Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Best of Paris Concerts Past and Upcoming

Paris is passage oblige for any musician who’s reached world status or is reaching for it.  This Spirit of Black Paris blog post showcases some lesser known and some unexpected music venues that take you off the beaten path to great music in Paris. First browse our list + great photos that highlights Black voices that have graced the stages and continued the legacy. Then check out the exciting range of music programmed over the next few months in some of these spectacular temples of music.  


Salle Pleyel, 252 rue du Faubourg St. Honore, 75008.
Since 1927, this hall has featured some of the biggest international stars of the classic and contemporary music world.

Salle Pleyel's Art Deco Interior

Past Notables - just a few from a very long list:
Josephine Baker, Bal Negre 1927
Duke Ellington gave 3 concerts in July/August 1933. This was the first big jazz event in France.
Louis Armstrong’s first Paris concerts, 1934.

Coleman Hawkins with a French orchestra directed by Arthur Briggs, 1934.
Jamaican Berto Pasuka’s Les Ballets Negres came from London, 1946
The International Jazz Festival in France, May 1949 featuring Sidney Bechet, Hot Lips Page, James Moody, Max Roach, Don Byas and Charlie Parker, his only performance in France.
Langston HughesBlack Nativity opened for four weeks with Marion Williams, 1963.

Upcoming: Among the many classic concerts, Mory Djeli Kouyaté / Jean Philippe Rykiel – Oumou Sangaré from Guinea and Mali, June 22.
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette 30th Anniversary Tour, July 1st.
Joshua Redman Quartet, October 6th.

 Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 15 ave. Montaigne, 75008.
One block from the Champs-Elysées Avenue and surrounded by the most famous designer shops, this theatre and concert hall is celebrating its 100th anniversary this spring. Its has showcased the world’s best classical musicians, orchestras, opera, jazz and dance. Not afraid of scandal, it was the launching pad for Stravinski’s Afternoon of the Faun 1913 with Nijinksky, and in 1925, La Revue Negre which launched Josephine Baker with Sidney Bechet in the orchestra.

Past Notables:
Florence Mills in Blackbirds, 1927
Katherine Dunham Caribbean Rhapsody, 1951, which chronicled the stages of the black presence in the New World.
Sidney Bechet’s La Vie est une Sorcière, 1954 to 9 encores.
The Jazz Messengers, 1959, recorded as Art Blakely aux Champs-Elysées.

Théatre des Champs Elysées Interior

**Bal du Centenaire (100th anniversary Ball) - The 1920s of Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet and the Theatre des Champs-Elysées Music Hall, July 5th.

L’Olympia, 28 boul. des Capucines, 75009.
Any musician who is anyone has ‘done’ the Olympia - The Beatles, Edith Piaf, The Stones, Jacques Brel…. 

Past Notables:
Sidney Bechet gave a free concert in 1955 to commemorate earning a gold record; the overflowing audience tore up the place.
Adieu Josephine, a farewell tribute staged in 1956.
Quincy Jones with Nat King Cole, 1960.
Mahalia Jackson, 1961.
Nina Simone, Myriam Makeba, 1969.
Also The Nicholas Brothers, The Peters Sisters, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Miles Davis, Dee Dee Bridgewater… the list goes on.

Marcus Miller, June 27.
Dee Dee Bridgewater & Ramsey Lewis, July 1st.
George Benson, July 4.
John Legend, July 6.

 Alhambra Music Hall, 50 rue Amelot, 75011
Once a jewel of Art Deco architecture, this many times renovated music hall now hosts everything from Hip Hop, Rock, Jazz, and Variety  to World Music, even accordian concerts.

Past Notables:
The Peters Sisters, 1953.
Quincy Jones at 25 years old.

Omar Sosa, May 23.  This Cuban pianist’s fine arrangements hover somewhere between jazz and world music, mixing the beats of Africa, the Caribbean and South America.  

Omar Sosa

 Jose James, May 24th.   A blend of jazz, rap and soul in a voice that is compared to Gil Scott-Heron.
Edith Piaf interpreted by Jil Aigrot. October 11.  Jil Aigrot is the luminous voice of Piaf in the award-winning film La Mome. This show kicks off its world tour that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Piaf’s death.


Churches, with their superior acoustics, are a natural venue for music that lifts the spirit and the soul.

The Saint-Chapelle, Boulevard du Palais, 75001.

Originally the chapel for kings and queens, this Gothic church is situated in the heart of Paris on Ile de la Cité. Its iridescent stained glass windows are said to represent the Heavenly Jerusalem. In a city full of architectural treasures, this one is near the top of the list.

Past Notables:
Marian Anderson gave the last concert of her European tour on Sept 28, 1965. It was a benefit for the World Festival of Negro Arts Dakar.

Classical concerts of Mozart, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Bach’s Golderg Variations.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, Ile de la Cité, 75001.
The most famous church in Paris is celebrating its 850 years in 2013 with the installation of new bells and in at atmosphere of beauty and history, a magnificent overview Festival of Sacred Music.
Past Notables:
Thomas ‘Fats’ Weller gave a private recital with French organist Marcel Dupré in 1932.
Jessye Norman - Christmas recital 1990.
Barbara Hendricks - at the state funeral of President Francois Mitterand in 1996.

A full season of Festival of Sacred Music and  the Ava Maria, Renaissance and Contemporary Polyphony.

Madeleine Church, Place de la Madeleine, 75008.
Every year, 600,000 people climb the 28 steps that lead to this majestic neo-classic church, many to pay tribute to the relics of St. Mary Magdalene. Resembling a Greek temple from the outside, it has neither bells nor exterior crosses.  It is here, in 1975, that Josephine Baker’s state funeral was held, attracting tens of thousands. 

A long list of Sunday concerts, mostly classical, in this spectacular setting,
Gospel Dream April 27, May 14, May 28, June 18, July 23 +.
Oklahoma State University Choir - Sacred and Profane Songs, July 8th.
Mozarts Requiem and Bizet’s Te Deum by The 100 voices of Maurice Ravel’s Polyphonic Choir, April 25th.


Catch Julia Browne in action:

 For your French-speaking friends and relatives:

Jazz à Paris conference and tour:  For those francophones who would love to learn more about African American history in Paris en français, I will be giving a 1hr presentation and screening from our DVD series "When African Americans Came To Paris
Saturday April 20 at 11 a.m. 
Centre d'Animation Bercy, 51 rue Francois Truffaut, 75012. Metro: Cour St.Emilion.

Followed by
The Entertainers in Lower Montmartre - Jazz Comes To Paris 1920s & 30s
Saturday April 20 at 2 pm - 5pm
Meet at Centre d'Animation Bercy.
En français

Full programme here

And, in partnership with David Burke, writer/producer of Blue Lion Films and author/tour guide of Writers in Paris, we will be presenting the DVD series at the American Library in Paris on April 23rd, 7:30 pm.   Details here

If you're in Paris or know someone who is, we'd love to see you!

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Snuggle up to some jazz today! 

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