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Jazz a Juan

George Benson

A history of jazz a juan


In 2010 the International Jazz Festival in Antibes Juan-les-Pins, the oldest running jazz festival in Europe, will be celebrating its 50th birthday. For this occasion, the Antibes Juan-les-Pins Visitors & Convention Bureau, organiser of the jazz festival, wants to give a special effect to this cultural event, which remains, beyond divisions and trends, not only one of the stronger moments of our town’s and region’s cultural calendar, but also of jazz in France and Europe.
Many events are already programmed for this 50th anniversary; exhibitions, conferences and projections, an art book covering the history of Jazz à Juan, a commemorative stamp, a DVD retracing some of the great highlights that have made history at the festival and an important promotional campaign directed at French and International media.
From the 1920’s Antibes Juan-les-Pins was the anchor point in Europe for the new generation of citizens from free America and the meeting place for intellectuals and modernists, following the example of Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway etc. With them came jazz and a new style of living. From then on, the “joie de vivre” city, so precious to Picasso, also became the adopted homeland of Sidney Bechet, as a tribute to which he wrote the jazz piece “In the streets of Antibes”. Since then the world renowned, “Jazz à Juan” has become one of the most efficient vectors of communication for tourism and culture in Antibes Juan-les-Pins as has theatre for the city of Avignon and opera for the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Orange! You will find some relevant historical facts in the annexes concerning the “most elegant European festival” (quote Télérama magazine), as well as some outlines of various operations that we will be organising, to make the party an unforgettable moment at Antibes Juan-les-Pins and that the birthday celebrations are commensurate with a half-century of legendary Jazz…à Juan! The first “Jazz à Juan”, created to pay tribute to the famous adopted Antibian, Sidney Bechet, was at the origin of a number of other festivals that spread throughout Europe. Claude Nobs, creator of the major European jazz event that we know as Montreux, said “If I hadn’t stopped by at Antibes, Montreux would not have existed”! The concept was revolutionary. For the first time the public could discover the main actors of this incredible saga known as jazz. The heroes in question were there for real, on stage…and so close. What’s more there was the most exquisite backdrop you could imagine: the centenary pine trees of the Pinède Gould and behind them, the crystal blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Naturally it was an audacious challenge, but brilliantly executed. As well as having welcomed the “who’s who” of jazz since 1960, the Antibes Juan-les-Pins festival possesses a double attraction. Firstly a rich and diverse programming, staying faithful to authentic jazz repertoires. But also, and more importantly, it remains a true laboratory reminding us all that jazz remains to date a living & breathing music style: first acts of very high quality, free “off” concerts, hotels bars & streets overflowing with Brass Bands…

One can discover a multitude of sensations, a variety of music, a pleasant feeling on a human scale, set on a mythical site between the stars and the beach. Pinède Gould represents to all major jazz players what La Scala in Milan does to an opera singer: a confirmation of success and an extraordinary venue and a unique communion with the audience. From 1960 Charles Mingus gave us our first taste of what was considered as an anthological concert. Then came the start of the “love affaire” between Ray Charles and la Pinède stage, the revelation of Miles Davis in 1963 and the memorable duet between Ella Fitzgerald and a cricket! In 1968, after Coltrane’s shock concert and the ensuing polemic, the irresistible “free jazz” style took over before the dizzy heights of Jazz Rock and Fusion in 1976. The 1980’s saw an impressive collection of pianists (Petrucciani, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett), the revelation of Al Jarreau, the extraordinary duet between Stanley Clarke and Miroslav Vitous in 1986, the duet between Sarah Vaughan and Michel Legrand and the appearances of Carlos Santana or the great Jessie Norman… Of course we shouldn’t forget the fantastic concerts given by the faithful trio of Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins.
“Jazz à Juan” synonymous for its diversity of style and programs, but also for its musicians; novices who became famous, innovative iconoclasts, classical and modern and all from that great jazz family… No other jazz festival has done more for the recognition of such mixed and improvised music throughout the world: at Juan-les-Pins Africa is in the public’s heart, the “Som do Brazil” dance with the Latinos from Cuba and Tito Puente converts France to the magic of mambo before John Mc Laughlin and Shakti open the Road to India… It was a constant succession of milestones, which embraced New Orleans, Gospel, Blues, Swing, Be-bop, Latin Jazz, Cool Jazz, Hard-Bop, Free Jazz, Jazz-Rock, Modern Jazz or Electro Jazz over the course of many historic concerts which from henceforth represented the memory of European jazz, but which also helped to build its future as can be seen by the recent performances by Roy Hargrove, Richard Bona, Thomas Dutronc, Norah Jones or Jamie Cullum. Since 1960 the immensely diverse “jazz saga” has been carved in stone, as artists come and go, from new talents to the sacred legends, innovators or iconoclasts, classical or modern. Beyond divisions and trends, Jazz à Juan remains essential in more than one aspect:
- Essential in the artists that have played there
- Essential in the diversity of the music that can be heard there.
- And finally, essential by its exceptional influence, which makes it one of the most prestigious and effective communication vectors for Antibes Juan-les-Pins on the international stage.




The Best Of "OFF" in the streets of Antibes Juan-les-Pins – Thursday July 12 2012

Place at the festival conviviality and "Joie de vivre" in this great Jazz Big Band


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