When live jazz arrived in France towards the end of World War I, it was seen from the start as a fertile symbol of other things. It was an embodiment of artistic freedom, it was modernism, it was America, it was African primitivism, sexual liberation, social decadence and moral decay. Its energy and invation helped produce an unprecedented explosion of activity in modern French art and thought. Paris and jazz had a special relationship. From the United States flowed a stream of black jazz artists keen to taste the freedom and sophistication of the City of Light- Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. In their audiences were other significant Americans who called Paris home-Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Sylvia Beach, and Man Ray. Django Reinhardt, Jean Cocteau, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Boris Vian, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle and Jacques Derrida were among the French artists and intellectuals who also responded, transforming their culture into jazz's second home. In Dancing with De Beauvoir, Colin Nettelbeck explores the powerful synergies between jazz and the French. This
Colin Nettelbeck is AR Chisholm Professor of French and Head of the School of Languages at the University of Melbourne. He has written many books and articles about twentieth century French literature, cinema and cultural history, including Forever French- Exile in the United States 1939-1945 (1993) and A Century of Cinema- Australian and French Connections (with Jane Warren and Wallace Kirsop, 1996). He is a jazz fan and sometime practitioner and, like Cole Porter, loves Paris in any season.