Text: Nick Forrester
Although you’re unlikely to see any of the grey flannel suits and pencil moustaches that one might associate with the Parisian Jazz scene there are a number of cafes and brasseries around the capital that are populated, on the occasional night, by large Frenchmen and Jazz Manouche kings. With a smattering of dark overcoats and Borsalino hats, this is probably the closest you can get to the old style Jazz dens.
La Chope des Puces is perhaps the most renowned. It was renovated in 2008 to give a slightly more modern feel. The resulting Espace Django Reinhardt is a temple to Gypsy Jazz, offering a contemporary home to this old Parisian art. The concert hall is presided over by a large mural of Django himself. La Chope des Puces is located in Saint Ouen, just outside Paris. The place is of great significance to Manouche fans. It is near the area of caravans where Django Reinhardt used to live – and where he suffered horrific burns, which left two fingers paralyzed. All of his guitar solos were famously and distinctively played with two fingers as a result.
The Bouquet du Nord is another great and authentic Jazz Manouche venue, still is frequented by enthusiasts and heroes. Reinhardt’s principal jazz partner Stéphane Grappelli lived opposite this old-style brasserie. It has enjoyed none of the modern revamping that La Chope des Puces has had, but it is acknowledged as a classic place to watch Gypsy Jazz in its purest form. On Fridays from 9pm there are jamming sessions here, and you can enjoy some of the classic brasserie food on offer.
Gypsy jazz has always been based on an oral and musical tradition, handed down through families of travelling gypsies, very few of whom could read music. The way in which Reinhardt’s music has been replayed and re-interpreted in jam session since his death, continues the natural evolution of this organic, essentially Parisian music which remains very popular around the capital.
L’ Hôtel du Nord on Quai de Jemmapes is a popular Jazz Manouche hang-out on Thursday nights, as is Le Bistro d’Eustache, which offers sessions until 2am. One other great little place is le Colibri in the 18ème. This is a tiny café which puts on a jazz night every Saturday.
But for a taste of the authentic, swing by La Chope des Puces, the Bouquet du Nord or head down to Fontainebleau for the festival.
Festival Django Reinhardt, Boulevard Maréchal Joffre, Fontainebleau. between 23rd-27th June, near Fontainebleau, 60 kilometres south of Paris
La Chope des Puces, 122 rue Rosiers, 93400, Saint Ouen.
Le Bouquet du Nord, Rue de Maubeuge, 75010 Paris
Le Colibri, 35 Rue Véron, 75018 Paris
L’Hôtel du Nord, 102 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010
Le Bistro d’Eustache, 37 Rue Berger, 75001