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Jazz Diasporas

Race, Music, and Migration in Post-World War II Paris

Rashida K. Braggs (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 280 pages
ISBN: 9780520279353
January 2016
$29.95, £22.95
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At the close of the Second World War, waves of African American musicians migrated to Paris, eager to thrive in its reinvigorated jazz scene. Jazz Diasporas challenges the notion that Paris was a color-blind paradise for African Americans. On the contrary, musicians adopted a variety of strategies to cope with the cultural and social assumptions that confronted them throughout their careers in Paris, particularly as France became embroiled in struggles over race and identity when colonial conflicts like the Algerian War escalated. Using case studies of prominent musicians and thoughtful analysis of interviews, music, film, and literature, Rashida K. Braggs investigates the impact of this postwar musical migration. She examines key figures including musicians Sidney Bechet, Inez Cavanaugh, and Kenny Clarke and writer and social critic James Baldwin to show how they performed both as artists and as African Americans. Their collaborations with French musicians and critics complicated racial and cultural understandings of who could represent “authentic” jazz and created spaces for shifting racial and national identities—what Braggs terms “jazz diasporas.”
Rashida K. Braggs is Assistant Professor in the Program of Africana Studies at Williams College.
"A fascinating look into an important chapter in cultural history."—Kirkus Reviews
"Un libro apasionante, bien documentado y básico para entender la migración de músicos afroamericanos de jazz a Europa." ("A fascinating book, well documented and fundamental to understand the migration of African American jazz musicians to Europe.")—Tango Reporter
"In Jazz Diasporas, Rashida K. Braggs explores the creative tensions inherent in jazz as both African American and global music, between the particular and the universal. In doing so she gives us a noble and insightful portrait of black expatriate Paris in the decades after World War II."—Tyler Stovall, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light

"Heartfelt, rhythmic, fluid, and eloquent. Rashida K. Braggs takes us on a fascinating journey through the diaspora that jazz built, a journey you will not want to miss. You’ll know how I feel, and I’m feeling good!”—Trica Danielle Keaton, coeditor of Black Europe and the African Diaspora

"The story of jazz in France is not simply a story of the generations of expatriate musicians who found welcoming audiences in Paris. Nor is it solely a matter of the ways the French heard jazz as a paradigm of modernity and learned to play it in their own way. Instead, as Rashida K. Braggs demonstrates in this groundbreaking cultural history, jazz has been crucial above all because of the new kinds of social scenes it made possible when it 'migrated' across the Atlantic. With suggestive reconsiderations of pantheon figures (Bechet, Baldwin) as well as revelatory interpretations of some deserving of wider recognition (above all, the singer and club owner Inez Cavanaugh), Jazz Diasporas is a major contribution."—Brent Hayes Edwards, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Jazz Studies at Columbia University, author of The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism

"With enticing ethnographic details and a distinctive historicization of Parisian jazz, Rashida K. Braggs positions Paris as a vital site for the development of 'Black jazz' and adroitly exposes the myth of Paris as a racial paradise for African American musicians living exilic lives. By relating the stories of African Americans with white French, the analysis of film with literature, and the postwar era with today, Braggs leaves us with a colorfully interwoven and productively complex image of jazz and the experiences it embodies when it migrates. This exceptional, comprehensive work clearly illustrates Braggs’s innovative and valuable conceptualization of 'jazz diasporas' as spaces that trouble national, racial, and artistic boundaries."—Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, University of Texas at Austin, author of Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àse, and the Power of the Present Moment

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