Vive La France


Who is this guy Percy France? That’s the thought that has gone through the minds of many jazz freaks no doubt when taking a look at or listening to Home Cookin’, one of organist Jimmy Smith’s many bestsellers on the Blue Note label. His name is on the sleeve and his excellent tenor playing is part of Smith’s solid waxed offering.

It turns that plenty people, and not just your average cat, knew where France was at, not least his fellow New York-born saxophonist, Sonny Rollins. This is because of the efforts of former journalist and jazz researcher Daniel Gould. I came into contact with Gould when I wrote a bit about pianist Eddie Higgins and he kindly gave me permission to quote from an interview.

Gould assembled almost every conceivable piece of information about the enigmatic Percy France and produced this excellent website – see here – giving credit where credit is due. Percy France (1928-1992) was a regular at Minton’s Playhouse when Charlie Parker et. al. created bebop. He spent years in the popular band of organist Bill “Honky Tonk” Doggett. In the 1980’s, France was an acclaimed if under-recorded part of the New York scene.

(Three albums featuring Percy France; the furthest Flophouse got to the story of France until Gould came along.)

Sometimes all it needs to make your jazz day is a fellow freak. At the time when Gould built his site, I interviewed pianist and organist Mike LeDonne and a side step in our talk revealed the surprising fact that he was acquainted and played with Percy France in the 1980’s. LeDonne is featured in Gould’s page.

A great job he’s done. Perfect to browse through while listening to some of the stuff that France is on. Vive La France!

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