Harlem in Montmartre
Preview of Harlem in Montmartre

Beloved American jazz singer and bandleader Cab Calloway once said, “You hear about the Duke Ellingtons, the Jimmy Luncefords, the Fletcher Hendersons, but people sometimes forget that jazz was not only built in the minds of the great ones, but on the backs of the ordinary ones.” While far from ordinary, Harlem in Montmartre tells the story of the long-forgotten “extraordinary ones,” who left America to create the jazz age in Paris between the First and Second World Wars. After peace was signed at Versailles, many black Americans remained in Europe rather than return to the brutal segregation and racism of America. Over the next two decades, they formed an expatriate community of musicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs, primarily congregating in Paris’ hilly Montmartre neighborhood. Some achieved enduring fame, while others faded into history.

Harlem in Montmartre airs as part of PBS’ Great Performances series on THIRTEEN Wednesday, August 26th at 8 p.m. EST (check local listings). The documentary is a co-production of THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG, Vanguard Documentaries, Inc., Ideale Audience SAS, ARTE France and Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Watch a preview of Harlem in Montmartre:

Inspired by the book Harlem in Montmartre: a Paris Jazz Story (University of California Press) by historian William A. Shack and utilizing rare archival material from both France and America, this remarkable performance- driven documentary features the stories and music of such key figures as James Reese Europe, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Bricktop, Eugene Bullard, Django Reinhardt and more. “The film explores a fascinating, yet often neglected, era in African-American cultural history” says producer Margaret Smilow. “It is a colorful, musical, poignant look at the contributions of a select group of black Americans, without whom the collective voice of jazz music around the world would sound entirely different.” Vanguard Documentaries Executive Producer Charles Hobson reveals, “The French were the first people in the world to respect jazz as serious art form, and it all began in Paris with the arrival of the Harlem Hellfighters, a military band.” Directed by Dante J. James, with performance sequences directed by Olivier Simmonet, and written by James and Simmonet with Allan Miller, the production was co-produced by Smilow with Hobson and Helene Le Coeur; S. Epatha Merkerson narrates.

GREAT PERFORMANCES is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. Harlem in Montmartre has been made possible, in part, by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. Major funding was also provided by the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Hugh M. Hefner, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, the Vital Projects Fund, the Grand Marnier Foundation, The Paula Vial Fund, the Price Family Foundation and Ann Phillips.

  • Marc

    And how to get this doc? Thanks



  • TCrop

    Keeping my eye on the calendar for this one. Mr. James always delivers.

  • Susan Tripp

    The book was vivid, and an obvious basis
    for a film. Shack was a remarkable anthropologist. The film must be very much worth seeing by lovers of France, of jazz, of history.

  • Just

    I can’t wait to see this too. I am very interested in expatriate African American artists (writers mostly) who made Paris their home.

  • Toni James

    I am eagerly awaiting the airing of this program. The African-American community in Paris during this era is extremely interesting to me.

  • http://www.artworkshopintl.com/blog/?p=206 Art Workshop International » Great Performances tonight – “Harlem in Montmarte” by Charles Hobson, Art Workshop International filmmaker

    [...] For a preview, here’s a link to NYC’s Channel 13. [...]

  • http://beyondthebox.org/watch-harlem-in-montmartre-a-paris-jazz-story-tonight-on-great-performances/ Watch HARLEM IN MONTMARTRE: A Paris Jazz Story Tonight on Great Performances | ITVS Beyond the Box Blog

    [...] Learn more about tonight’s broadcast and watch a preview >> Share this post: [...]

  • Keith Dumpson

    I’m So Exicited It’s about time they show what happen back then Thank you i love this kind of History

  • Jacqueline Butterfield

    I am extremely disappointed that Harlem In Montmartre seems to have been pre-empted by the documentary about the Kennedys. While I understand why this may have been done (the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy), I feel a specific audience has been disrespected by this action. I had set my TV timer a week in advance! In addition upcoming episodes are shown at the most inconvenient times. When might I expect to see this pre-empted episode at a more convenient viewing time?

  • Michael Bareau

    Just watched your fabulous program – Harlem in Monmartre. The credits rolled by at such speed that I was unable to find out the names of the current musicians who played so well. I hope these will be posted.

    Sorry it stopped at Diz and didn’t include Bird, Dexter and others who worked in Paris.

  • Neil Kurtz

    Loved the program, the music. The credits flew by too fast. Who were the musicians used?

  • Jerry Zolten

    Was so-o-o looking forward to seeing this program and I understand the preempt but disappointed that no information was provided about a rebroadcast.

  • Allen Murphy

    How can I get a DVD of Harlem in Monmartre? Unfortunately I missed the program.

  • Sophia Peon

    Excellent – except we couldn’t read the credits they went by so fast – where are the musicians listed?????

  • MG

    Michael and Neil, the music director was Victor Goines, director of jazz studies at Northwestern University (and a heck of a reed player!)

    Not sure who the rest of the musicians were – phone rang when Victor was discussing putting the band together at the beginning of the broadcast.

    I agree. I would like to have seen more coverage of Diz as well as some Bird, Dexter, etc. but I guess if you’re making the documentary you have to decide when to stop.

    Bebop starts a different era in Paris (and around the world, for that matter).

  • Ron Ray

    Excellent, how can I get a DVD of the preformance?


    watched it tonite loved it want to buy the set when?

  • Buck Pennington

    Harlem in Montmarte wasn’t preempted in my market (east central New Mexico), Thank God. The show was MOST excellent!

  • R.

    I enjoyed Harlem in Montmartre. Wish you had included Bird and others. The credits rolled by too fast to read. When can I buy a DVD?

  • Tommy Hicks

    When when there be a repeat airing of HARLEM IN MONTMARTRE?

  • Gloria Parloff

    How do I find out which contemporary musicians played the examples of the historic music?

  • http://urbantravelgirl.com/2009/08/27/%e2%80%98harlem-in-montmartre%e2%80%99-retraces-musical-history-of-african-americans-in-paris/ ‘Harlem in Montmartre’ retraces musical history of African-Americans in Paris « UrbanTravelGirl

    [...] night, but a FABULOUS documentary highlighting the roots of African-American jazz in Paris called “Harlem in Montmartre” walked viewers through the history that shaped this incredible musical genre. As many of you know, [...]

  • Jacquelyn Goudeau

    I do not understand why this has not been shown and I cannot find a listing for it in San Francisco? Anyone know?

  • silvia

    I loved it! is there a cd with all the music in the show that we can buy? I would love to have the music, it was fantastic!

  • Anne Sweazey

    When and where can we purchase a DVD of this remarkable show?

  • Rodney

    Great! When and How do I get a copy of the DVD?

  • Madge Forrey

    Great documentary. Will a CD be available?

  • Cari M.

    Most enjoyable. DVR was made for programs such as these. I have t/make sure I donate some $. Victor Goines was music director.

  • http://icanstilldothat.org/2009/the-tip-sheet-vol-9/ The Tip Sheet Vol. 9 « I Can Still do That

    [...] 26th at 8 PM for his PBS/Great Performances special ” Harlem in Montmartre” (see: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/ episodes/harlem-in-montmartre/preview-of-harlem-in- montmartre/827/) celebrating the Harlem Renaissance in Paris during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Advisor [...]

  • Hailu Shack

    To Jacquelyn Goudeau, and others in the SF Bay Area, as you probably already know it was supposed to air on KQED Channel 9. As per the KQED website, it will air this evening/tonight on KQED Life (a KQED cable station), see http://www.kqed.org/tv/schedules/schedule-changes.jsp. I’m sorry that I can’t tell you if or when it will air on the regular KQED Ch 9. While I am disappointed that KQED preempted it; I am glad to know that it was aired as scheduled in a number of other media markets across the country. Many thanks to all of you who have expressed interest in the documentary, the book, and the the subject of jazz history.

  • Randy McAnulty

    i enjoyed the broadcast tremendously Paris has always fascinated me…and this was like a walk
    through it’s history

  • celia paul

    when will it be repeated?

  • Dorothy Lee

    Outstanding program. The music was exquisite. Not to mention that my cousin from Law and Order narrated.

  • Patrick

    I would like to purchase the DVD of this program. I would also be interested in buying a CD of the current musicians that were performing in the film.

  • Judy J

    A very interesting documentary and great music. I had read the book “Making Jazz French” by Jeffrey H Jackson and this provided a visual for his informative history of this period.

  • Mamie~Louise Anderson

    When will this air aain. I’m so sorry to have missed it.

  • Ron Erickson

    I’m glad I was able to have my DVD Recorder catch an early AM airing of this – I really want to get more, like a broadcast quality DVD and a full listing of the Musicians. Amazing, inspiring, and such an important document in the history of Jazz. Please provide more access.

  • virginia europe Jr

    im sorry but who is “Dante J.James? my grandfather James Reese Europe was the director/conductor of the hellfighters.

  • nancyc203RN

    I also eagerly awaited the program, only to have it preempted in BOTH states’ PBS stations available to me. I haven’t seen anything further about it, even on the websites. Very frustrating as it’s a combination of many different loves of mine, history, jazz, and Paris! When the heck will it be available online?

  • cheryl emerson

    Hallie should be so proud of her dad!this doc was so special to me as a jazz vocalist and fanatic…things i never even knew at the age of 59!!!! jazz and special people like hobson will keep me learning

  • Linda

    This was an excellent historical & musical program. I hope everyone can see it at least once. I had told family & friends to watch at the original airing, but many were unable to find it. Please advertise it’s future timings for the entire country. I would like to see it again, & again.

  • Wm. Feroglia

    This is Aug. 29th, and I cannot find this show anywhere. I have Direct TV which you never seem to acknowledge. How do I get to see this show?Thanks

  • Jim

    I really liked this!

  • Jennifer

    Watched this excellent, informative program and got goosebumps seeing the Black troups and bands as they marched through Paris. Hope PBS repeats it soon because it’s a “must see”.

  • Bill James

    When will “Harlem in Montmarte” be shown on our local Los Angeles PBS station, again.

  • Rowland Gosling

    This was a brilliant program! Thank you! I wish I could buy a copy of this program.

  • L Skill

    When will Harlem in Montmartre air again on WVIZ in Cleveland? More Jazz programming, please!

  • L Ramsey

    I would really like to buy a copy of this program on DVD. Will there be one available soon?

  • R. Pilsbury

    I, too, would like to know when a DVD of this program will be available. Very sorry to have missed it!

  • Terry Miller

    I was so looking forward to seeing “Harlem in Montmartre” and was very disappointed when it was pre-empted. I have been hoping to see it rescheduled, but so far, nothing. Can someone tell us when it might be put back on the schedule?

  • P.Atchison

    I was so looking forward to the program. It was pre-empted in my area. Please reschedule it.

  • leo

    The book “Making Jazz French” published by Duke University Press and written by Jeffrey Jackson is a well researched history of the influence of this great music on the Parisians during the two world wars. It relates how this new form of music was perceived by the music lovers and critcs alike. Prof. Jackson appeared as a consultant in “Harlem in Montmartre” It would be great to see this program again.

  • Ann

    Missed this program. Will it be repeated or become available on DVD ??

  • Tom Newhouse

    Is the series available on DVD or to download.It was marvelous.

  • Wolf Duvernoy,M.D,

    I sax the repeat broadcast on Michigan Television and was fascinated by this excellent history with inclusion of excerpts of Django and Grapelli. Of course there are more names like Dexter Gordon, Bird and Diz, but given the time this is a phantastic introduction. Jazz is still alive in Euorpe and Paris. When will this be available on DVD???

  • Steve Angelone

    How can I purchase this DVD?

  • Connie Carnicom

    How can I purchase this DVD? My French teacher can’t wait to use it with her students.

  • Christophe Prnès

    Bravo tres interessant, belle réalisation bravo Arte et S lumley for this job

  • Magggy Farina

    Jeffrey H. Jackson’s narration of
    Django Reinhardt’s music was absolutely wonderful. I have a record of Django recorded in 1947, still treasure it now as then. Thank you for a WONDERFUL show.

  • Herman Lee

    The show was great! A great lesson in history. The musicians that played and interpreted the music for the show were great! The DVD should be in all music school libraries for teacher and student use.

  • Jimbo clark

    I am a guitarist of 45 years and I have never heard anyone like Django Reinhardt. Thank you for the program.

  • Charles Bland

    Please e-mail me as to how I may purchase this DVD?

  • Mick Shaw

    Would love a dvd. Any chance

  • Jen D

    I NEED THIS FOR MY HISTORY OF JAZZ AND FILM CLASS! Any time this will be shows again? Can I buy a dvd?

  • Daniel

    They announced the sale of the DVD at the end of the program and I’ve been looking for it and cannot find it anywhere. I wrote to PBS shop and Thriteen and all they are saying is ask the other. INCREDIBLE INCOMPETENCE.
    Besides, when will PBS treat the audience as adults? Who’s going to get corrupted by naked torsos? Stop the hypocrisy and bigotry.

  • lynn byron

    missed the progam please tell me if I can order a filmdvd

  • Kim

    Hey Lynn Byron,

    It’s supposed to be re-aired tonight.

  • Junko Tsunashima

    Here are the names of the musicians

    VICTOR GOINES — Woodwinds
    BRANDON LEE — Trumpet
    MICHAEL DEASE– Trombone
    AARON DIEHL– Piano
    LEON ANDERSON, JR. — Drums

    GIGI LOEFFLER — Rhythm guitar
    ROMAIN CONSTANT — Rhythm guitar

  • barbara seall

    Any chance that WEDU will repeat “Harlem in Montmarte”
    this year? It was preempted on our local public television (WNIT) this summer because of Ted Kennedy’s

  • Harriett White

    I’m a relative of Eugene Bullard and would love to purchase the DVD for my Dad. Eugene’s father and my grandfather are brothers.

  • Wolf Duvernoy

    When will a DVD of this program be available???

  • Connie Carnicom

    When will a DVD of this program be available for purchase?

  • John A Bethea

    i truly enjoyed it, i wish i had taped it, its one of those things worth seeing and something a history class would really enjoy

  • Annie Carpenter

    Very well made, great music. Excellent program…and so close to home! I am a French Montmartroise and was married to a great American Jazz Musician, Tom Carpenter. Please let me know when I can I buy the DVD. Love it, thank you.

  • Greg

    Remarkable history & performances -both the vintage & interpretations by VICTOR GOINES — Woodwinds
    BRANDON LEE — Trumpet
    MICHAEL DEASE– Trombone
    AARON DIEHL– Piano
    LEON ANDERSON, JR. — Drums

    GIGI LOEFFLER — Rhythm guitar
    ROMAIN CONSTANT — Rhythm guitar

  • Terry

    Thanks, Greg. That was an awesome group and I’m glad to have their names. The whole program was terrific.

  • john bernat

    It was the very best jazz musical documentary ever. Even with my bad knees, I was bebopin around the living room. If there will be a CD available, please e-mail me if possible.

  • Claire Garcia

    Why does this seem to be the only Great Performances documentary that is not available on DVD? I teach a class on Black Paris, and though this was first broadcast last year, it seems the only PBS documentary that my library can’t get and that isn’t offered for sale during fundraising drives. Why?

  • John Walker

    This really was an interesting and informative program. I’d happily purchase several copies of a DVD for gifts.

  • ian walcott

    From Ian Walcott
    I am avid follower and collector of jazz and this programme was very informative as well as enjoyable. Please inform me when the DVD will be available for purchase. I look forward to your response

  • Eve Frebergé

    Would also like to purchase copies of the DVD. (The book is available on Amazon.)

  • Carol Carl

    Excellent program, fabulous musicians doing the re-enactment. Thanks for posting their names.

  • kate DeMay


  • b g long

    There are to many adjectives to describe the remarkable documentary “Harlem in Montmartre”. I set my cable box for the next showing. Better yet, produce a DVD/CD for jazz lovers libraries. BGL

  • http://www.tailwindtradingpackage.com cully

    Strangely the browser I have doesn’t seem to be able to show this article rightly… It seems that a large part of it is not correctly displayed and the template of your article looks very strange. Are you sure this article has been tested under Google Chrome?

  • Dave

    I would also like to purchase the DVD if it becomes available.

  • lmf

    what is the name of the song about sharecroppers not returning after seeing Paris? who wrote it/sings it?

  • http://www.watch-dexter.com/ Almeda Schaberg

    Bad news people,I’ve just heard that Dexter (Michel C.Hall) has been dignosed with cancer but is nothing big the doctors think it’s treateble.

  • http://3barperformance.com

    Thanks to you for this essential info. Where I can get more article about this writting? I have a panel discussion incoming this week and your writting is related with it.

  • Adrien Girault

    Hi Harriett

    My name is Adrien i’m doing an animation/documentary retracing Eugene Bullard’s steps and the lack of recognition that he got after all his outstanding accomplishments. I was wandering if you had a bit of time to talk to me thanks.

  • Adrien

    Can anyone from PBS or thirteen reply to all our bloody questions? Where can we get a DVD its not that hard. Or at least upload it so that we can download it.

  • david ernst

    Dear Adrien,

    Unfortunately, we were not able to make a DVD of Harlem in Montmartre. If you are really interested in the subject matter, you may purchase the book which the film was based on here.

  • Craig Lloyd

    Dear Mr. Ernst,

    As a participant in program and author or Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate, I am disappointed that the DVD can’t be sold. Is the same reason for that why it won’t be broadcast on ARTE as previously advertised? Craig Lloyd

  • Adrien

    ok, thanks for the straight answer

  • Jim Warner

    Will this documentary be available for purchase?

  • Charlie

    Saw this today (late to the party) and I have to ask PBS: this excellent documentary is STILL not available on DVD???


    I’m ready to buy NOW, and can’t!

  • MarioAPNJ

    The DVD. What is the holdup? I’m ready to buy a few copies.

  • holly bullard

    Hi Adrien,
    I’m also a related through marriage to descendants of Bullard’s–his story is a vital piece of history that I feel is missing. I have often thought how much a documentary of his life would be very important. how is your documentary going? Craig Lloyd’s biography was wonderful (see him on this thread–wonderful work Craig!)

  • Cookie

    Thank you SO much for ‘hearing’ the pleas for help for info about this brilliant group of musicians. It’s May 2011 & I only just saw this magnificent program on our Knowlwedge Network, here in BC. I was enthralled & will now set about finding work done by these men.
    Thank you again….

  • Tom Cunningham

    Great show. Where to find credits for the program? I’m interested in who the musicians are? There’s supposed to be more info here.

  • E. Roberson

    When will this show air again?
    Caught part of it about two years or so ago as I was getting ready for work–had to leave out and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since

  • david ernst

    Dear Erick,

    As we stated earlier, unfortunately there is no DVD of the program and repeats of the program are up to your local affiliate. However, we believe repeats of this program will likely be minimal by now as the show is three years old.

  • Moises

    As a resident of soetwhust Harlem, I appreciate that the circle opens to the neighborhood.As for the direction of the statue, there are arguments to be made on both sides, and it would probably be a matter of greater controversy if the reverse approach had been taken.On balance, I think the circle looks great even if it’s taken an incredibly long time to finish.Anyone know what is up with the fountain? It seemed that the last several months were spent working on it, but as of the past week it appears not to have been turned on at all

  • Chris Coffman

    I enjoyed this episode when it aired on my local PBS station and would love to see a DVD available for use in the classroom!

  • Thomas Stelzer

    no answer!

  • Sandra

    Please let me know where I may purchase a DVD of “Harlem in Montmartre” this fabulous PBS Great Performance

  • Kimberly

    I watched this documentary last night and missed the first part. I also would like to buy the DVD . Please let me know if it becomes available . I want my children to see it!

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.