Hugues Panassié

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Hugues Panassié
Hugues Panassié, Red Prysock, and Tiny Grimes
New York City (circa 1946–1948)
William P. Gottlieb, photo

Hugues Panassié (27 February 1912 in Paris – 8 December 1974 in Montauban)[1] was a French critic, record producer, and impresario of traditional jazz.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]


Panassié was born in Paris. When he was fourteen, he was stricken with polio, which limited his extracurricular physical activities. He took up the saxophone and fell in love with jazz in the late 1920s.[i] Panassié was the founding president of the Hot Club de France in 1932. He produced recording sessions in New York featuring Mezz Mezzrow and Tommy Ladnier from November 1938 to January 1939.

During World War II, the Germans occupied the northern half of France beginning June 1940. The Nazis regarded jazz as low music — music from an inferior people. Jacques Demêtre, in the 2014 book by Steve Cushing, Pioneers of the Blues Revival, said that people had expected the Germans to ban jazz entirely. But instead, they only banned American jazz and American tunes.[11] Demetre explained that many American standards were in French with alternate titles. Panassié, for example, managed to keep broadcasting American jazz on his radio station submitting to censors obtuse French translations of American song titles, and even relabeling records. Panassié's friend Mezz Mezzrow describes a particular example in his 1946 autobiography Really the Blues:

"[The Nazi censors] were shown a record labeled "La Tristesse de Saint Louis," which translates the "Sadness of Saint Louis," and Panassié offered the explanation that it was a sad song written about poor Louis the Ninth, lousy with that old French tradition. What Cerberus didn't know was that underneath the phony label was a genuine RCA Victor one giving Louis Armstrong as the recording artist and stating the real name of the number: "The Saint Louis Blues."[12]

Selected controversies[edit]

In a changing world of jazz, Panassié was an ardent exponent of traditional jazz — strictly Dixieland. He harbored a particular love of style similar to that of Louis Armstrong from the 1930s. Panassié criticized West Coast jazz as inauthentic, partly because most musicians were white and also sounded white.[13][14] In his book, The Real Jazz, Panassié ranked Benny Goodman as a detestable clarinetist whose sterile intonation was inferior to black players Jimmy Noone and Omer Simeon. Mezz Mezzrow became Panassié's lone example of a white musician who played jazz authentically.[15] Panassié dismissed bebop as "a form of music distinct from jazz."[14][ii][iii]

As an extremely gifted musician, Parker gradually gave up jazz in favor of bop …

He [Parker] could play fine jazz in his early days

A gifted musician [Miles Davis], but one who by now has entirely deviated from jazz to 'cool' music.

It would be truer to say that he [Thelonious Monk] was an initiator of bop—for whereas his music harmonically resembles bop, rhythmically it is not. He is an eccentric musician who has strayed far from jazz, but has never completely turned his back on it as the bop players have.

— Guide to Jazz (1956)

In 1974, he accused Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and others as being "traitors to the cause of true black music," that, according to Panassié, they claimed to support.[iv]

Some historians opine that Panassié hurt musicians by creating a wedge between blacks and whites by his insistence that black jazz was superior. Some authors ridicule his harsh attacks against more open jazz critics, who he characterized in his Bulletin du Hot Club de France as being full of "crass ignorance," "thick incompetence," and "triumphant stupidity."[v] His ad hominem attacks included phrases that translate to "repugnant glavioteur,"[a] "formidable imbecile," and "donkey of the pen."[b][vi][vii]

Political views[edit]

In addition to being a strong exponent of Dixieland jazz, and a harsh critic of jazz musicians who strayed from it, Panassié was a far-right monarchist who belonged to the anti-Semitic organisation Action Française and wrote a jazz column for the extreme-right magazine L'Insurgé.[15][16]


In 1956, RCA Victor published an LP record, Guide to Jazz (LPM 1393), a compilation including 16 recordings by prominent jazz artists with liner notes by Panassiè.


Books by Panassié[1]

  • Le Jazz Hot (1934); OCLC 906165198
  • La musique de Jazz et le Swing (1943)
  • Les rois du Jazz (1944)
  • La véritable musique de Jazz (in French) (1946)
The Real Jazz (English editions)
English versions translated by Anne Sorelle Williams,[17][c] adapted for American publication by Charles Edward Smith
1st ed. (in English), (1942). Smith & Durrell, Inc. 1942 – via Internet Archive. LCCN 43-296; OCLC 892252.
1st ed.    (in English), Smith & Durrell, Inc., 5th printing (1946); OCLC 221703551, 562846079
Rev. ed.  (in English), A.S. Barnes (1950); OCLC 500347906
Rev. ed.  (in English), A.S. Barnes (1960); LCCN 60-10858; OCLC 391887.
Rev. ed.  (in English), Jazz Book Club (1967); OCLC 795423457
Rev. ed.  (in English), Greenwood Press (1971); OCLC 495542043
Rev. ed. (in English), (1973). Greenwood Press. 1973. ISBN 9780837171234 – via Internet Archive. LCCN 73-13328; OCLC 847383480, 701594
Rev. ed.  (in English), Greenwood Press (1976); OCLC 251717851
Rev. ed.  (in English), Gardners Books (2007); OCLC 172977814
Guide to Jazz & Dictionary of Jazz (English editions)
English versions by Desmond Flower (1907–1997),[d] A.A. Gurwitch (1925–2013)[e] (ed.)
Beginning with 1956 English versions, intro by intro by Louis Armstrong
1st ed.    (in French), Éditions Robert Laffont (1954); OCLC 5761014
1st ed.    (in English), Houghton Mifflin (1956); OCLC 851152
1st ed.    (in English), Cassell (1956); OCLC 906361724, 555049254
1st ed.    (in French), Éditions Robert Laffont (1957); OCLC 641969732
1st ed.    (in English), Jazz Book Club (1959); OCLC 3323412
1st ed.    (in English; microfilm), The Riverside Press (1956); OCLC 65931946
New ed.  (in French), Éditions Albin Michel (1971); OCLC 1741566
1st ed.    (in English), Greenwood Press (1973); OCLC 600959 ISBN 0837167663
New ed.  (in French), Éditions Albin Michel (1980); OCLC 7652674
3rd ed.    (in French), Éditions Albin Michel (1987); OCLC 35672666


Panassié spent five months in New York City in the company of Madeleine Gautier, his assistant. In 1949, they married, returned to France, and settled in Montauban at 65 Faubourg du Moustier.


  1. ^ Glavioteur is an English translation of the French word glavioteux, from glaviot, an alteration of claviotBordeaux dialect for a type of parasitic sheep or bovine disease that, among other things, causes heavy mucus. A glavioteur, in slang, is one who issues a thick sputum while speaking.
  2. ^ Donkey of the Pen, translated from Panassié's expression, âne bâté de la plume, figuratively means an unsophisticated music critic who takes themselves seriously and believes they are carrying enlightening knowledge (for readers), when in fact, they are carrying knowledge gained by others — with no comprehension, perspective, or scope — producing ridiculous results; a donkey of the pen is an idiot or moron with good conscience, blissfully satisfied with themselves.
  3. ^ Anne Sorelle Williams (maiden; 1916–1989), was an artist and music editor for Columbia Pictures. She was married to Morris P. Glushien (1909–2006), a lawyer. Ruth Wedgwood, a lawyer, is one of their daughters.
  4. ^ Desmond John Newman Flower (1907–1997) was Newman Flower's son, and successor of his father's firm, Cassell & Co.
  5. ^ Arnold "Andy" Gurwitch (1925–2013) was a lover of big band jazz who worked as the road manager for Louis Armstrong. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School and began practicing law in 1956. For many years, until his retirement, Gurwitch was head of the international relations department of ASCAP. (Obituary: "Arnold "Andy" Gurwitch," Journal News, May 7, 2013)


Inline citations from Bulletin du Hot Club de France; ISSN 0755-7272

  1. ^ No.  243, December 1974, pps. 16–18
  2. ^ No.    87, April 1959, pg. 39
  3. ^ No.  101, October 1960, pps. 6–7
  4. ^ No.  234, January 1974, pg. 7
  5. ^ No.  220,  January 1973, pg. 5
  6. ^ No.    89, July–August 1959, pg. 32
  7. ^ No.  242, November 1974, pg. 22


  1. ^ a b "Hugues Panassié" (biography), (retrieved April 13, 2015)
  2. ^ "Il y a 30 ans, Hugues Panassié disparaissait" (in French), by Étienne Gautier, La Dépêche du Midi, December 8, 2004
    Note: Etienne Gautier is Madeleine Gautier's son
  3. ^ The New York Times Biographical Service, Vol. 5, Nos. 1–12, New York: Arno Press (1974)
  4. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Jazz, by Charles Eugene Claghorn (1911–2005), Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (1982); OCLC 8626853
  5. ^ Biography Index, H.W. Wilson Co.; ISSN 0006-3053
        Vol. 10: Sep. 1973–Aug. 1976 (1977); OCLC 24559911
        Vol. 11: Sep. 1976–Aug. 1979 (1980); OCLC 31441150
  6. ^ Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Slonimsky (ed.), Macmillan Publishing Co.
        5th ed., p. 1204 (1958)
        5th ed. with 1971 Supplement, p. 1204 (1971) ISBN 0911320628
        6th ed., p. 1284 (1978) OCLC 4426869 ISBN 0028702409
        7th ed., p. 1715 (1984) OCLC 10574930 ISBN 0028702700
        "The Concise", p. 942 (1988) ISBN 0028724119 (U.S.)
        "The Concise", p. 942 (1988) ISBN 0671698966 (U.K.)
        8th ed., p. 1361 (1992) OCLC 24246972 ISBN 0028724151
        8th ed. "The Concise", p. 744 (1994) ISBN 002872416X
  7. ^ Oxford Companion to Popular Music, Peter Gammond (ed.) (born 1925), Oxford Companions, Oxford University Press (1991); OCLC 22382241
  8. ^ The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler (eds.), New York: Horizon Press (1976); OCLC 2698149
  9. ^ Contemporary Authors, Detroit: Gale Research; ISSN 0360-1536
        Vols. 53–56 (1975); OCLC 650232246
        Vols. 97–100 (1981); OCLC 34002903
  10. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
        1st ed. (2 vols.), Barry Dean Kernfeld, PhD (born 1950) and Stanley Sadie (1930–2005) (eds.) Macmillan Press (1988); OCLC 16804283
        1st ed. (combined in 1 vol.), Barry Dean Kernfeld, PhD (born 1950) (ed.), St. Martin's Press (1994); OCLC 30516743
  11. ^ Pioneers of the Blues Revival, by Steve Cushing, University of Illinois Press (2014), pg. 243; OCLC 883632016
  12. ^ Really the Blues, Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe, Random House (1946); OCLC 910105
  13. ^ "Benny Goodman: Faux Grand Homme du Jazz" (Great Fake Man of Jazz), by Hugues Panassié, Jazz Hot, Second Series, Vol. 8, July–August 1946, pg. 9; ISSN 0021-5643
  14. ^ a b The Real Jazz (re-print and English translation of 1946 French original), by Panassié, Greenwood Press (1973); OCLC 847383480, 701594
  15. ^ a b Blowin' Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics, by John Remo Gennari, PhD (born 1960), University of Chicago Press (2006), pg. 58; OCLC 701053921
  16. ^ Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, by Michael Dregni, Oxford University Press (2004); OCLC 62872303
  17. ^ Biography Index, H.W. Wilson Co.; ISSN 0006-3053
        Vol. 16: Sep. 1988–Aug. 1990 (1990); OCLC 30326352