Jazz a Juan is an annual jazz festival that takes place in the famous French holiday resort town of Juan les Pins. In fact, Jazz a Juan is the oldest jazz festival in Europe and initiated a special relationship between jazz music and the French Riviera .
The French Riviera is becoming known more and more for its Jazz festivals with both Nice and Juan leading the way and attracting huge international artists. Now Monaco, Cannes and Saint Tropez all have jazz elements to their annual live music summer line ups. It was Juan les Pins however, that saw the very first festival and could be called the birth place of Jazz in the region.
It began in the early 1920's, when jazz and afro- American music was starting to hit the main stream in the United States and Louis Armstrong was cutting his first 78rpm records. One particular young American couple were to become instrumental in the introduction of this new genre of music to the South of France.
Gerald Murphy was the son of a wealthy entrepreneur and was increasingly devoted to his passion for music, painting, the arts and the pursuit of a more philanthropic lifestyle than pursuing business interests.
His passions naturally drew him to Paris where he became friends with Ivor Stravinsky and Cocteau. Murphy set about educating his new friends on his own musical passion for Black American artists. He set up home in the South of France near Antibes and brought with him his extensive musical library of never before heard in Europe American jazz artists encompassing blues, ragtime and gospel.
There followed numerous landmark occasions and private luxurious private events and parties that would lead to the Juan les Pins jazz festival as we know it today. Gerald Murphy launched his private yacht calling it Weatherbird after the Louis Armstrong piece of the same name, Weatherbird Rag.
The celebrations brought the music to life and, the local community keen to embrace it's wealthy fun loving residents, soon orchestrated shows and events to entertain the new wealthy residents. The Casino became the main venue inviting stars like Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett to perform as well as risqué cabarets, 'La Cage a Poules.'
The open air Theatre de Verdure was opened and the same musical wave that was sweeping America caught the imagination of the French Riviera too. This period coincided with another well known visitor to the French coast, F. Scott Fitzgerald who was inspired by the Zeitgeist to write 'Tender is the night' and even based his work 'Les enfants du Jazz' on Gerald Murphy's lifestyle.
Even as they moved on, the Americans had lit a spark in the town and despite their departure back to Hollywood, it was a fire that refused to be extinguished. Juan and jazz were meant to be together and the music is still the soundtrack to this gorgeous French beach town.
Artists such as Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald all performed their European débuts at the festival and the spirit of the music still permeates the French Riviera town.
2010 saw the 50th anniversary of the Jazz in Juan festival, although the Juan les Pins connection to the musical genre pre-dates the festival by several decades. It remains the oldest Jazz festival in Europe and has seen such seminal artists as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and more recently Richard Bona and Jamie Cullum have performed there.
The line up for 2013 includes jazz giants such as Marcus Miller and Keith Jarrett with Gary Peacock and Jack Dejohnette, as well as more poular and fusion artists such as Sting, Diana Krall and The Temptations.
For full listings details and tickets look online at the official Jazz a Juan website.
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