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Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet was the first important jazz soloist on records in history (beating Louis Armstrong by a few months). A brilliant soprano saxophonist and clarinetist with a wide vibrato that listeners either loved or hated, Bechet's style did not evolve much through the years but he never lost his enthusiasm or creativity. A master at both individual and collective improvisation within the genre of New Orleans jazz, Bechet was such a dominant player that trumpeters found it very difficult to play with him. Bechet wanted to play lead and it was up to the other horns to stay out of his way.

Sidney Bechet studied clarinet in New Orleans with Lorenzo Tio, Big Eye Louis Nelson, and George Baquet and he developed so quickly that as a child he was playing with some of the top bands in the city. He even taught clarinet, and one of his students (Jimmie Noone) was actually two years older than him. In 1917, he traveled to Chicago, and in 1919 he joined Will Marion Cook's orchestra, touring Europe with Cook and receiving a remarkably perceptive review from Ernst Ansermet. While overseas he found a soprano sax in a store and from then on it was his main instrument. Back in the U.S., Bechet made his recording debut in 1923 with Clarence Williams and during the next two years he appeared on records backing blues singers, interacting with Louis Armstrong and playing some stunning solos. He was with Duke Ellington's early orchestra for a period and at one point hired a young Johnny Hodges for his own band. However, from 1925-1929 Bechet was overseas, traveling as far as Russia but getting in trouble (and spending jail time) in France before being deported.

Most of the 1930s were comparatively lean times for Bechet. He worked with Noble Sissle on and off and had a brilliant session with his New Orleans Feetwarmers in 1932 (featuring trumpeter Tommy Ladnier). But he also ran a tailor's shop which was more notable for its jam sessions than for any money it might make. However, in 1938 he had a hit recording of "Summertime," Hugues Panassie featured Bechet on some records and soon he was signed to Bluebird where he recorded quite a few classics during the next three years. Bechet worked regularly in New York, appeared on some of Eddie Condon's Town Hall concerts, and in 1945 he tried unsuccessfully to have a band with the veteran trumpeter Bunk Johnson (whose constant drinking killed the project). Jobs began to dry up about this time, and Bechet opened up what he hoped would be a music school. He only had one main pupil, but Bob Wilber became his protégé.

Sidney Bechet's fortunes changed drastically in 1949. He was invited to the Salle Pleyel Jazz Festival in Paris, caused a sensation, and decided to move permanently overseas. Within a couple years he was a major celebrity and a national hero in France, even though the general public in the U.S. never did know who he was. Bechet's last decade was filled with exciting concerts, many recordings, and infrequent visits back to the U.S. before his death from cancer. His colorful (if sometimes fanciful) memoirs Treat It Gentle and John Chilton's magnificent Bechet biography The Wizard of Jazz (which traces his life nearly week-by-week) are both highly recommended. Many of Sidney Bechet's recordings are currently available on CD. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me (Single)

1. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me

x

Track List: Pre-War Classic Sides

Disc 1

1. Got The Bench, Got The Park

2. In A Cafe On The Road To Calais

3. Loveless Love

4. Basement Blues

5. Wha'd Ya Do To Me?

6. Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On

7. Sweetie Dear

8. I Want You Tonight

9. I've Found A New Baby

10. Lay Your Racket

11. Maple Leaf Rag

12. Shag

13. Under The Creole Moon

15. Loveless Love

16. Polka Dot Rag

17. That's What Love Did To Me

18. You Can't Live In Harlem

19. I Wonder Who Made Rhythm

20. 'tain't A Fit Night Out For Man Or Beast

21. I Take To You

22. Rhythm Of The Broadway Moon

24. I'm Just Wild About Harry

25. Dear Old Southland

26. Okey-Doke

Disc 2

1. Characteristic Blues

2. Viper Mad

3. Blackstick

4. When The Sun Sets Down South

5. Sweet Patootie

6. Freight Train Blues

7. Trixie Blues

9. My Daddy Rocks Me - Part 2

11. Jack, I'm Mellow

12. Uncle Joe

13. I Am A Woman

14. Toot It, Brother Armstrong

15. Blue Monday On Sugar Hill

16. My Unusual Man

17. What A Dream

18. Hold Tight

19. Jungle Drums

20. Chant In The Night

21. Ja Da

22. Really The Blues

23. When You And I Were Young, Maggie

24. Weary Blues

25. Summertime

Disc 3

1. Blues For Tommy

2. Pounding Heart Blues

4. Mayotte

6. Sous Les Palmiers

13. Ti Ralph

14. Meringue D'amour

16. Oh, Didn't He Ramble

17. High Society

18. I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say

19. Winin' Boy Blues

20. Indian Summer

21. One O'Clock Jump

22. Preachin' Blues

23. Sidney's Blues

24. Careless Love

25. Milk Cow Blues

Disc 4

1. Lonesome Blues

2. Dear Old Southland

3. Bechet's Steady Rider

4. Saturday Night Blues

5. Four Or Five Times

6. Sweet Lorraine

7. Lazy River

8. China Boy

9. If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight

10. That's A Plenty

11. Squeeze Me

12. Sweet Sue

13. Perdido Street Blues

14. 2:19 Blues

15. Down In Honky Tonk Town

16. Coal Cart Blues

17. Shake It And Break It

18. Old Man Blues

19. Wild Man Blues

20. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel 'dis Mornin'

21. Make Me A Pallet On The Floor

x

Track List: Tresors

Disc 1

1. Ce Mossieu Qui Parle

2. Buddy Bolden Story

3. Bechet Creole Blues

4. Anita's Birthday

5. Les Oignons

7. Blues In Paris

10. Happy Go Lucky Blues

12. American Rhythm

13. Out Of Nowhere

14. Mon Homme

15. Temptation Rag

16. Riverboat Shuffle

17. Sobbin' And Cryin'

18. Everybody Loves My Baby

19. Struttin' With Some Barbecue

20. Sawmill Blues

Disc 2

1. Moulin A Cafe

2. Maryland, My Maryland

3. Careless Love

4. Moustache Gauloise

5. Francis Blues

6. Casey Jones

7. Blues In My Heart

8. Lastic

9. Madame Becassine

10. Down Home Rag

11. Society Blues

13. Royal Garden Blues

14. In The Groove

15. Promenade Aux Champs Elysees

16. En Attendant Le Jour

17. Wolverine Blues

19. Blues In The Cave

Disc 3

1. Kansas City Man Blues

2. Together

3. Apex Blues

4. Sleepy Time Gal

5. Of All The Wrongs You've Done To Me

7. Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet

8. Sidney's Wedding Day

9. Ghost Of The Blues

10. Strike Up The Band

11. Si Tu Vois Ma Mere

12. Wabash Blues

13. Pattes De Mouche

14. Le Marchand De Poissons

15. As-Tu Le Cafard ?

16. Dans Les Rues D'antibes

17. That Old Black Magic

18. Because Of You

19. Petite Fleur

20. I Get A Kick Out Of You

21. Blues

22. Girl's Dance

23. (It's No) Sin

24. You're Lucky To Me

Disc 4

1. Milenberg Joys

2. Blue Room

3. Rockin' Chair

4. Big Butter And Egg Man

5. My Melancholy Baby

6. Limehouse Blues

7. I Got The Right To Sing The Blues

10. Lazy River

11. Stars Fell On Alabama

12. Twelfth Street Rag

13. Au Clair De La Lune

14. Porter's Love Song

15. Embraceable You

16. Ol' Man River

18. You Rascal You

19. Le Loup, La Biche Et Le Chevalier

x

Track List: Ken Burns Jazz - Sidney Bechet

1. Wild Cat Blues

2. Texas Moaner Blues

3. Mandy, Make Up Your Mind

5. The Basement Blues

6. Shag

7. Polka Dot Rag

8. Okey-Doke

9. Characteristic Blues

10. Dear Old Southland

11. Blackstick

12. Viper Mad

13. Chant In The Night

14. Jungle Drums

15. Summertime

16. Sweet Lorraine

17. Shake It And Break It

18. Egyptian Fantasy

19. Blue Horizon

20. Love For Sale

x

Track List: Runnin' Wild

1. Sister Kate

2. Tiger Rag

3. Tin Roof Blues

4. I Found A New Baby

6. When The Saints Go Marching In

7. Basin Street Blues

9. At The Jazz Band Ball

10. Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho

11. Fidgety Feet

12. Tailgate Ramble

14. China Boy

19. Mandy Make Up Your Mind

x

Track List: Slippin' And Slidin'

1. Slippin' And Slidin'

2. 12th St. Rag

3. Shake It And Break It

4. Old Man Blues

5. Ain't Misbehavin'

6. Stompy Jones

7. Muskrat Ramble

8. Coal Black Shine

9. Baby Won't You Please Come Home

10. Sweetie Dear

11. Weary Blues

12. One O'Clock Jump

13. Swing Parade

14. I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of This Jelly Roll

15. Limehouse Blues

16. Texas Moaner Blues

17. Blues In The Air

18. I'm Comin' Virginia

19. You're The Limit

20. Rose Room

x

Track List: 1923-1930

1. House Rent Blues

2. Mean Blues

5. Texas Moaner

6. Early In The Morning

7. You've Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole

12. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel Dis Morning

14. Cake Walking Babies From Home

17. Cake Walking Babies From Home

18. Pickin' On Your Baby

21. Ghost Of The Blues

x

Track List: The Best Of Sidney Bechet

1. Summertime

2. St. Louis Blues

3. Blue Horizon

4. Muskrat Ramble

5. Porto Rico

6. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

7. Bechet's Fantasy

9. Old Stack O'Lee Blues

10. I Found A New Baby

11. Sister Kate

12. When The Saints Go Marching In

13. Basin Street Blues

14. Copenhagen

15. Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll

16. Black And Blue

17. All Of Me

x

Track List: Shake It And Break It

1. Blues In Thirds

2. Muskrat Ramble

3. Blues Of Bechet

4. Swing Parade

5. Georgia Cabin

6. Strange Fruit

7. The Mooche

8. 12th Street Rag

9. Bugle Call Rag/Ole Miss Blues

10. After You've Gone

11. Blue Horizon

12. Gone Away Blues

13. Old Stack O'Lee Blues

15. Bechet's Creole Blues

16. Les Oignons

17. Mon Homme

18. Margie

19. Apex Blues

20. Dans Les Rues D'antibes

21. Petite Fleur

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Mmmmmm,,,GOO D !
Report as inappropriate
Although I'm a Rock musician I've been a huge fan of Sidney Bechet since my early teens in my native Casablanca Morocco.Sidn e y Bechet is the only musician that I can listen to for hours and days non stop without getting tired of him. I consider him to be the ultimate genius and greatest composer of the Melodic Jazz !!
Report as inappropriate
Basin street in New Orleans. Hmmm.
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Instantly recognizable and always a pleasure.
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prr.4702
I'm older than salt water but I'm trying to learn soprano sax, inspired by Sidney and his vibrato.
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Quite a talent.
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complex-harm o n i o u s fun music-I can listen for hours
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Plese erase from this station all Jsxx influencesl! ! ! ! My number 12th request at least.
Thank youk
Paridia
Report as inappropriate
His autobiograph y Treat it gentle is a great read.
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Love the vibrato
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Joy to hear
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countyroads
Sidney's Summertime turns January into July.
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herbertgolds t e i n 7 6
Every time my shuffle plays Sidney Bechet when I'm home doing some chores, I immediately stop what I'm doing and pay attention to his music; it's always gets through to me even when I'm in a funk, picks me up, and is always good to listen to.
Report as inappropriate
si tu vois ma mere...great song.
Report as inappropriate
nobhovde
Became friends with Sydney on the Riviera in early fifties, fished after his gigs with the Claude Luter orfchestra. His soprano was perfect at the time as he was happy and married to a Belgian lady. His last days were joyful as the French revered him (bon jour Monnsier Bechet - hard tee at the end of his name - rather than the correct shay - thinking of him as American), Nice memories, Nob H.
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Oooooooo...o o !
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he is awesome! loved the opening piece to "Midnight in Paris" ..Si tu vois ma mere
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Ladies and Gentleman Mr. Sidney Beeeechet! He is awesome, great stuff.
Report as inappropriate
A true master. Tone, phrasing, and most importantly, heart AND soul.
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gordonsteven s 4 9
That great vibrato was something, wasn't it?
Report as inappropriate
If you're going to highlight the best and most important work of Bechet's career, don't you have to include his 1939 sessions with Jelly Roll Morton? Check them out if you're not already familiar - "Winin' Boy Blues," etc.
Report as inappropriate
Never harsh, Bechet has the most melodic style and swings hard when it it time to swing. He shared Louis Armstong's advice. "Play the melody".
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Bechet's playing is so damm cool, he is a jammer for sure.
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Interesting personal history, loved in Europe
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If you enjoy Sidney Bechet, check out Dr. Michael White and his Original Liberty Jazz Band fron New Orleans
Report as inappropriate
paulkriet2
I heard him play at Jazz Ltd in Chicago where he carried Bill Reinhart whose wife ran the club. Great stuff
Report as inappropriate
It's always great to hear Bechet and his "licorice stick". I saw him perform numerous times at clubs on the East Coast. Those were the days of great music and great musicians.

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