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Musicians Find “Utopia” in Denmark + “Jazz in Exile”

June 3 @ 1:00 pm

UW professor Ethelene Whitmire presents “Musicians Find ‘Utopia’ in Denmark,” a talk on African American jazz expatriates; followed by filmmaker Chuck France presenting Jazz in Exile (1982). A short Q & A session will follow the film.

Free admission!

“Musicians Find ‘Utopia’ in Denmark”: During the 20th century African American jazz musicians and singers — including Louis Armstrong, Dexter Gordon and Ella Fitzgerald among many others — went to Denmark to perform, to live, to marry and to die in Copenhagen. In her presentation, Whitmire will discuss how these performers found love, freedom, opportunities, imprisonment and joy within Denmark’s borders.

Jazz in Exile: Madison filmmaker Chuck France presents Jazz in Exile, his 1982 documentary on the exodus of African American jazz musicians to Europe. The film features jazz musicians Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Randy Weston, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Art Farmer, Steve Lacy, Phil Woods, Richard Davis, Ben Sidran and others with interviews and performance footage.

As David Klein wrote for Lake Front Row in April 2015, “the film … itself has aged gracefully, a charmingly earnest combination of sit-down interviews and live performances from some of the half-century’s most notable jazz musicians. The simple construction is because Jazz in Exile is primed for a single purpose — to document the flight of American jazz from America to Europe beginning in the 1960s — and France stays out of the way of both the music and his interview subjects.”


Ethelene Whitmire. Photo credit: Vaughn Strother.

Ethelene Whitmire is a professor at the UW-Madison’s The Information School, affiliated with the departments of Afro-American Studies; German, Nordic and Slavic; and Gender & Women’s Studies. She received funding for the book project, Searching for a Rainbow: African Americans in 20th Century Denmark, from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, ScanDesign and the Lois Roth Endowment. She was a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Transnational American Studies. Her first book was Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. In summer 2018 she will teach a course, “The Transnational Experiences of African Americans in Copenhagen,” through the University of Wisconsin’s Study Abroad program.

Recently retired from a long career as videographer and editor for Wisconsin Public Television, Chuck France produced several jazz-related pieces for WPT’s Wisconsin Life series, including “Richard Davis,” “One for Richard” and “Ben Webster.” France recently spent some of his downtime restoring his 1982 documentary, Jazz in Exile, with a brand new, color-corrected digital transfer.


June 3
1:00 pm
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Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St.
Madison, WI 53713 United States
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