Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French

TitleDancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsNettelbeck, Colin
Number of Pages240
PublisherMelbourne University Press

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 innovation 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 Céline, 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 this volume, the author explores the powerful synergies between jazz and the French. This cultural history not only recalls influential performances and recordings. It teases out the threads of artistic collaborations and rivalries, revisits influential meetings, love affairs and friendships, and explores tensions in US-French relations, to show how jazz has helped shaped modern French culture. 

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