Sidney Bechet / May 14, 1897 - May 14, 1959

One of the early solo stylists of jazz, Sidney Bechet ripped it up in his native New Orleans, marching in parade bands, playing parties and as clarinetist with the Eagle Band and others before joining King Oliver's band in 1913. That band did some heavy touring, including a residency in Chicago. In 1919 he joined the Syncopated Orchestra in NYC and that band went to Europe and became a sensation, even attracting positive attention from the classical music world.

In London he started playing the soprano saxophone and became the early standard on that instrument (greatly influencing John Coltrane). His heavy touring of Europe brought him as far as Russia on a few occasions. He made his earliest recordings in '23 and continued to tour Europe and the USA. His 1932 sides with his New Orleans Feetwarmers are considered amongst his best sessions ever. But his sound never strayed too far from its roots and he found it difficult keeping up with the changing trends in the States, where he resided for much of the '30s & '40s. At one point he owned a tailor's shop which doubled as a jam spot.

He decided at the end of the '40s to relocate permanently to France, where he became an ever bigger star than before and an icon. His music covered jazz, classical, merengue, rumba, pop and Haitian musics and he collaborated through the years with Louis Armstrong, Noble Sissle, Willie "The Lion" Smith, toured with Josephine Baker, and even did a brief stint in the Duke Ellington band (and served as a teacher to Johnny Hodges). His recordings often suffer from rough sound quality but the jams are always hot!

Check out his early overdubbing experiment from 1941 on "The Sheikh of Araby", where he played all the instruments himself, effectively functioning as a one-man band. He died on his 67th birthday.

Tagged: blues, Celebrate Icons, jazz, NOLA, reeds, Sidney Bechet

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