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#TBT Sidney Bechet

Posted by Nathan Nutter at  | 0 comments
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With this year's Jazz Fest in our rear view mirrors and summertime just around the corner, we want to celebrate the life of a lesser-known, but nonetheless immortal New Orleans jazz legend: clarinet and soprano sax great Sidney Bechet.

Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 in New Orleans. (He later died the same day in 1959.) By the time he was 19, he was a paid and traveling musician after being asked to join legendary cornet player Bunk Johnson’s Eagle Band as a clarinetist.

While at first struggling to create a quality sound on an old, beat-up soprano saxophone, Bechet got experience gigging on clarinet in major cities like Chicago, Paris, and London, where Sidney purchased a new soprano sax and tried again.

This time he succeeded, and developed a unique and highly expressive tone with broad vibrato, and would go on to be one of the first players make the soprano saxophone an important voice in jazz music.

He played along sides jazz greats like Gene Krupa, Jimmey Dorsey, and Count Basie, many of whom played with our man himself Mr. Claude Lakey!

Bechet’s popularity in the United States may pale in comparison to some of his  contemporaries like Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, but his influence on jazz echoes throughout the genre to this day.

As a teenager, Bechet taught a young Johnny Hodges, and Duke Ellington once said he "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 to ever be in this music."

Happy birthday, Mr. Bechet!

 

 

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