"Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz…everything he played in his whole life was completely original. I honestly think he was the most unique man ever to be in this music." -- Duke Ellington
Although the clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet’s first trip to Europe was in 1919, and despite a colorful series of visits to Paris in the 1920s including, but not limited to, an alleged affair with Josephine Baker, a gunfight, incarceration and deportation, his fame stems more from the last decade of his life (1949-59) when Bechet moved permanently to France and became one of our greatest American exports of that time. The adoration and acclaim he received by the French audiences set in motion two things: a revival of world-wide interest in more “traditional” hot jazz (and, with it, a re-discovering of some of its chief practitioners); and a remarkable exodus of American jazz musicians to Europe, setting up shop in countries where they felt more appreciated than in America. We’ll reflect on key moments through Bechet’s career, including his early records backing up blues singers, his fiery meetings with Louis Armstrong, his famous “one-man band” recordings, his special “French” compositions, and a remarkable series of recordings he made with Willie “The Lion” Smith in 1939 of his impressions of Haitian music, predating the world music craze by a good 50 years.
| ||The Sheik Of Araby|
(1921) Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler (w) Ted Snyder (m) This was kind of a "party" piece for Bechet - so much that other saxophonists learned his solo and played it themselves on records, notably Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington.
| ||The Saint Louis Blues|
(1914) W. C. Handy (w/m) This was Bechet's feature tune with his first stint with Noble Sissle in his first, early trip to France.
| ||Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning|
(1924) Tom Delaney, Pearl Delaney (w/m) Recorded by the Red Onion Jazz Babies with Bechet, Louis Armstrong, and a young Alberta Hunter recording as "Josephine Beatty".
| ||Loveless Love|
(1926) W. C. Handy (w)
| ||Sweetie Dear |
(1906) Will Marion Cook (w) Joe Jordan (m) From Bechet's first important record as leader, billed as The New Orleans Feetwarmers.
| ||Summertime| (1935) Porgy And Bess DuBose Heyward (w) George Gershwin (m) Bechet's version was a big hit on the early Blue Note label.
| ||Petite Fleur ["Little Flower"]| (1952) Sidney Bechet (m) Bechet's biggest "French hit" - this song, written by him, is practically a French standard. (This and the rest of the program is from Bechet's "Haitian Moods" record, recorded in 1939 with a quintet including pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith.)