Jazz Venues

Parisians heard jazz in a variety of different types of venues during the interwar period. The centrally-located theater districts on the right bank were home to many music-halls, where variety shows and vaudeville acts took to the stage each night. During the 1920s, jazz bands often became featured acts within these revues, and jazz groups also played in the surrounding hotels and restaurants. Further to the west, in the 8th arrondissement, the maps show that even theaters normally reserved for classical music eventually opened their doors to a few jazz performances.

The largest group of venues, located in the northern neighborhood of Montmartre around Place Pigalle, is home mostly to nightclubs and cabarets. Many of these were owned and managed by American expatriates, some of whom were entrepreneurial jazz performers themselves. Others were more traditional music-halls or dancings that adapted to the changing fashion by hiring jazz bands. These Montmartre clubs were hot-spots for late-night dancing and entertainment, particularly among wealthy foreign tourists.

Though the title of the map describes all of these locations as “jazz venues,” its worth noting that many did not host jazz exclusively. Furthermore, “jazz” itself is a difficult term to pin down. Ragtime, which was popular in Paris before the 1920s, would sometimes be retroactively referred to as jazz, as would any fast, rhythmic dance music. Parisians often liked to speak of jazz in general terms, rather than differentiating between the musical styles of different ensembles at different venue types. For the purposes of this project we’ve taken the descriptions and references from the 1920s at their word: If they called it jazz, so does the map.

To read more about jazz in Paris during the 1920s, see this poster from our Alliance Française exhibit.