All that jazz

We joined a jazz club. Technically it’s an association as defined by the law from 1901 that states essentially,  “Any citizen has the right to associate, without prior authorization.” I knew from studying for the citizenship interview exam that se réunir (to get together, meet up, assemble) was a guaranteed fundamental freedom of being French. Although I had anticipated that the ban on gatherings would have been by royal decree, it was under the signature of Napoleon Bonaparte that clubs were disbanded. Maybe he didn’t like jazz?

In reality, jazz seems to have been introduced to France 100 years after that first Emperor by African-American soldiers who were fighting in the First World War. Once the hostilities ended in 1918, the French embraced these lively sounds to help erase the horrible memories of the previous 4 years. Josephine Baker’s arrival in Paris in 1925 helped to make the music even more popular, eventually leading to the creation of the Hot Club de France with Louis Armstrong being named the jazz club’s honorary president. 

During World War II when nazi troops occupied this country, all foreign music was prohibited; only traditional French music could be played. The Hot Club de France set about fabricating a history of jazz that included its roots in 19th century French composers and sympathetic authors wrote books supporting the idea. English song titles became French as did the names of songwriters. Conferences and concerts were places where the Resistance could pass information to the Allies. Although the music survived, many members of the Hot Club did not because after a raid of their headquarters some were taken away to nazi death camps.

Back to that law of 1901, according to author Jean Taquet this was “a direct result of the separation of the church and state at the beginning of the 20th century.” After the revolution of 1789 the only organized groups were either part of the Catholic Church or trade unions and guilds. The thinking at the time, including Napoleon, was that if private individuals were allowed to organize they would be opposed to the nation’s interest. A change of government in the early 1900s introduced secularism and allowed all citizens to join together into recognized associations. The idea certainly caught on as there are currently approximately 1.5 million registered associations in France. According to the website Annuaire Mairie, our town has 1200 of them!

So how was our initial visit to this association officially called CarcaJazz in the club’s building named Croco Bleu? Even better than we expected. It was organized less than a year ago by 6 musicians and an accountant, and has already almost doubled their initial membership projection of 200. We first went to one of their jam nights that are organized around the classics where some of the founders got the evening going and then turned the stage over to any other members who wanted to continue the music. Other evenings have featured French artists known throughout the country. They haven’t necessarily all been to our taste but it gives us the chance to listen to other types of jazz.

CarcaJazz is the fourth association that we’ve joined since we moved here. Annual membership fees have all been in the range of 30€ per person and each has provided far more value than we’ve paid. Meeting new people and becoming a part of our community gives true meaning to that word mentioned above, se réunir


Associations history: Council for the English-Speaking Community article entitled The Non-Profit Organizations Law of 1901

Jazz history: Margo Lestz – The Curious Rambler blog

8 thoughts on “All that jazz

  1. This is very exciting news for Jill and I! As a lifelong professional musician (at 15 I was lying about my age so I could play clubs that served alcohol), we were worried about finding places there to listen to jazz, and didn’t imagine there would be much opportunity to sit in and jam. Can’t tell you how thrilled we are by this news!
    How excited are we? Jill had already followed Croco Bleu on Instagram before I was even done reading this blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking forward to hearing you at an upcoming jam session! Lying about your age? I did wonder how a 21-year-old guy could have teenage children 🤔🤣


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