Jazz is the uniquely American musical genre that emerged from the American South, an offspring of the blues and ragtime music of the African American communities around New Orleans. Over the years it has become a truly global form of music.
One of the places that has always embraced jazz is France. Many great Jazz players traveled to France and some moved there where they were welcomed and revered even more so than in their home country. Perhaps it was the roots of the Louisiana Cajun community that provided a deep connection for the French to the jazz form.
In 1948 the city of Nice, perhaps as a salve on the recent wounds inflicted by WWII, began a tradition that has continued every year, save 2016. The Nice Jazz festival is regarded as one of the top jazz events in the world. The list of players who have graced the stage in Nice is a Who’s Who of the legends of Jazz over the years.
Until 2011, the site of the event remained in and around the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and ancient city.
The headliner for that opening event was, perhaps the most famous of all jazz players, Louis Armstrong.
However, Louie was not alone. He brought with him his Jazz All-Stars.
His Original Jazz All-stars were not given that name flippantly. Each of the players in this group were truly the best of their day. Any of you who follow jazz even casually will instantly recognize these names.
- Louis Satchmo Armstrong – trumpet
- Jack Teagarden – trombone
- Arvel Shaw – bass
- Cozy Cole – drums
- Bunny Bregard – clarinet
- Earl Hines – piano
I can only image the scene on that early summer evening with the ancient ruins glowing in the marvelous Mediterranean light as the All-Stars took the stage to the raucous applause of the ecstatic crowd echoing from the walls of the very same venue that Roman crowds populated thousands of years ago.
I believe that if Louie could see what sprang from that fateful evening , he would approve.