After Django: Making Jazz in Postwar France

University of Michigan Press, 2015.

How did French musicians and critics interpret jazz—that quintessentially American music—in the mid-twentieth century? How far did players reshape what they learned from records and visitors into more local jazz forms, and how did the music figure in those angry debates that so often suffused French cultural and political life? After Django begins with the famous interwar triumphs of Josephine Baker and Django Reinhardt, but, for the first time, the focus here falls on the French jazz practices of the postwar era. The work of important but neglected French musicians such as André Hodeir and Barney Wilen is examined in depth, as are native responses to Americans such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. The book provides an original intertwining of musical and historical narrative, supported by extensive archival work: in clear and compelling prose, Perchard describes the problematic efforts towards aesthetic assimilation and transformation made by those concerned with jazz in fact and in idea, listening to the music as it sounded in discourses around national identity, the nature of art, 1968 radicalism, social democracy, and post-colonial politics.

“[Perchard] expands the frontier partly by shifting the time period and dealing with contemporary jazz phenomena that extend beyond the interwar years to the present. His head theme – his thesis – is that one sees a kind of repetition compulsion manifesting itself again and again as French culture critics sought for and promoted a musician who would be the next Django Reinhardt … The theme is returned to and amplified throughout the chapters by way of a rich and musical prose. His ability to deal with the nuances of cultural and intellectual history while also making sense of music and how it manifested itself in different media makes this book a standout performance.” Matt Jordan, Twentieth-Century Music

‘[E]xtremely rich in information and provid[ing] a welcome array of (often ephemeral) French sources in translation … immensely illuminating.’ Bruce Johnson, Popular Music

After Django advances our understanding of jazz in post-war France, through a sophisticated analysis of jazz’s relationships with national identity, politics and cultural aesthetics. It shows Perchard to be a really first-class jazz historian and critic.” Andy Hamilton, Jazz Journal International

“[A]n extraordinarily detailed and compelling account … Perchard makes the connection of the music to the fabric and tumult of a changing society wonderfully vivid and utterly enthralling. This is a must-have for serious cultural historians.” Les Gofton, Times Higher Education

“Tom Perchard’s After Django is the latest addition to an impressive body of scholarship ... [an] illuminating study.” Adam Shatz, New York Review of Books

“Essential reading for anyone interested in the process of jazz’s assimilation into French culture in particular, and into European culture in general.” Chris Parker, London Jazz News

“Tom Perchard redresses the balance with perspicacity, solid sociological research and an obvious admiration for a couple of generations of French jazz musicians.” Brian Morton, The Wire

After Django presents a crisp, sometimes wry and ably supported picture of the evolution of art and ideas in postwar France.” Clifford Allen, New York City Jazz Record

After Django offers a much-needed English-language study of an area that historical (American) narratives on jazz generally only treat in passing.” Maristella Feustle, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

“The way Perchard writes about music in After Django is tremendous. The balance the author strikes between history and criticism is exemplary, as good as anything I've read in recent years. This is a remarkable book that is bound to make a huge contribution.” Eric Drott, University of Texas at Austin

“In the rich but eminently readable After Django, Tom Perchard’s subject matter and approach offers a refreshing challenge to jazz scholarship. Perchard masterfully draws on a range of relevant theory and concepts to produce a nuanced understanding of jazz practices within a fascinating period in French cultural history.” Catherine Tackley, University of Liverpool

“France looms large in the history of jazz performance and criticism. Tom Perchard’s After Django is the most comprehensive study in English of French understandings of jazz, the music’s influence in French intellectual life and entertainment, and the impact of Francophone discourses on jazz cultures in the United States and elsewhere. The music itself remains front and center in the narrative, which will surely captivate jazzophile readers.” E. Taylor Atkins, Northern Illinois University

“After Django is a vital contribution to the on-going expanded scholarly account of jazz in its global dimension, written by an author who knows his stuff inside and out, has consistently illuminating points to make about the Francophone scene that are transferable to a broader perspective on jazz as such, re-configuring many basic assumptions about a music all too preemptively conceived as authentically American.” Jed Rasula, University of Georgia

“Perchard significantly advances our understanding of jazz in post-WWII France by giving us a deep and sophisticated analysis of the music’s intersection with some of the larger issues of the day, including national identity, political tension, and evolving definitions of artistic culture. He provides a very rich picture of how jazz functioned locally within a global context. In addition, he makes a significant historiographical intervention by asking jazz historians and French historians to rethink their assumptions about how jazz became ‘assimilated’ into French culture.” Jeffrey Jackson, Rhodes College