Jean Pâques (pseudonym of J ean-Pierre Paque, °1901 in Liège – †1974) is a Walloon composer and jazz pianist. He belonged to the top of the starting jazz scene in Belgium.
After the First World War, Paques developed into one of the most brilliant European ragtime pianists. Between 1923 and ’25 he was a pianist in his own jazz band, the Five Merry Kids, in Liège. The whole of Liège then danced to its one-steps with crazy names such as Renaise jazz, Catania, Dely aya or waltzes such as Elisi m’ame regreb. He moved to Paris, where he established himself as a pianist and composer in the novelty piano style. The novelty piano (or novelty ragtime) is a piano-only style of music popular in the United States between 1920 and 1940. This style grew out of arranging and recording piano music for pneumatic piano rolls (pianolas). Novelty piano originated from ragtime, but was more swinging, much faster, and due to the possibilities of the player pianos also technically more difficult than the original ragtime.
At the end of the 1920s he played in Berlin with Gregoire Nakchounian and His Russion North Star Orchestra, including music by René Demaret (see Amour de tzigane and Heimweh). He then plays in London with the famous English saxophonist Sid Philips & His Melodians. He then becomes the pianist of the orchestra of the record company Edison Bell in London, led by Harry Hudson. It was during this period that he composed a dozen ‘diabolical’ pieces for piano: Hot Piano, Rythmic Keys, Pianotes, Karessin’ The Keys, Piano Fun, Breakin’Notes…
From 1959, Pâques focuses more on a sober but efficient easy-listening style. He made many recordings with Decca Records, Vega, Disques Vogues and Ariola Easy-Listening-Productions. During his long career he recorded forty albums.
The sensitive slow waltz Sérénade d’amour was composed at the moment when this pioneer of Belgian jazz was earning his first spurs with his Five Merry Kids. While he was mainly concerned with the virtuoso ragtime/novelty style, this waltz somehow refers to his sober easy-listening period through the simple efficiency of melody and harmony. While the melody is very classical, you can already hear small references to jazz harmony in the accompaniment.