Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hugues Panassié ( 1912-1964 )

PANASSIÉ had found what he believed to be the most beautiful music in the world, and his book rings with superlatives and clarion bursts. ( Whitney Balliett in Panassié, Delaunay et Cie)
Georg Lankester

Hot Club de France – the first jazz organization in the world - part 1 Hot Club de France – the first jazz organization in the world - part 2 Charles Delaunay (1911-1988) Hugues Panassié (1912-1964)
(Nederlandse linken): Hot Club de France: De eerste Jazzorganisatie ter wereld - deel 1 - Hot Club de France: De eerste Jazzorganisatie ter wereld - deel 2 - Charles Delaunay (1911-1988)
Hugues Panassié (1912-1964)

I don't see why we need a Frenchman to come over here and tell us how to play American music. I wouldn't think of going to France and telling him how to jump on a grape. (Eddie Condon about Hugues Panassié's visit to the States, due to its Swing recordings) (source: Panassié, Delaunay et Cie - Whitney Balliett)
Hot Club leader and promotor of traditional jazz
This Frenchman, Hugues Panassié, who has played a key role in the world of jazz, was born in Paris on the 27th of February 1912. Little is known about his youth, but a fact is that he played saxophone. By the age of 20 he gradually got some reputation for his knowledge of music. He was then seriously involved in the rapidly developing jazz in France and one of the very first persons in Europe to publish about this new form of music. He strived for recognition of jazz music which was by then in Europe hardly accepted - A foundation of historical value

Le Hot Jazz - the magazine - Revue Internationale de la Musique de Jazz ( September-October 1937) ( Georg Lankester archive)
In 1932 Hugues founded, together with Pierre Nourry and a few others, the “Hot Club de France” – the first jazz organization in the world, thereby even surprising the Americans. He became its president and would remain so till his death. In 1934, as a result of his cooperation with secretary Charles Delaunay, the magazine “JAZZ HOT” was issued. It was the first jazz magazine in the field of jazz and it would remain a leading medium for more than ten years. With a good feeling for marketing this great issue was always published in two languages. The bimonthly issue provided the reader with critics on musicians, new records and gave information about concerts to come. It was also the “Hot Club de France” organization, which leaders invited great American jazz musicians, like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Eddie South and Bill Coleman to visit France for concerts and recording sessions. A new and valuable initiative which had a lot of impact on young French musicians.
Not much later it was arranged that the string quintet of guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli became the house orchestra of the Hot Club society. Its highly talented musicians (all on string instruments) produced the first European jazz.
Hugues Panassié on alto saxophone: early photo ( ca. 1928) (source: Stéphane Grappelli - with and without Django)(Patrice Panasié Collection)
Due to these promotional efforts the Hot Club Quintet made its breakthrough and was soon admired by music fans everywhere, first in Europe, later even in the USA, Panassié assisted his colleague Delaunay in a project of the latter: the launching of the record label “SWING”, solely meant for jazz music. A unique step in the record business, never taken before.
Further promotion
As mentioned before, it was Panasié’s great merit that because of his style of writing, knowledge and passion, jazz came within the reach of a broader public.
A lot of people now got interest as a result of which the first jazz fans were born, created, a phenomenon that till then was unknown.
Guide to Jazz (1956) by Hugues Panassie and Madeleine Gautier ( Translation by Desmond Flower with an intro by Louis Armstrong.)
He also had the supervision for a series of “SWING” recordings in New York with giants such as Sidney Bechet, Tommy Ladnier and Mezz Mezrow which mark the New Orleans revival. These sessions were issued on two RCA-albums, another proof that Hugues was mainly involved in the traditional jazz and the New Orleans style in particular. Contrary to Delaunay he was not interested in post war jazz. In 1947 it came to a break between both managers, when the Be-bop jazz style made its entry. Panassié didn't recognize this style as a form of jazz and the two men separated. All the same, many great results were achieved in the long period of their cooperation.
Hugues Panassié ( source: )
Going on alone
Still as chairman of the Hot Club de France he issued a HCdF-Bulletin which he now had to edit himself. Till the end of his life he defended the traditional jazz by writing articles on it so that he can be considered as one of the apostles of this kind of music. On top of the great number of publications, he organized radio broadcasts which attracted a considerable number of listeners. And when you look up books on jazz, you will often find his name. A lot of authors refer to his pronouncements on (traditional) jazz musicians, particularly with regard to the pre-war period.
Hugues Panassié with guitarist Tiny Grimes ( photo courtesy: William P. Gottlieb)
On the 8th of December 1974 Panassié passed away in the French town of Montauban. He left behind a huge number of publications and historical recordings. His name will for always be linked to the Hot Club de France of which he was the president since its foundation. Partly due to his initiatives fame was brought to the Hot Club Quintet in such a way that their music is now synonymous for the style.

Milt Buckner, Hugues Panassié and Jo Jones ( source:
A biography

‘Le Jazz Hot’ – Correa, 1934
‘La musique de jazz et le swing’- Correa, 1943
‘Les rois du jazz’- Grasset, 1944
‘Douze années de jazz’- Correa, 1946
‘La véritable musique de jazz’- Robert Laffont, 1946-52
‘Histoire du vrai jazz’- Robert Laffont, 1959
‘La bataille du jazz’- Albin Michel, 1965
‘Dictionnaire du jazz’ (en collaboration avec Gautier & Michel, 1971
Georg Lankester

Hugues Panassié was one of the first to publish in 1934, 22 years old, a book about jazz music entitled Le Jazz Hot and gave this music a place in Europe, or better said, in France. He was one of te promotors of Jazz in France, together with Charles Delaunay and their Hot Club du France organisation. Georg Lankester wrote a short biography about this Hugues Panassié as part of a series blogs, dedicated to the Hot Club de France: the first Jazz organisation in the world. The Keep (it) Swinging blog loves to point you to this kind of pioneers and loves to share publications by guest contributors .... If you won't miss any, follow it at Twitter ( #keepitswinging) or ask its free monthly newsletter ( ) (in Dutch or English)

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot for this entry pointing to Hugues Panassié and his merits into jazz, a true pioneer of writing seriously on jazz - and a great entrepaneur organizing sessions both in Europe and the US.

9:23 AM  

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