Harlem in Paris: The Birth of Jazz in France

After the First World War, Paris attracted many African-American musicians, writers and poets. In the late 1920s, there were more than 300 jazz clubs, bars and cabaret in Paris, most of them in Pigalle. This is the story of the Harlem artists who came to Paris with innovative music, launching the Jazz era of the 1920s.
I would like to share with you the stories of these fascinating men and women who remade Paris into a jazz hotspot during the Roaring Twenties.

per adult from




60 to 90 minutes


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  • What's included :
    • Use of a tablet during the visit
    • Music, photos and videos to liven up the visit
    What's excluded :
    • Food and drinks not included
  • This is a typical itinerary for this product

    Stop At: Casino De Paris, 16 rue de Clichy, 75009 Paris France

    We don't go back to the Casino but we stop to talk about jazz musicians.
    Louis Mitchell, drummer of the Ambassadors orchestra, received an order from the Casino de Paris to form an entirely black orchestra. He left for the United States where he recruited a group of jazz pioneers. His Jazz Kings have become a staple of the Casino, where they have played for 5 years in a row. Sidney Bechet, a young clarinetist, often attended their sessions. In 1922, The Jazz Kings recorded 52 records for Pathé, among the first jazz records ever recorded in France.

    Duration: 10 minutes

    Stop At: Place de Clichy, Paris, France

    Right next to the Place is the endrout where Joséphine Baker's cabaret was. No story about African Americans in Paris would be complete without it. Known under the nickname "Black Venus of Paris", she lived in France from 1925 to her death in 1975.
    After making his debut at vaudeville in Harlem, Baker landed in France in 1925 as a dancer with the NY Syncopated Orchestra, accompanied by a young clarinetist named Sidney Bechet. She was hired to play in a new show, the “Revue Nègre” at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. It was a daring show with 13 dancers, 12 musicians and to open the performance…. Joséphine Baker, then only 18 years old. She became an instant icon, and her career launched.

    Duration: 10 minutes

    Stop At: Place de Clichy, Paris, France

    A little further, after visiting the place where Chez Joséphine was located, we stop in front of the place where Zelli's, a legendary cabaret from the 1920s, was. Zelli's was the most fashionable cabaret in all of Paris thanks to its music avant-garde jazz. Here, we learn the fascinating story of Eugène Bullard, son of a freed slave from Martinique who became the first black fighter pilot during the First World War. In the service of France, he participated in thirty combat missions and shot down 2 German planes, which earned him a promotion to the corporal and the nicknames "Black Jacques" and "Hirondelle Noire de la Mort". After the war, he became a jazz drummer and manager of the Zelli's club, before launching his own Le Grand Duc box. Bullard offered the Grand Duke's clients jazz music and soul food cuisine, a successful formula which made it one of the most popular cabarets in Paris.

    Duration: 10 minutes

    Stop At: Place de Clichy, Paris, France

    Still in the Place de Clichy district, we stop at the place of the "Bricktop" Smith club, Chez Bricktop. Bricktop opened its club here in 1929.
    She was one of the African-American figureheads who helped transform Paris in the 1920s and establish the age of jazz. Daughter of a former slave, she made her debut in Vaudeville in Chicago and emigrated to New York before coming to Paris in 1924.
    Smith became the emblem of Harlem in Paris until 1939.
    A true story of misery to wealth, she arrived in Paris with only a few dollars in her pocket and rubbed shoulders with the rich and the famous. She managed 6 different cabarets during her years in Paris, opening her own club in 1929. Her cabaret was funded by the designer Elsa Schiaparelli and supported by Cole Porter, both met at the Grand Duke,

    Duration: 5 minutes

    Stop At: Eglise de la Sainte-Trinite, Place d'Estienne d'Orves, 75009 Paris France

    Before returning to the Church, our starting point, we learn the story of Sidney Bechet. He arrived in Paris in 1925 with the same troop as Joséphine Baker, the NY Syncopated Orchestra.
    He formed a small group of musicians who played at the Bricktop club. The group began touring Europe, broadcasting jazz across the continent, from Sweden to Spain, Hungary, Russia and even Egypt. When he returned to Paris, he was an international star. His group was hired to play the Ambassadors, a huge nightclub on the Champs-Elysées. The crowd that came each evening, 750 strong, barely listened when the group started to play.
    But when Bechet got up to play his solo, the silence was total. In a dispute after a concert in Paris, Bechet tried to shoot, but badly aimed and injured a passerby.
    Arrested, he spent a year in prison, then returned to America in 1929.

    Duration: 5 minutes

  • Departure Point :
    Square d'Estienne d'Orves, 1 Place d'Estienne d'Orves, 75009 Paris, France
    Return Detail :
    Returns to original departure point
    Hotel Pickup :
    • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
    • Wheelchair accessible
    • Stroller accessible
    • Service animals allowed
    • Near public transportation
    • Surfaces are wheelchair accessible
    • Most travelers can participate
    • This is a private tour/activity. Only your group will participate
    • Face masks required for travelers in public areas
    • Face masks required for guides in public areas
    • Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
    • Social distancing enforced throughout experience
    • Gear/equipment sanitized between use
  • You can present either a paper or an electronic voucher for this activity.
  • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.


English - Guide

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Organised by Visit the Hidden Paris

Activity ID: V-71076P24

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