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BECHET, Sidney: Shake It And Break It


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SIDNEY BECHET Vol.3

'Shake It And Break It'  Original Recordings 1938-1941


With Louis and Jelly Roll one third of the classic NewOrleans triumvirate, 'grand gentleman of jazz' Sidney Bechet, the genre'sarchetypal prodigy, also ended his days a living legend. Powerful and inventivein his frequent interchanges from clarinet to soprano-sax, he towers as aformative influence alongside Louis and Duke Ellington in the pantheon of earlyjazz. As a player in the 'embellished' New Orleans tradition he ranks withJohnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone, while as an improviser he stands in directdescent from Charles Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) the jazz pioneer whom Jelly RollMorton rated \the most compelling trumpet player I ever heard". In the midst ofsuch powerful traditions, Bechet was from an early age aware that somethingprecious was being entrusted to him and, while outwardly never overtlyambitious (the phantom Fame never overrode more everyday considerations or his"ferocious lust for life") his apparent technical security displayed all thestudied nonchalance of true greatness.


Sidney Joseph Bechet was born in St Antoine Street, NewOrleans on 14 May 1897, the youngest of seven siblings. His four brothers wereall, in their respective ways, musical (in particular his brother Leonard wasfor a time a professional trombonist prior to a career in dentistry and hisson, Leonard Jr. was a saxophonist who for a time managed his uncle Sidney'saffairs). Although surrounded by great trumpeters, from the age of six Sidney'sfirst love was the clarinet, an instrument on which he was largely self-taughtand which, according to legend, at ten, he was already playing in the band ofthe legendary Freddie Keppard (1890-1933). Respected from the outset by bothpeers and elders alike as a natural talent (Larry Shields and Jimmie Noone wereamong his pupils) his own training was gleaned intermittently from, amongothers, Lorenzo Tio Jr. (1893-1933), Big Eye Louis Nelson (1880-1949) andGeorges Baquet (1883-1949).


Bechet's professional career took off during 1909 with astint in the Silver Bells Band, an outfit consisting of Sidney, his twobrothers and trumpeter Sidney Desvigne (1893-1959). Principally, at this stage,he played only clarinet in leading New Orleans bands led by Buddy Petit, JackCarey, John Robichaux and Bunk Johnson but, like many other musicians of thatcity, was also heard on cornet in Sunday parades and church processions. By1913, lured away from the Silver Bells by Johnson, he had joined New Orleans'more renowned Eagle Band and the next year he left his native town withpianists Louis Wade and Clarence Williams to join a travelling show in Texas,indulging a penchant for wandering which, already by 1916, was becomingobsessive.  Later that year hereturned briefly to New Orleans with King Oliver but in 1917 left permanently,touring at first with a travelling company through the South and Midwest, thenappearing in Chicago with bands led by Keppard, Oliver and Lawrence Duhe.


Late in 1918 Bechet was 'discovered' by violinist-composerWill Marion Cook (1869-1944) and the following year made his first trip acrossthe Atlantic as a member of Cook's Southern Syncopated Orchestra. Following sosoon after the visit of the all-white ODJB, the arrival in London of anall-black band proved both a novelty with audiences and a personal coup forSidney. The Cook band played the Philharmonic Hall where Bechet's"extraordinary clarinet virtuoso" playing was extolled by the great classicalconductor Ernest Ansermet.  Laterin 1919 Bechet, with other Southern Syncopated band members, quit Cook to jointhe Jazz Kings, a small ragtime outfit fronted by drummer Benny Peyton. Thisband spent a year-and-a-half touring various European venues, including Paris(in his final years to become his second home) and London. In London the band'sactivities included two (unpublished) 1920 recordings made for Columbia and aresidency at the Hammersmith Palais during 1921. At this time the notoriously'colourful' Sidney's own offstage high jinx continued until his deportation toNew York following a fracas involving a prostitute, in November 1922. 


Once again in New York he worked variously as a musician andactor (with Ford Dabney) in revue and played in bands, notably Mamie Smith'sand, during 1924, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. With the latter, ingroups colourfully dubbed 'Clarence Williams' Blue Five' and the 'Red OnionJazz Babes', he recorded the first discs to enshrine the New Orleans style intransition. Early in 1925, Bechet worked again with Duke Ellington and alsowith James P. Johnson before returning to Paris to join Josephine Baker in theRevue N?â?¿gre in September. Thereafter, for the next five years, while his jazzcounterparts in the United States were reaping world renown and financialrewards, he proceeded on a nomadic and largely obscure pathway.  In 1926, he was in Russia, from 1927 hewas active in Europe, mainly France and Germany and on his return to theStates, in 1931, he found himself half-forgotten, squeezed out by the lucrativerecording contracts of his former colleagues.  Fighting back, in 1932, with Tommy Ladnier (1900-1939), whomhe had first met in Moscow in 1926, he formed the short-lived New OrleansFootwarmers (they recorded six sides only for Victor in September of that year)but by 1938, upstaged by the more fashionable Swing orchestras, ran a full-timetailoring repair business with his old trumpeter pal by day and jammed at theback of the shop, after hours, just for the love of it.


Renewed recognition, however, soon came Bechet's way. In1938, he was invited by John Hammond to participate in a landmark New Yorkrevival gala "to epitomise the New Orleans 'jass' band" (boogie-woogie pianistsAlbert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, stride-man James P. Johnson and blues honkerBig Bill Broonzy were also featured) and, in November of that year, he recordeda handful of titles for Vocalion (Tracks 1-4 were the published fruits of thatsession) and a similar clutch (for contractual reasons, under the pseudonym of'Pops King') in a seven-piece fronted by Ladnier, for RCA's Bluebird label.Quickly recognised as one of the great pioneers by a consensus of jazzcommentators, Bechet now had a new career thrust upon him as the father-figureof the New Orleans 'new wave' and, rescued at least temporarily fromgramophonic oblivion, found himself re-packaged for a younger, moreanalytically-minded generation of enthusiasts, albeit at first it was thesmaller, specialist labels who took the initiative. In 1939 (with a quintetincluding Meade Lux Lewis on piano) and 1940 with his Quartet, Bechet recordedtwo sessions (five sides) for Blue Note, while two more sessions in 1940, withChicagoan cornettist Muggsy Spanier (1906-67) made for the Hot Record Society,spotlighted Sidney's multi-instrumental capabilities. By 1940 RCA had returnedto the frame (he was after all known to them from his September 1932 session)and stage-managed and stylised his new image for maximum impact. To boostsales, the 1940 'S.B. & His New Orleans Footwarmers' sessions (Tracks 8-15)also featured several of Sidney's noted contemporaries: that of 4 Junehighlighting the trumpet of Sidney de Paris, that of September 6, the piano ofEarl Hines.


In later years Bechet was accorded the accolade that hadpreviously eluded him and the fame of his Revival recordings preceded him when,in 1949, he returned to Europe for the first time in eighteen years.  In London, for Melotone (Savoy) herecorded in small ensembles in company with Humphrey Lyttleton and others and,under the auspices of the Hot Club de Paris, was rapturously received at theParis Jazz Festival. He enjoyed belated media
Disc: 1
I Know That You Know
1 What A Dream
2 Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood Mama)
3 Chant In The Night
4 Jungle Drums
5 Indian Summer
6 One O'Clock Jump
7 Preachin' Blues
8 Shake It And Break It
9 Old Man Blues
10 Wild Man Blues
11 Nobody Knows the Way I Feel Dis Morning
12 Blues In Thirds
13 Ain't Misbehavin'
14 Save It Pretty Mama
15 Stompy Jones
16 Coal Black Shine
17 Swing Parade
18 I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of This Jelly Roll
19 When It's Sleepy Time Down South
20 I Know That You Know
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