Sidney Bechet Jazz Classics
With Bunk Johnson & Sidney De Paris
Blue Note BST 81201
From the back cover: It is possible that there is in the world a more famous saxophonist than Sidney Bechet, though I am inclined to doubt it. It is beyond dispute that no other musician has come within wailing distance of him on the particular saxophone of his choice, the soprano, an instrument he has virtually monopolized through most of his life.
Bechet has, of course, a second ax to grind in the clarinet, which he began to play not long after the turn of the century. Born May 14, 1987 in New Orleans, he was six years old when he borrowed his brother Leonard's instrument, and eight when he became a protege of Georgie Baquet, clarinetist with the John Robichaux orchestra. Bechet's career has been so fabulously colorful that it is possible in this brief space to touch only on a few of the highlights.
Bunk Johnson, one of the musicians heard with him on these sides, helped Sidney to get a job around 1912 with the famous Eagle Band of New Orleans. By that time he had gained some teen-aged experience with the local bands of Freddie Keppard, Mutt Carey and Buddy Petit. Before and during World War I he was on tour in Texas and all over the south with Clarence Williams and Louis Wade. After working in New Orleans with King Oliver and in Chicago with Tony Jackson, he migrated to New York in 1919 and joined Will Marion Cook's Southern Styncopators.
This affiliation was one of deep significance for Bechet, since it led to his first European tour, as a featured soloist with Cook's concert unit. There were many more European trips during the 1920s and '30s, once with a Negro revue that got as far East as Russia, and later with the Noble Sissle band, in which Bechet was featured off and on for a decade.
Then, in 1938, came temporary retirement. The music business seemed to offer no substantial future; Sidney settled down with a small tailoring business in New York.
Blue Note Records played a significant role in his slow but sure climb up the ladder from inactivity to newly found global fame. It was after a major record company had refused him permission to record a certain popular song that Sidney cam to Alfred Lion of Blue Note and arranged to cut the tune for this new, independent label.
The tune was recorded in June 1939. Bechet and Blue Note thrived mutually on the success of what was to earn lasting fame as one of the great Bechet performances of all time. The number, of course, was Summertime, now made available again on BLP 1201
The 1940s saw the gradual return of Sidney Bechet to the limelight. There were frequent concerts at Town Hall, in Greenwich Village. Not long after the end or World War II Bechet heard Europe beckoning again. In recent years he has spent most of his time in France and has visited the U.S. only occasionally.
The music to be heard on Blue Note's first pair of 12 inch Bechet LPs covers a wide range of sessions, featuring Bechet's artistry on both soprano sax and clarinet in a variety of settings. Though the personnels vary, the results have one important element in common: they are in the New Orleans groove, with the stamp of the Crescent City in every one of the ensemble improvisations and in the individual styles of the soloists surrounding Sidney.
From Billboard - May 24, 1956 (BLP 1201): This package is great jazz inventory and should be stocked by all dealers with this type of clientele. Converted from 10-inch wax, the disk contains great mood-evoking sides, including "Muskrat Ramble," "Summertime," "Dear Old Southland," etc. In addition to the clarinet and soprano sax of Bechet, there are outstanding trumpet solos by the late Bunk Johnson and Sidney De Paris, piano by Meade Lux Lewis and performances by other noted instrumentalists of the New Orleans school. The sides were gleaned from six sessions and will fascinate any collector.
Blame It On The Blues
Days Beyond Recall
Dear Old Southland
Weary Way Blues