Monday, January 16, 2012

Charles Delaunay (1911-1988)

To describe the impression I got from my very first jazz concert ever to reach my ears remains utterly impossible (Charles Delaunay) (source:Django - Michael Dregni p. 79)
Georg Lankester

Charles Delaunay (1911-1988) ( Nederlands) Charles Delaunay (1911-1988) ( English)

Charles Delaunay was born in Paris on January 10, 1911 as a son from artistic parents. His father and mother, Robert and Sonia, were both well-known painters, even with a reputation outside France. Fortunately he was also gifted with an artistic talent. Still as a young man he was fascinated by jazz music which he absorbed. He played guitar and drums and rather soon appeared to be an excellent organizer. At the age of 23 he became secretary general of the Hot Club de France organization and, assisted by a few fellows, he would make it a club of world reputation. In 1935, in cooperation with Hugues Panassié (the president) the so-called Jazz Hot magazine was published, of which he became the director. It soon got attention all over the world, because it was the very first jazz magazine and written in French and English. Moreover Delaunay, who was very active, became manager of the newly formed house band: the Quintet of the Hot Club de France which gave public concerts starting from the end of 1934. He strongly promoted this formation and, as we all know, very successfully. Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli made a deep impression and created the first European jazz.
International activities
Together with Hugues Panassié, Delaunay was aiming to attract American jazz musicians and got them to France for concerts and recording sessions. He also delivered lectures on jazz. Here are some names of well-known artists from those days: the piano players Freddy Johnson, Spencer Williams, Garland Wilson and singer/band leader Freddy Taylor ( Django joined him early ’35 for one month) However, Delaunay’s most productive period was still to come.

Charles Delaunay on drums. Left, prob. Bill Coleman (source: 100 Years of Jazz - Annette Hauber-Wolfgang Sandner) (p.181)
In 1936 an extensive jazz discography written by him was released. It was the very first discography in the world is still beeing considered ‘a standard work’. On top of that, he later issued several updated versions. In the next year, the world exhibition in Paris took place and the Hot Club leaders, stimulated by Delaunay organized numerous sessions of American stars like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Dicky Wells, Eddie South, Bill Coleman and many others.
New Hot Discography - Charles Delaunay ( New Hot Discography - Charles Delaunay (1948)(reprint)(collection: Hans Koert)
It was in those days that the German Django admirer and author Dr. Schultz-Köhn visited him in Paris eager to learn more about jazz in France. They would remain friends till the end. There was more to happen. In the same year (1937) Charles established his own record label called “SWING”, exclusively meant for jazz recordings. Unique in the world! Under his supervision and from his studio recordings of Hawkins and Carter with Django and other Frenchmen were realized.
Oscar Aleman's own recordings in Charles Delaunay's New Hot Discography ( New Hot Discography - Charles Delaunay (1948)(reprint)(collection: Hans Koert)
Many other artist would follow, such as Michel Warlop, Philippe Brun, Eddie South etc. These were often accompanied by the French guitarist and his rhythm group. And of course, an extensive range of records of the famous quintet was launched, by “SWING” and other record companies.
In April 1939 very historical recordings took place of a formation which included Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, Bill Taylor and Django. The great jazz critic Gunther Schuller called them ‘Masterpieces of Chamber Jazz’ in his book “The Swing Era”. More names of French musicians who recorded for “SWING” were:
Alix Combelle, André Ekyan, and e.g. Pierre Allier. As far as Charles himself is concerned, it might be interesting to mention that, under the name H.P. Chadel he was active as a drummer and guitarist; once he even replaced Django, simulating him while Joseph took the solos.
Charles Delaunay (left) with Django Reinhardt (right) (source:
1940 and the war period
Then the occupation time followed. However, year after year still “SWING’ records were launched. Only at the very last part of the war artistic activities were slowing down. Notwithstanding the fact that the Germans hampered a further development, Charles continued his jazz activities. Together with Panassié he kept issuing “Jazz Hot” although the publication was reduced to a one page flyer.
Soon after the liberation he left for the USA where he supervised recordings of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Moreover he organized sessions in England whereby Django and Stéphane were re-united. With Léon Cabat, Charles managed also the “VOGUE” label still well-known for its jazz artists. Not long afterwards it came to a conflict between him and Panassié because of different opinions on new jazz styles. They then split and each went their own way.
In order to give an impression of the large number of recordings initiated by Delaunay: in 1948 the Hot Club quintet issued the titles “Mike” and “Lady be good” on SWING no. 287. This indicates how much was produced under his own label since its started.
One year after his separation with Panassié he organized concerts of Be-bop men such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker in Paris. On top of that he promoted Sydney Bechet who, thanks to him, made a second career. Many historical recordings demonstrate Delaunay’s activities of those days.
In 1953 he issued several publications on Django Reinhardt (which were soon sold out) and next to this he published a biography of the guitarist which includes an extensive discography.
Charles Delaunay in front of a bill for a Coleman Hawkins concert (photo courtesy: William P. Gottlieb)
Apart from the supervision in numerous recordings, Delaunay was then carrying out radio broadcasts and organizing concerts and festivals e.g. ‘Le Salon du Jazz” (1954 ) and the “Festival Cannes” (1958). Finally in 1969, because of his know-how and experience, he became vice-president of the International Jazz Federation and accomplished a lot of activities for this organization.
Although his health gradually deteriorated, he remained involved in new jazz developments. He gave 40.000 records out of his vast collection to the ‘Bibliothèque Nationale’ of Paris in order to guarantee the future of as many historical jazz recordings as possible. In 1986 he was present at the ‘Django Festival’ of Samois and the next year again, but now on the invitation of the organizers who payed tribute to him officially. His health then got considerably worse and in 1988 he passed away in Chantilly at the age of 77. He left us behind a huge legacy in the form of books and numerous recordings which we always can enjoy.
Charles Delaunay with Thelonious Monk (photo courtesy: Marcel Fleiss)
Below a list of publications by Charles Delaunay:
HOT DISCOGRAPHY (1936) ‘Jazz Hot’ Edit. Paris
HOT DISCOGRAPHY (1938) ‘Jazz Hot’ Edit. Paris
HOT ICONOGRAPHY, Lithographies (1939) ‘Jazz Hot’ Edit. Paris
DE LA VIE ET DU JAZZ (1940) ‘Jazz Hot’ Edit. Paris
HOT DISCOGRAPHY (1940) ‘Commodore Music Shop’ New York
HOT DISCOGRAPHY (1940) ‘Editions ABC’ Paris
DE LA VIE ET DU JAZZ (1945) ‘L’Echiquier’ Lausanne
NEW HOT DISCOGRAPHY (1948) ‘Criterion Music Corp.’ New York
JAZZ 47, en collaboration avec Robert Goffin, America, P. Seghers, Paris
DJANGO MON FRERE, (1954) Edit. Eric Losfeld, Paris
DJANGO REINHARDT ‘Cassell’ Londres (1961) et ‘Jazz Book Club’ Londres (1963)
DELAUNAY’S DILEMMA, de la peinture au jazz (1985) Edit. W. Mácon

Georg Lankester

Charles Delaunay, born in Paris, January 1911 and passed away in Vineuil St. Firmin near Paris, February 1988, is one of the most important French jazz promotors. His name will be remembered with the Hot Club de France and the Paris Jazz Festival, the Jazz Hot magazine and the Swing record label. He was a producer and host in numerous live radio programs like Jazz Variétés and was the author of the first Jazz Discography. Charles Delaunay was one of the most important promotors of French jazz. Georg Lankester published a short biography, entitled Charles Delaunay (1911-1988). The Keep(it)Swinging blog loves to point you to this great French jazz promotor. If you love be the first to know what articles have been published, follow this blog at Twitter ( #keepitswinging
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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot for this well researched portrait of Charles Delaunay, an important figure of the jazz scene in France and Europe from the 1930s and on. Definitely, this is a crucial chapter of the story of jazz outside the USA.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Bill Forbes said...

Very interesting! Never realised that he was the son of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, major figures in 20th century art.

he was, of course, honoured in John Lewis's "Delaunay's Dilemma"


9:05 AM  

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