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Tangier’s Jazzmen — and their phantom producer

He rode on Tito Puente’s float during the Puerto Rican Day Parade of 1969, when the mambo king was given a key to the city by Mayor John Lindsay. He was close to Oscar Peterson and Max Roach, he was pall-bearer at Dizzy Gillespie’s funeral. He was part of a team of engineers that designed the technical Oscar-winning Kudelski-Nagra IV recorder, used in film productions. He designed Oris’s jazz-inspired luxury watches honoring the likes of John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Dexter Gordon. And he produced a slew of memorable jazz records.

He is Jacques Muyal – the Moroccan-born producer and aficionado who is one of the most enigmatic and influential figures in the world of jazz. The animated, quick-to-smile 77-year old has been in the news of late for various reasons: because of the release of his latest record “The 4 American Jazzmen in Tangier,” based on recordings he made in Morocco in 1959; the release of a Swiss-television documentary, Jazz: The Only Way of Life of which he is the subject; and because at the recent Dizzy Gillespie centennial at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., he screened a 90-minute film about the late trumpeter, made from previously unreleased home footage.

Muyal’s singular career, born at the center of French and American jazz initiatives in North Africa, and nourished by Latin and pan-African jazz movements, is in some ways also the story of Tangier, the city where he grew up, and its trajectory from a Spanish-speaking International Zone (1923-1959) to a post-colonial city and node in Morocco’s cultural policy. Inordinate attention has been given to the white European and American presence in this mecca (Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Edith Wharton, Jean Genet). Muyal’s productions sought to highlight a different side of this global city and others. In his lifelong work, Muyal sought to celebrate the black presence not only in Tangier, but also in Paris, Havana and Rio. Full Story


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