New York Times, November 7, 1926. I seem to have accidentally captured the attention of the global jazz community with some of my recent, music-related posts, so I figured I’d cut a few more swaths from that very same rug. The above passage is my all-time favorite thing ever written by a Frenchman about American popular culture. I’m not exactly sure who the author is, and will leave readers to decipher this tortured attribution for themselves: “Messieurs Schaeffner and Coeuroy, writing in La Revue Musicale, quote parts from a volume entitled “Jazz,” which appeared in Claude Aveline’s collection of Modern Music.” (As Slim Gaillard would ask, “Is that clear-o-vouty?”)
Anyway, it goes practically without saying that the French intelligentsia were way out in front of their American counterparts in taking jazz seriously. About the only prominent American thinker writing positively about jazz in the 1920s (as opposed to spreading moral panic about it) was Gilbert Seldes, author of the 1924 landmark treatise on pop culture, The Seven Lively Arts. But all Seldes was basically saying was that jazz was another valid musical idiom among many and that the best of it was good clean fun. Leave it to the French to equate jazz with the zeitgeist and limn the ectoplasmic links between the banjo, aviation and “tall, supple girls, the pride of commercial firms, ascending in flashing elevators, with their arms full of official papers.”
Above all, I love the sepia-toned techno-futurism of the thing. Magnetos! Electric fans! Air machines! Zut alors!
If anyone can bring me up to speed on those intriguing “red pantaloons in the woods of Meudon,” please drop a line.
I’ll run some more of this crazy Gallic balloon juice in a bit. Right now I’ve got some deadlines to meet.