SIDNEY BECHET: IN MEMORIAM
Selection Featuring the master of the Soprano Sax, by the BECHET-SPANIER Four, SIDNEY BECHET’s Seven, the “THIS IS JAZZ” ALL-STARS, and BOB WILBUR’s Jazz Band
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Bechet-Spnaier Big Four:
Sweet Lorraine (4:22) (Parish – Burwell)
Up the Lazy River (4:12) (Hoagy Carmichael)
China Boy (3:54) (Winfree – Boutelje)
Four or Five Times (4:05) (Hellman – Gay)
Bechet-Spanier Big Four
That’s a Plenty (4:09) (Lew Pollack)
If I Could Be with You (4:05) (Creamer – Johnson)
Squeeze Me (3:52) (Waller – Williams)
Sweet Sue (4:07) (Harris – Young)
Sidney Bechet’s Seven:
I Got Rhythm (3:10) (G. & I. Gershwin)
September Song (3:03) (Anderson – Weill)
Who (2:59) (Harback – Hammerstein – Kern)
Sidney Bechet with Bob Wilbur’s Jazz Band:
Love Me with a Feeling (3:22) (Sidney Bechet)
“This is Jazz” All-Stars
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home (3:21) (Warfield – Williams)
Blues Improvisation (4:32)
Bechet with Wilbur’s Jazz Band:
I’m Through, Goodbye (2:43) (Sidney Bechet)
Waste No Tears (3:02) (Sidney Bechet)
“This is Jazz” All-Stars
3.Dardanella (2:40) (Fisher – Bernard – Black)
4.I Never Knew (3:26) (Pitts – Egan – Marsh)
Bechet with Wilbur’s Jazz Band:
5.Broken Windmill (3:13) (Sidney Bechet)
6.Without a Home (3:09) (Sidney Bechet)
BECHET-SPANIER BIG FOUR: Sidney Bechet (cl, ss) Muggsy Spanier (cnt) Carmen Mastren (g) Wellman Braud (b)
New York; March 21 (Side 1) and april 6 (Side 2), 1940
SIDNEY BECHET’S SEVEN: Bechet (ss) Albert Snaer (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Wibur De Paris (tb) James P. Johnson (p) Walter Page (b) George Wettling (drs)-Side 3, #1-3 New York; January 31, 1949
SIDNEY BECHET WITH BOB WILBUR’S JAZZ BAND: Bechet (ss)(and vocal on “Love Me with a Feeling”) Henry Goodwin (tp) Jimmy Arhcey (tb) Wilbur (cl, ss) Dick Wellstood (p) Pops foster (b) Tommy Benford (drs)
(Side 3, #4, Side 4, #1,2,5,6) New York; June 9, 1949
THE “THIS IS JAZZ” ALL-STARS: Bechet (ss) Muggsy Spanier (cnt) Albert Nicholas (cl) George Brunis (tb)(and vocal on “Baby, won’t You Please Come Home”) Danny Barker (g) James P. Johnson (p) Pops Foster (b) Baby Dodds (drs)
(Side 3, #5,6) As broadcast from New York; March 1, 1947
“Wild Bill” Davison (tp) for Spanier, Jimmy Arhcey (tb) for Brunis Ralph Sutton (p) for Johnson , others the same.
(Side 4, #3,4) As broadcast from New York; August 2, 1947
Born in New Orleans on May 14, 1897, and early titan of the classic Creole clarinet style, the first and for many years the only master of the soprano saxophone, a life-long colleague and respected friend of the greats of traditional jazz, Sidney Bechet was for much of his career a beloved ambassador to Europe for American music. All of his twilight years were spent in France, away from the stress and tensions of the American jazz world, and he died in Paris – precisely on his sixty-second birthday (may 14, 1959). But the rich grace and unfailling swing of his music have always been equally compelling and valid on both sides of the ocean. Through recordings like those reissued here, his jazz creativity can remain a deep source of joy and beauty.
Most of us tended to take Sidney Bechet for granted. His long, vigorous career and his easy manner of wearing greatness helped us to overlook the stature of this artist during his lifetime. The selections that make up this set, taken from the rather abundant crop of recordings made during the next-to-last decade of his life, may help to remedy this situation by calling to our attention several facets of the Bechet magic.
Often whether by happenstance or by calculation, Bechet recorded along with average or even inferior talent. But most of these selections give Pops what is without doubt a first-rate environment in which to work. Playing with top jazzmen always spurred Sidney to peaks even beyond his usual high plane. This is certainly demonstrated here on the remarkable H.R.S. Sides made with Muggsy Spanier, and number like September Song – one of the gems of Bechet’s repertoire, which receives the sensitive, charged interpretation that only the master can give, with a change of tempo that, it should be noted, fits with characteristic musical naturalness into the Bechet concept of the tune, not as an added gimick.
Sidney once said that he envisaged a melody as a story; his playing dramatized and communicated the emotional flow of that story. This probably has much to do with his depth of expression and command of nuances that lend dignity and impact to even the most simple tune. Bechet attended the opera as a child in New Orleans; he possessed seldom-exploited acting ability; he believed in presentation as well as pure content in music. Such factors helped him to reach a broad audience. Even more importantly, they contributed to the classic proportions and sweeping majesty of his creations.
This almost formal approach, combined with the vitality of jazz, contributes to the timelessness of this man’s music. It is almost as though each spontaneous chorus were a structured composition, although the structure would probably suffer if used by another performer. Nevertheless it can be said that few reedmen since, probably, Old Man Tio have had such a powerful personal effect on other musicians as Bechet. Listen to almost any clarinet or soprano sax man in Europe (particularly those playing in a traditional vein). Johnny Hodges’ soprano work displays obvious influence. Charlie Parker once expressed great admiration for Sidney (Parker’s Summertime has traced in it of that admiration).
On the sessions that made up these records, the music came out as Sidney wanted it. It wasn’t always that way, though; there were many hard years when the uncompromising Bechet, as a sideman, was almost forced out of music by hunger. Yet he hung on to what he felt to be right. There are endless tales of Sidney’s run-ins with other musicians, and even one story that claims that he was thrown in jail in Europe after a battle over correct harmony. Whether true or not, it illustrates the importance that music had for Sidney Bechet. This intense personal drive, so discernible in his playing, was a special quality in him since his first contact with the clarinet in childhood. If Sidney’s mother wanted to punish him, she would simply take his horn away for a while.
By 1918, when only 21 years old. Bechet was featured on Will Marion Cook’s tour of Europe. His rare ability to pour music through a soprano saxophone (all saxes were pretty band in those days, and soprano were and still are extremely difficult to play in tune) appealed to continental audiences so much that Sidney returned many times during the next decade.
The ‘30s were a scuffle, but the years following World War II permitted Bechet to soar to a new level of proficiency and expressiveness. It seemed then as if advancing age were increasing rather than diminishing his power. In the ‘5-s, Sidney returned permanently to Europe, the scene of his earlier triumphs. He continued to pack concert halls almost to the end with thousands of fans, many of whom regarded Sidney Bechet as something like a god. They might not have been to far off the mark at all.
- RICHARD B. HADLOCK
(This appreciation of Bechet has been adapted from an essay by jazz writer, clarinetist and Bechet fan Dick Hadlock. In their original form these comments were part of the notes to Riverside 10-inch LP that included some of the selections reissued in this set).
Remastered, 1960, by JACK MATTHEWS (components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
The selections on Side 1 and Side 2 originally appeared on the H.R.S. label; the other on Circle.