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Charles Delaunay, 77; Helped Popularize 'Le Jazz' in France

February 18, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Charles Delaunay, one of the fathers of "Le Jazz Hot," the French movement of the 1930s that instilled a love of the American music idiom in generations of Europeans, has died at his home outside Paris.

Benny Carter, the musician, composer and bandleader who was befriended by Delaunay in 1935 and in turn helped the French anthologist master English, said Delaunay was 77 when he died Tuesday of complications from Parkinson's disease.

Called by his American counterpart, Times jazz writer Leonard Feather, "the world's first important jazz critic," Delaunay and the late Hugues Panassie were advocates for jazz in Europe at a time when it was being dismissed by most foreigners as schmaltz, or "Negro music."

First Panassie and later Delaunay not only amassed the greatest collections of jazz recordings then found in Europe, but they also founded the Hot Club of France, promoting concerts, record dates and radio programs.

Their Jazz Hot, believed the world's oldest pure jazz magazine, also was credited with sparking the careers of such French musicians as Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, who made recordings for Delaunay under his Swing label that were to lead to successes in the United States, particularly Reinhardt's guitar playing with the Benny Goodman band.

It was an era when black and white jazz musicians were unable to perform side by side in America, but Delaunay, who later split with Panassie over the be-bop movement--a division he told Carter two months ago "was a big mistake"--formed interracial groups throughout France.

He even managed to keep the movement alive during World War II, even though the German forces occupying France insisted that he underplay its American origins.

Beyond the historic scope of Delaunay's career, his most lasting contribution undoubtedly will be his "Hot Discography," an anthology of recorded music and the musicians who made the records. It was published in 1936 and updated periodically.

Son of Influential Artists

Delaunay, son of influential artists who included Gertrude Stein in their intellectual set, first heard jazz when confined to bed with an illness when he was 15. From that initial exposure to the records of Jelly Roll Morton, Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke came a lifelong love that culminated with his discography and collection, from which he would play for American jazzmen visiting Paris the hundreds of 78 r.p.m. jazz records he had accumulated and they would tell him who had played at the recording. At that time, most individual jazz musicians were unnamed on labels, particularly the blacks.

In 1977 he embarked on a revised discography that was believed to have numbered 20,000 pages and involved listings of more than 4,500 musicians.

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