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Robert Goffin (1898–1984)

Auteur de Jazz,: From the Congo to the Metropolitan;

28 oeuvres 61 utilisateurs 1 Critiques

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Œuvres de Robert Goffin

Jazz,: From the Congo to the Metropolitan; (1944) 15 exemplaires, 1 critique
Armstrong, a dzsessz királya (1974) 4 exemplaires
Jazz from Congo to Swing (1946) 3 exemplaires
Le roman de l’araignée (2020) 1 exemplaire
Faits divers 1 exemplaire
Historia del jazz 1 exemplaire


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The best book on 'hot jazz' ever written by an anti-fascist Belgian surrealist lawyer.

When I hear a good jazz band, nothing exists outside this all-sufficing, shadowy power which acts on my emotions like pure poetry.

The Belgian Robert Goffin claimed to be the first writer to treat jazz seriously. As a law student in 1919, Goffin saw a band at the Alhambra club in Brussels led by drummer Louis Mitchell (the ‘noise artist supreme,’ according to the local press) and featuring Sidney Bechet, and shortly thereafter he wrote an article on jazz for the literary review Le Disque Vert. He went on to start his own jazz magazine in 1927 (the first in the world) and in 1931 published Aux Frontiéres du Jazz, the first full-book treatment on the subject.

Goffin regarded the European mind as uniquely prepared to receive jazz when it arrived. Early in the 20th c. there was an openness to new forms of expression, largely as a consequence of Freud’s ‘discovery’ of the subconscious. A qualitative change in artistic feeling was apparent in new works of art—the poetry of Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars, the novels of James Joyce, the painting of René Magritte and Max Ernst—that upset the practiced equilibrium between reason and feeling and challenged conventional logic. Jazz, which ‘gave free play to the spontaneous manifestations of the subconscious,’ arrived at just the right moment. It was, in Goffin’s view, the first form of surrealism.

Goffin uses ‘surrealism’ in its original sense—articulated by its primary theorist, André Breton—of exploration of the subconscious as a source of pure expression, free of aesthetic or moral preoccupations. Jazz and surrealism were ‘two sides of the same coin,’ according to Goffin, developing along similar lines, but without any mutual influence, since Breton was ‘impervious to music.’ For his part, Breton admitted his musical ignorance in an essay called “Silence is Golden” (1946), but proposed an investigation into the correspondence between the ‘inner word’ of surrealist poetry and the ‘inner music’ to which our thought tunes itself when it is most free. Breton may or may not have been thinking about jazz, but Goffin thought he was. Franklin Rosemont, editor of Breton’s What is Surrealism?: Selected Writings, reports that many Surrealists (despite Breton’s auricular limitations) came to see jazz as a ‘complementary adventure’ after the war, when the painter Roberto Matta returned from New York with recordings by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.

Goffin believed that the appreciation of jazz in Europe created lucrative opportunities for black musicians there that were not available at home (a point later debunked by jazz histories written in the US). Goffin’s story of Louis Mitchell is a fascinating case study, though. In 1917 & 1918, Mitchell was the most popular star in Paris. His band, the Jazz Kings, made the first jazz recordings there, and caught the excited attention of Jean Cocteau (Le Coq et l’Arlequin: Notes autour de la musique, 1918):

The American band accompanied [the dance] on banjos and big nickel-plated horns. On the right of the small black-clad group was a barman of noise behind a gilded stand laden with bells, triangles, boards, and motorcycle horns…this hurricane of rhythm and beating of drums…left them intoxicated and blinded under the glare of six anti-aircraft searchlights.

Goffin heard Mitchell and Bechet in Brussels in 1919, shortly before they returned to Paris, where, according to legend, Mitchell won enough in a crap game to take over the Grand Duc nightclub. In New Orleans and Chicago, jazz was the preserve of the low classes, writes Goffin, while in Paris Mitchell played for the cream of society—full-suited revelers, ladies in jewels, duchesses, marquesas, writers, painters. To top it off, the doorman at the Grand Duc was Langston Hughes. Members of Mitchell’s band remained in Europe for decades and built musical careers. In May 1940, shortly before he was forced to flee to the US, Goffin shared drinks at a bar in Paris with the saxophonist Bobby Jones and trumpeter Arthur Briggs. Goffin had known Briggs for years, taking music lessons from him and listening to his expositions on New Orleans music. Two years after Goffin fled, Jones returned to the states and immediately joined a touring band, and Briggs was imprisoned in a German concentration camp.

Goffin’s book helps us to imagine what it was like to encounter the music when it was new. What was new and fresh for him and many others was the collective improvisation of syncopated music with cornet, clarinet and trombone crossing in frenetic polyphony, backed by a rhythm section of banjo, string bass and drum. Goffin preferred white bands like the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings over the contributions of the Negro bands (at least until Louis Armstrong), but he understood the origins of the music in the experience of Black Americans. Goffin was a staunch anti-fascist. Jazz: From the Congo to the Metropolitan was published in the US during WWII, and he meant it partly as propaganda in support of jazz as "the music of democracy."
… (plus d'informations)
HectorSwell | Jun 16, 2024 |


½ 3.5

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