The Jazz Century : I Love Jazz!
The Jazz Century
I Love Jazz!
Nathalie Mercier + Magalie Vernet + Dorelia Baird-Smith, April 13, 2009
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 l’échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) by Louis Malle and even Jammin' the Blues by Gjon Mili (1944) shown in its entirety.

Andy Warhol_Monk, Circa 1956.
Andy Warhol_Monk, Circa 1956.
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. « Jazz has been a kind of substance, a craze which has more or less influenced all the arts, as if it had not only been music but also a state of mind resulting in effects well beyond the music field ». Daniel Soutif, Curator of 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 Dixieland 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.

James Weeks_Two Musicians, 1960_Thomas W. Weisel Fund
James Weeks_Two Musicians, 1960_Thomas W. Weisel Fund
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. 1 In New York, Downtown refer s to the southern part of Manhattan in contrast with Uptown, which refers to the northern part, above Central Park (including Harlem. ).

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