Various Artists

Jazz in Paris, Vol. 1: Champs-Élysées 1917-1949

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This three-CD box set is the first of four volumes -- each representing a quarter of the city and a chronological period -- that are designated companions to the 100 albums in the Jazz in Paris collection. This box covers the widest range chronologically, and does a fine job of juxtaposing American jazz masters playing the city -- in some cases relocating there -- and showcasing the burgeoning French and European jazz scenes as well. What is beautiful about the assemblage here is that nothing is organized strictly by chronology. Instead, the notion of a journey up and down the famed street is pursued. Locations on the Champs-Élysées are chosen, such as the legendary cabaret Boeuf sur le Toit, (invented by Jean Cocteau). Some of the music here was actually recorded live at the club as well as at the various night spots and theaters surrounding it. In fact, the box's first cut is actually by Cocteau with the Dan Parrish Orchestra from 1929. Also assembled here are a beautiful read of "Mood Indigo" by pianist Garland Wilson from 1933 and a beautiful "Farewell Blues," recorded by Benny Carter in 1938 with Django Reinhardt and Fletcher Allen. Reinhardt is recorded at the Boeuf sur le Toit in 1947 with the house band, and later with the Hot Club of France. Other French jazz on Vol. 1 comes from the French Jazz Quintette, the Swing Royal Orchestre Musette, and Christian Bellest. American expatriates Sidney Bechet, Josephine Baker, Bill Coleman, and Don Byas are here as well. The package is lavishly illustrated with a 60-page booklet featuring tons of rare photographs of the street and culture as well as musicians and clubs. There are concert programs, reproductions of record covers, and excellent liner notes, personal reminiscences, footnotes, etc. -- all of them in both French and English lexicons. The price is very attractive, making each of these four volumes almost irresistible to historical jazz fans.

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