Jazz in Occitanie part 2

Festivals and Conferences

If you are in the south west of France on holiday, or living here and you like jazz, you’re lucky. Actually, even if you are here on holiday or living here and you don’t like jazz, you’re still lucky.

In the summertime, when the days get longer and the sunshine is abundant, music festivals are in full swing. Truthfully, there are music festivals all over France all year long but there is nothing better than outdoor festivals under the warm southern sun.

In Occitanie, one festival that has become mythic is JIM or Jazz in Marciac. Every year, for about three weeks in August, thousands of visitors gather in what used to be just another little fortified town in Gascony. Taking place in the heart of the Gers, Jazz in Marciac is a wonderful festival which was created in 1978 by André Muller, a handful of jazz enthousiasts and Jean-Louis Guilhaumon, a former teacher, currently the mayor of Marciac. Most, if not all prominent jazz musicians have played here over the years. As well as wonderful music, there are also workshops for budding musicians and a great deal of food and drink to be enjoyed. So much so that after an exceptionally good performance from Brad Mehldau, whilst awaiting the lead act which was Mccoy Tyner all I could hear was people talking about their dinner, rather than the inspired performance they had just heard. “Ooh la la the duck was succulent! The cheese was quite below par compared with the wine!” For me it was a cultural experience in more than one way.  Welcome to the Gers!

Jazz in Sète is a great festival, held at a magical venue.  There are many music festivals in Sète throughout the year; the festival Jazz’àSète takes place in July. The stage overlooks the sea and the view is sublime. If you are lucky with the weather, as I have always been, the sun sets slowly over the water with a backdrop of gentle waves and the shadows of seagulls flying high through the ever changing sky of blue to purple to orange, then black. Jazz’àSète attracts more and more big names but is still a good place to discover new talent. If you plan to come here in July, check out the line-up well in advance!

Other Jazz festivals to consider if you are passing through the region of Occitanie, by department, include but are not limited to:

Jazz en Comminges – in St Gaudens, about 50 minutes from Toulouse heading towards the Pyrenees still in Haute Garonne, Millau en Jazz in Aveyron , Jazz à Foix  – in Ariège, Nuits du Jazz Vauvert in the Gard, Festival Jazzèbre– in Perpignan – Pyrenees Orientales, Jazz sous les Châtaigniers –  Roquefère en Aude, Sim Copans in Souillac in the Lot.

A’agglo au Rythme du Jazz in Nîmes in the Gard and Jazz sur son 31 in Toulouse in Haute Garonne take place later in the year when it is still warm but there are fewer crowds.

Most of these festivals started out as traditional jazz festivals. Many have evolved alongside the evolution or progression of jazz. To really understand jazz and appreciate it even more you might want to attend a conference about jazz.

Jazz and Society: an intimate conference

Michel is not a jazz musician, nor a jazz critic; he’s a jazz fan who likes to share his passion and knowledge. Mostly because he loves it but also because he feels that jazz is sometimes misunderstood, and looked upon with disdain.

He quotes Duke Ellington “by and large, jazz has always been like the kind of man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.”

He quotes Roland Morris, who asked the question “what would have become of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and King Oliver without the gangsters who employed them?” These mobsters and racketeers, often Jewish or Sicilian, were not blind to the racism which prevented the white establishment from appreciating and supporting black musicians.” At the speakeasy bars which proliferated during prohibition, they assured the security which enabled the music to thrive. Did this affiliation of mobsters with jazz musicians tarnish the reputation of jazz?

In his conference Jazz and Society, unsurprisingly Michel talks about the effect that jazz has had on society and the effect that society has had on jazz. He discusses the evolution of jazz, it’s correlation with the evolution of society and how they have influenced each other.

He sets the record straight from the beginning, discussing the principle differences between jazz and classical music in terms of interpretation and composition.

He evokes the arrival of jazz in Europe during the First World War; the golden age of jazz which flourished in the speakeasies of its time, under prohibition, and of the jazz of the 60’s when racial tension in America was in effervescence.

He discussed the origins of jazz, from gospel and blues and the contrasting styles of recording and interpretation in such a way that one wonders how it is that he never became a musician himself.

He shares the depth of his knowledge, born from his passion for music and tells the story of Jazz and Society interspersed with music.

If you would like to attend one of his conferences, the two following dates are open to the public. (Admission free)

Vieille Toulouse 19 March 2020, Montauban 15 April 2020

You can contact Michel Grasset for more information at: micanne@orange.fr .

I hope that you have enjoyed this post about Jazz in Occitanie. Follow My Beautiful Occitanie to keep up with my on my travels.  Next up Welcome to the Gers……………………………..à bientôt Christina


    • Would love to visit during the festival at Juan les Pins. Diane Krall played at Sète that summer a few years ago when awful things happened in Nice. She dedicated the whole set to the people of Nice and improvised everything at the last minute, playing mostly love songs. Such a lovely part of the world….côte d’azur.

      Liked by 1 person

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