books, photographs, films, animated cartoons and recordings exhibited remind the visitor of the marked episodes of this era.
The timeline takes us from Nobody by Bert Williams (1905) or Some of These Days by Sophie Tucker (1910;, successes which preceded the appearance of the mysterious « jazz » term, to the concerts at the Lincoln Centre or to the young «Downtown» generation of New York and numerous records and historic concerts, not forgetting the first ever jazz recording by the Original Di xieland Jazz Band in 1917. Punctuated by sound and audiovisual sources, this timeline guides visitors, leading them from room to room. The music clips played in a chronological order, serve as stages one encounters one after the other.
A large number of thematic rooms (Harlem Renaissance, The Swing Years, Bebop, The Free Revolution, etc.) all along the timeline, highlight the relationship of jazz with other artistic disciplines and also relate to the history of the century following the sequence of events of this musical red thread. The distinctness of the stands shown on the timeline particularly reflects the abundance of creation generated by jazz, from the illustrated album covers by masters of the genre such as Alex Steinweiss or Lee Friedlander, to the contemporary videos by Adrian Piper, Christian Marclay, Lorna Simpson or Anri Sala.
The exhibition is based on ten chronological sections linked together by the timeline showcase which follows the exhibition in the form of a long chronological fresco. This fresco is the red thread of the exhibition, which follows sections, which are themselves divided into thematic or monographic rooms:
It is obviously impossible to fix a precise date for the birth of jazz. 1917 is nevertheless considered as crucial because of the combination of two decisive events. In February, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, with its white musicians, made their first recording under the Jazz label (or to be more exact, Jass). In November, the American army closed down the red-light district of Storyville in New Orleans, whose famous establishments had employed a number of musicians, the majority of whom emigrated to the north of the United States and in particular to Chicago and New York. One has to be careful, however, not to overlook numerous earlier signs minstrels, coon songs, cake-walk, ragtime, etc. which announced the musical phenomenon which was about to dramatically change the century and inspired numerous artists well before this date.
« THE JAZZ AGE » IN AMERICA 1917-1930
In the United States, the First World War was followed by a fantastic craze for jazz music, as can be seen in F. Scott Fitzgeralds book Tales of the Jazz Age in 1922. The fashion was such that the expression coined by Fitzgerald, came to describe this whole period, a generation of children of jazz and no longer purely the sound track to the era.
In addition to the marvellous illustrations that decorated the music scores of hit songs, the jazz age can be seen in the photographs taken by Man Ray during this period (in particular the one entitled Jazz in 1919) and numerous other works by American artists such as Arthur Dove and James Blanding Sloan or individuals such as Miguel Covarrubias and Jan Matulka, who were living in the United States.
HARLEM RENAISSANCE 1917-1930
Whilst white Americans were living their Jazz Age, African Americans for the first time in their history reached true cultural recognition with the movement later called the Harlem Renaissance. If the jazz of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington was certainly one of the major components of this creative effervescence, the music was nevertheless far from being the only aspect. Under the leadership of key figures such as the writer Langston Hughes or the painter Aaron Douglas, a number of artists produced flourishing masterpieces, as much literary as visual, for whom the music was far more than just a pet subject. It also important to remember the significant role played in this mainly black movement by white artists such as Winold Reiss or Carl van Vechten.
« THE JAZZ AGE » IN EUROPE 1917-1940
James Reese Europes infantry band, the Harlem Hellfighters, arrived in France during the First World War and introduced new syncopated rhythms to Europe. With the end of hostilities, the Jazz craze quickly took over all aspects of the culture of the old continent. The arrival in Paris in 1925 of the Revue nègre with Josephine Baker crowned the invasion of this Tumulte noir, so nicknamed by Paul Colin in his famous portfolio. From Jean Cocteau to Paul Morand, Michel Leiris or George Bataille, countless writers were inspired in one way or another by this tidal wave. The phenomenon was no less appreciable in the field of the visual arts, from Marcel Janco to Kees Van Dongen, Pablo Picasso, Otto Dix or Fernand Léger.
THE SWING YEARS 1930-1939
Following on from the jazz age came Swing, a dance evoked during the explosive years of the thirties by the performances of important black bands with Duke Ellington and Count Basie or white bands such as those led by Bennie Goodman, Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller. When sound came to the cinema, numerous musical comedies bore witness to this new fashion and its appealing syncopated beat, which equally inspired many artists. In the United States, the modernist painter Stuart Davis and the regionalist Thomas Hart Benton shared the same interest in music. Whilst in Europe, Frantisek Kupka dedicated several paintings to this type of jazz that experts such as Charles Delaunay d escribed as Hot in order to set it apart from its sweeter offshoots. An event would take place at the end of this decade that would prove to be decisive: Alex Steinweiss, then a young unknown artist, would design the first record cover for Columbia Records.
TEMPO OF WAR 1939-1945
The Second World War had a dramatic impact on world culture. Whilst music, thanks to the V-discs produced by the American army, accompanied soldiers on to the battlefields, the calamity did not slow down jazz repercussions in other artistic fields. Piet Mondrian had no sooner arrived in New York than he discovered the Boogie Woogie, which would determine the essential style of his final masterpieces. William H. Johnson paid tribute to the popular steps of the Jitterbug. Simultaneously in Paris, the Zazous, probably so called because of a piece of music by Cab Caloway, were known for their eccentric attire the Zoot Suit!- which although hardly risky, ironically demonstrated their opposition to the invaders. Paradoxically, jazz was enjoying great popularity in France at this time, which perhaps explains the interest of Jean Dubuffet or Henri Matisse who, took up his scissors and cut some coloured paper from which he created his famous work Jazz.
With Bebop, which sprang up at the end of the war, jazz in turn became modern, whilst in painting, abstract expressionism was getting ready to show its first colours. Some of these protagonists, Jackson Pollock in particular, found direct inspiration from the jazz music that he was listening to all the time. In Europe, Renato Guttuso, Antoni Tapiès and Nicolas de Staël, also found in jazz a subject for their painting. A new artistic field, which appeared with the microgroove record, was the record cover. Some dozens of graphic artists, both famous and unknown, from David Stone Martin to Andy Warhol, Josef Albers to Marvin Israel, Burt Goldblatt to Reid Miles, devoted themselves to the task of the seduction of music lovers in a rigorously well-defined format : 30 x 30 cm. And lastly, cinema did not escape the influence of modern jazz. Amongst the dozens of films that remind us of this are Ascenseur pour léchafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) by Louis Malle or La Notte (The Night) by Michelangelo Antonioni.
WEST COAST JAZZ 1949-1960
The commonly accepted history of jazz thinks of Bebop as being mostly black and New York-based, whilst the typical image of the west coast; within range of the Hollywood studios, is assumed to be white and fresh cool even and smooth and sophisticated. In reality, despite a more agreeable climate and great subtlety, West Coast jazz could rival New York in personality and energy. Nevertheless, the typical graphic design of the record labels clearly reflects the difference between the two American coasts. Strong geometric lettering and pictures and close-ups of black musicians to the east, sunny beaches and pretty blondes twirling by the sea to the west
These holiday images nevertheless should not distract from the fact that California was also one of the favoured placed for encounters between jazz and poetry, beloved of the Beat Generation.
THE FREE REVOLUTION 1960-1980
Ornette Coleman recorded Free Jazz in 1960. With its double entendre title Free jazz! or Free jazz this record whose cover shows a reproduction of White Light by Jackson Pollack, marks a new order: after the modern period came this libertarian avant-garde. The visual arts responded to this contemporary free revolution of black liberation movements Black Power, Black Muslims, Black Panthers, etc. this is reflected in the full maturity of the work of artists such as Romare Bearden, newcomers such as Bob Thompson, who lived too short a life, or in Europe, British Alan Davie. Amongst the many effects of this upheaval, we must not forget Notes towards an African Orestes, this rough draft of a film in which director Pier Paolo Pasolini invited free improvisation by Gato Barbieri bringing Aeschylus to Africa.
CONTEMPORARY PERIOD 1960-2002
The presence of jazz in the contemporary art scene, if not always obvious, is far from negligible; as witnessed by the richly layered works of Black Music by Jean Michel Basquiat or those of his senior, Robert Colescott. In their own, very different, way, videos by Adrian Piper, Christian Marclay, Lorna Simpson and Anri Sala equally confirm this presence in the same way as the Prologue by Canadian artist Jeff Wall, whose inspiration came from Ralph Ellisons great novel, the Invisible Man. Finally, the little blue train of David Hammons, running through the coal hills, and the piano-lids conceived by this legendary African American artist serves as a conclusion to the exhibition: if the 20th century, that Century of Jazz, is well and truly over, the train of music that accompanied it is itself, still in motion.