Pathé was one of the most important record company in the world in the early 20th century. The company produced records all around the globe, from all over Europe to USA via Maghreb, India or China.
Though, the company was quite eratic in its management of the matrix attributions and there also seems to have been some lack of discipline in the ledgers, so that it has always been difficult for historians to get official, trustfull informations on recording sessions.
To make things worth, EMI France, owner of all the remaining archives of Pathé, destroyed everything in 1990, despite the historical importance of such documents. It seems that France has no interest in its pre-WWII musical history. Thus, just like with the F. Howard Jackson’s Paris recordings, there is no more official informations available on the recordings offered here, just speculations from small leads and the habits of the days.

The Pathé Frères company started producing phonographes and cylinders in Chatou, not far from Paris, as early as 1898. They later produced vertical cut records (1906) and lateral cut records (1927), then vinyl records (1951).

The Art Deco factory has been destroyed in 2004, for the benefit of a real estate project. The possibility of the concervation of the phonographic memory as just been thrown away, just like what happened there during the previous 70 years didn’t matter. A great opportunity to celebrate France’s pre-war muscical history has been lost. History doesn’t weight much compared to money, does it ?

Pathé was not ahead of its time after WWI. While major recording companies from the US or even UK improved the sound of their records drastically during the 10’s, Pathé was still using cylinders as “masters” for their records, making them a second generation product, a “dub”. That odd habit was kept until they switched to the electric recording. That explains in part why the recordings offered in my “early jazz recordings in Paris” series do not sound as good as expected for the period, especially if compared with what was done in the above mentioned countries.

The Marcel’s Jazz Band des Folies-Bergères is one of those bands for wich the history has been lost. For what is certain: they have played at Les Folies Bergères (one of the most famous parisian cabaret) in 1919 and they recorded for Pathé apparently as early as January 1919 , making them pioneers of “jazz” recordings in the immediate post-WWI era. Six sides have been recorded, they were still available at least until 1925.
To draw a portait of the band I can just assume and speculate on things, from what I have found…and heard.
First of all, it is unlikely that the recorded songs have been played by french musicians, as, in 1919, french musicians did not master the syncopation as well as US or even UK musicians did. Like those of F. Howard Jackson’s, the sides sound more ragtime-like than purely New Orleans style jazz. Still, there is syncopation and elements of jazz.
Pathé specified in its catalogs that the band was an American orchestra. This is an information to be taken cautiously, as informations given were not always accurate and it is a statement that was not always applied to other American bands – but it may also be true and pointed out to guide retailers to a certain style, for bands they might not know already. Yet, this statement confirms the listening feeling.
In The Jazz Republic: music, race and American culture in Weimar Germany (Jonathan O. Wipplinger, University of Michigan Press, 2017) the band is described as being french by the author. Though, an advertisement in the Wiesbadener Bade-Blatt, a german newspaper, in december 1919, specified the name of the band as “Marcel’s American Jazz Band and the Comic Trap Drummer Harry”, wich gives important informations: the band is described as being American, and the drummer is called Harry.
The band did play in Germany in december 1919 and february 1920, and obviously, came from France – Paris even, as it was the band from Les Folies Bergères. In that sense, it could have been described as a “french band”. And, as the personnel is unknown today, one can assume that the “Marcel” from the name could have been a french…musical director or something with American musicians. But the fact that it was advertised as “American” is coherent with the Pathé catalog and the listening feeling.
The “comic trap drummer Harry” could be Harry Jefferson, a famous Trap Drummer in the US Vaudeville circuit in the 10’s. I haven’t find much about the man or his personnal history, but he appears several times in The Original Blues, the emergence of the Blues in the African American Vaudeville (Abbott & Seroff, University Press of Mississippi, 2017), or in Blacks in Blackface: A Sourcebook on Early Black Musical Shows (Henry Sampson, Scarecrow Press, 2013). He could have been incorporated in the US Army and have stayed in Paris after the Liberation, like some other Afro-american musicians, not too eager to go back home…

Marcel’s Jazz Band “Hallow Of Your Hand” (c. 01/1919 – Mx 6441)
Marcel’s Jazz Band “Smiles” (c. 01/1919 – Mx 6489)

Obviously, This band had no link with the french singer Marcel’s (Marcel Baudet), who recorded mostly chansons and musette from the second half of the 20’s to 1950.

The Lanin’s Jazz Band here is definitively not a recording of one of the Lanin brothers. The most famous of them, Sam, was not in Paris in early 1923, when these sides were recorded. My assumption is that this is probably a pseudonym chosen because of Sam Lanin, who was playing at the most famous dance ball of New York back in the days: the Roseland Ballroom, and who’s records were available in France, some also on Pathé.
Though, according to Ivan Députier, french Jazz expert, on his notes on the highly recommanded french LP “Le jazz en France Vol1: Premiers Jazz bands, Paris 1919-1923” (Pathé-Marconi), this could be Will Lanin’s orchestra. Will Lanin – except if he’s talking about a namesake – is an American pianist who played with Gene Fosdick in his Fosdick’s Hoosiers, a band of the early 20’s playing hot jazz influenced by the New Orleans style. They recorded for Vocalion in New York between November 1922 and late March 1923. The schedule seems a bit tight to me, to have him cross the ocean and record in Paris a few sides for Pathé, including javas.
In my humble opinion, this is most probably a made up band for a recording session, possibly french musicians mixed with American musicians living in Paris, like those of the Mitchell’s Jazz Kings – as, according to a fellow jazz collector and musician, the trumpetist on the “Hot Lips” side could be (with the required precautions) Crickett Smith…My assumption comes from the listening feeling that the musicians are too rigid to be Afro-american jazz players, except the cornet, who sounds more comfortable than the others.
They play a jazz-ish rendition of “Hot Lips”, one of the great success of Paul Whiteman in 1922, and a dispensable rendition of a java written by french composer Maurice Yvain for Mistinguett, another success of 1922.
EDIT: According to the comments below, the Lanin here would be Joe Lanin, one of Sam’s brothers; and the cornetist, most probably Clarence J. Gransie.

Due to technical issues, the first 20 secondes or so of each sides are missing. All my apologies for the missing parts.

Lanin’s Jazz Band “Hot Lips” (c. 04/1923 – Mx 6788)
Lanin’s Jazz Band “La java” (c. 04/1923 – Mx 6800)

Appears on the label the mention “specially adjusted for dancing by Mistinguett”, sometimes, even, with a picture of her on the label. The music has not been prepared at all; but, Mistinguett being a Pathé Frères shareholder, her name on the label of a record ensured substantial sales.

A sticker of Mistinguett on the label of a record ensured substantial sales.

[1] Sources: left picture: postcard from the Yvelines archives – right picture: Répertoire de l’Inventaire Général DRAC Ile-de-France (1986).

Also, thanks to Tony Baldwin and Célian Guillemard.

6 thoughts on “Early jazz recordings in Paris: Bands you know nothing about.

  1. Great article!

    However, I’d like to point out that the recordings of Lanin’s Jazz Band were led by Joe Lanin (and yes, Joe Lanin was also the brother of Howard Lanin, Lester Lanin, Will Lanin & of course, Sam Lanin), and that the trumpet soloist is Clarence J. Gransie/Clarence Grancy.
    You can find him on this pic of Rumolino’s Jazz Band available on this link of the Jazz Hound website hosted by Mark Berresford:


      1. Joe Lanin later retired from the jazz & dance band leading business as it can be shown on this link:

        By the way, Joe Lanin’s Jazz Band (featuring again Clarence J. Grancy/Gransie) also recorded “En Douce” & “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise”:

        Check out the later, on which Lanin is following Paul Whiteman’s recording closely with some differences on the trumpet solo.


      2. Here’s the link of (Joe) Lanin’s Jazz Band recording of “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise” (yet the description still lists Will Lanin as the leader):

        The pianist is of course Joe Lanin himself. He’s listed as one of the pianists with his brother Howard Lanin’s band alongside his brother Will on Johnson & Shirley’s ADBORAF/American Dance Bands On Record & Film ( /, and he directed 2 of Howard Lanin’s sessions for Victor:

        Gransie/Grancy also recorded with Gorman’s Novelty Syncopators, The Happy Six, Yerkes’ Bluebird Orchestra, Art Hickman’s New York London Five for british HMV & Jack Howard’s Metropolitans for british Edison Bell Winner.


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