“This is Boris Vian saying “Bonjour” from Paris...”
An exceptional complete set of Boris Vian's chronicles on French Jazz in the 1930s and '40s for the American radio station WNEW.
The autograph manuscript of 38 broadcasts written on blank or squared paper and occasionally on headed paper from the Centrale and the Office professionnel des industries et des commerces du papier et du carton. Numerous deletions and corrections throughout, some marginal drawings. All the manuscriptssave two are accompanied by their typescript. The seven other chronicles survive here in typescript only.
All the chronicles are written in English, with the exception of the first six pages which are in French. The manuscripts, all in Boris Vian's hand and in his picturesque and amusing style, have only the parts spoken by the writer during the recordings. As for the typescripts, they contain the complete chronicles, including the parts of the other speakers (Bob Langley, Ben Smith and Bob Carrier) and have annotations by Boris or his American collaborator Ned Brandt.
An important working file chronicling the rapid growth of jazz in France, by one of its practitioners and greatest promoters: the americanophile Boris Vian.
These chronicles were recorded between April 1948 and July 1949 by Radiodiffusion française to be re-broadcast in the US on National Public Radio WNEW in New York. The recordings themselves seem to be definitively lost; we can find no trace of them either in France or in the States. They were only published in written form – derived from the set here presented for sale – in 1997, under the title Jazz in Paris.
This series of broadcasts was supposed to present French jazz, as made and recorded from the 1930s and '40s to an American audience. Each chronicle, about 15 minutes in length, was constructed in the same way: an introduction to a band or musician, cut with musical jazz interludes. “Despite these efforts at promotion, the broadcast ran aground after a year. They had already asked Vian to reduce the amount of words in favor of the music (see no. 9), before the program was abruptly cancelled without its primary participant really having been prepared for it.” (Gilbert Pestureau)
A real promoter of jazz and himself a player of the “trompinette”, Boris Vian published many music columns in newspapers and magazines from 1946 on. The brief from WNEW was no small affair for him: he had learned English late in life and was above all a translator. Taking his job very much to heart, he was nonetheless able to come up with chronicles that were at the same time informa
tive, (because very well researched), but also tremendously poetic and funny.
Boris Vian's commitment went beyond the simple musical element, as Gilbert Pestureau points out in his introduction to Jazz in Paris: “Vian insisted on the fashion for, and importance in France
of, 'mixed' groups of jazzmen at a time when there was still segregation in the United States: 'this is Boris Vian saying bonjour from Paris and bringing you more and more French hot recordings made by various conglomerations of black and white musicians'”. (Chronicle n°38, 'Sidney Bechet')