Bechet in 1922
|Born||May 14, 1897|
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Died||May 14, 1959 62) (aged|
|Instruments||Clarinet, soprano saxophone|
|Associated acts||Louis Armstrong, Tommy Ladnier|
Sidney Bechet (May 14, 1897 – May 14, 1959) was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. He was one of the first important soloists in jazz, beating trumpeter Louis Armstrong to the recording studio by several months. His erratic temperament hampered his career, and not until the late 1940s did he earn wide acclaim.
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".
Louis Daniel Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, Satch, and Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
Bechet was born in New Orleans in 1897 to a middle-class Creole of color family. His older brother, Leonard Victor Bechet, was a full-time dentist and a part-time trombonist and bandleader. Bechet learned several musical instruments that were kept around the house, mostly by teaching himself; he decided to specialize in the clarinet. At the age of six, he started playing with his brother's band at a family birthday party, debuting his talents to acclaim. Later in his youth, Bechet studied with Lorenzo Tio, "Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle, and George Baquet.
Lorenzo Tio Jr. (1893–1933) was a master clarinetist from New Orleans, as were his father Lorenzo Tio Sr. (1867–1908) and uncle Louis "Papa" Tio (1862–1922). Their method of playing the instrument was seminal in the development of the jazz solo.
"Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle was an early twentieth-century Dixieland jazz clarinetist in New Orleans, Louisiana. He also played double bass, banjo, and accordion.
George Francis Baquet was an American jazz clarinetist, known for his contributions to early jazz in New Orleans.
Bechet played in many New Orleans ensembles using the improvisational techniques of the time (obbligatos with scales and arpeggios and varying the melody). He performed in parades with Freddie Keppard's brass band, the Olympia Orchestra, and in John Robichaux's dance orchestra. From 1911 to 1912, he performed with Bunk Johnson in the Eagle Band of New Orleans and in 1913–14 with King Oliver in the Olympia Band. From 1914 to 1917 he was touring and traveling, going as far north as Chicago and frequently performing with Freddie Keppard. In the spring of 1919, he traveled to New York City where he joined Will Marion Cook's Syncopated Orchestra. Soon after, the orchestra traveled to Europe; almost immediately upon arrival, they performed at the Royal Philharmonic Hall in London. The group was warmly received, and Bechet was especially popular.While in London, he discovered the straight soprano saxophone and developed a style unlike his clarinet tone. His saxophone sound could be described as emotional, reckless, and large. He often used a broad vibrato, similar to what was common among some New Orleans clarinetists at the time. On July 30, 1923, he began recording. The session was led by Clarence Williams, a pianist and songwriter, better known at that time for his music publishing and record producing. Bechet recorded "Wild Cat Blues" and "Kansas City Man Blues". "Wild Cat Blues" is in a ragtime style with four 16-bar themes, and "Kansas City Man Blues" is a 12-bar blues.
In Western classical music, obbligato usually describes a musical line that is in some way indispensable in performance. Its opposite is the marking ad libitum. It can also be used, more specifically, to indicate that a passage of music was to be played exactly as written, or only by the specified instrument, without changes or omissions. The word is borrowed from Italian ; the spelling obligato is not acceptable in British English, but it is often used as an alternative spelling in the US. The word can stand on its own, in English, as a noun, or appear as a modifier in a noun phrase.
Freddie Keppard was an early jazz cornetist who once held the title of "King" in the New Orleans jazz scene. This title was previously held by Buddy Bolden and succeeded by Joe Oliver.
The Olympia Orchestra was an American jazz dance band active in New Orleans from around 1906 into the late 1910s.
In 1919, Ernest Ansermet, a Swiss conductor of classical music, wrote a tribute to Bechet, one of the earliest (if not the first) to a jazz musician from the field of classical music, linking Bechet's music with that of Bach.
Ernest Alexandre Ansermet was a Swiss conductor.
On September 15, 1925, Bechet and other members of the Revue Nègre, including Josephine Baker, sailed to Europe, arriving at Cherbourg, France, on September 22. The revue opened at the Théâtre des Champs-Élyséesin Paris on October 2. He toured Europe with various bands, reaching as far as Russia in mid-1926. In 1928, he led his small band at Chez Bricktop in Montmartre, Paris.
Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. During her early career she was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un vent de folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris. Her costume, consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas, became her most iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age and the 1920s.
The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is a theatre at 15 avenue Montaigne in Paris. The theater is named not after the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but rather after the neighborhood in which it is situated.
Montmartre is a large hill in Paris's 18th arrondissement. It is 130 m (430 ft) high and gives its name to the surrounding district, part of the Right Bank in the northern section of the city. The historic district established by the City of Paris in 1995 is bordered by rue Caulaincourt and rue Custine on the north, rue de Clignancourt on the east, and boulevard de Clichy and boulevard de Rochechouart to the south, containing 60 ha. Montmartre is primarily known for its artistic history, the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on its summit, and as a nightclub district. The other church on the hill, Saint Pierre de Montmartre, built in 1147, was the church of the prestigious Montmartre Abbey. On August 15, 1534, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier and five other companions bound themselves by vows in the Martyrium of Saint Denis, 11 rue Yvonne Le Tac, the first step in the creation of the Jesuits.
He was imprisoned in Paris for eleven months.In his autobiography, he wrote that he accidentally shot a woman when he was trying to shoot a musician who had insulted him. He had challenged the man to duel and said, "Sidney Bechet never plays the wrong chord." After his release, he was deported to New York, arriving soon after the stock market crash of 1929. He joined Noble Sissle's orchestra, which toured in Germany and Russia.
Noble Lee Sissle was an African-American jazz composer, lyricist, bandleader, singer, and playwright, best known for the Broadway musical Shuffle Along (1921), and its hit song "I'm Just Wild About Harry".
In 1932, Bechet returned to New York City to lead a band with Tommy Ladnier. The band, consisting of six members, performed at the Savoy Ballroom. He went on to play with Lorenzo Tio and also got to know trumpeter Roy Eldridge.
In 1938 "Hold Tight, Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood Mama)", commonly known as "Hold Tight", was composed by Bechet's guitarist Leonard Ware and two session singers with claimed contributions from Bechet himself. The song became known for its suggestive lyrics and then for a series of lawsuits over songwriter royalties.
In 1939, Bechet and the pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith led a group that recorded several early versions of what was later called Latin jazz, adapting traditional méringue, rhumba and Haitian songs to the jazz idiom. On July 28, 1940, Bechet made a guest appearance on the NBC Radio show The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street , playing two of his showpieces ("Shake It and Break It" and "St. Louis Blues") with Henry Levine's Dixieland band. Levine invited Bechet into the RCA Victor recording studio (on 24th Street in New York City), where Bechet lent his soprano sax to Levine's traditional arrangement of "Muskrat Ramble". On April 18, 1941, as an early experiment in overdubbing at Victor, Bechet recorded a version of the pop song "The Sheik of Araby", playing six different instruments: clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums. A hitherto unissued master of this recording was included in the 1965 LP Bechet of New Orleans, issued by RCA Victor as LPV-510. In the liner notes, George Hoeffer quoted Bechet:
I started by playing The Sheik on piano, and played the drums while listening to the piano. I meant to play all the rhythm instruments, but got all mixed up and grabbed my soprano, then the bass, then the tenor saxophone, and finally finished up with the clarinet.
In 1944, 1946, and 1953 he recorded and performed in concert with the Chicago jazz pianist and vibraphonist Max Miller, private recordings that are part of Miller’s archive and have never been released. These concerts and recordings are described in John Chilton's biography Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz.
With jobs in music difficult to find, he opened a tailor shop with Ladnier. They were visited by musicians and played in the back of the shop. In the 1940s, Bechet played in several bands, but his financial situation did not improve until the end of that decade. By the end of the 1940s, Bechet had tired of struggling to make music in the United States. His contract with Jazz Limited, a Chicago-based record label, was limiting the events at which he could perform (for instance, the label would not permit him to perform at the 1948 Festival of Europe in Nice). He believed that the jazz scene in the United States had little left to offer him and was getting stale.In 1950 he moved to France, after his performance as a soloist at the Paris Jazz Fair caused a surge in his popularity in that country, where he easily found well-paid work. In 1951, he married Elisabeth Ziegler in Antibes.
In 1953, he signed a recording contract with Disques Vogue that lasted for the rest of his life.He recorded many hit tunes, including "Les Oignons", "Promenade aux Champs-Elysees", and the international hit "Petite Fleur". He also composed a classical ballet score in the late Romantic style of Tchaikovsky called La Nuit est sorcière ("The Night Is a Witch"). Some existentialists in France took to calling him le dieu ("the god").
Shortly before his death, Bechet dictated his autobiography, Treat It Gentle, to Al Rose, a record producer and radio host. He had worked with Rose several times in concert promotions and had a fractious relationship with him. Bechet's view of himself in his autobiography was starkly different from the one Rose knew. "The kindly old gentleman in his book was filled with charity and compassion. The one I knew was self-centered, cold, and capable of the most atrocious cruelty, especially toward women."
Bechet died in Garches, near Paris, of lung cancer on May 14, 1959, his 62nd birthday, and is buried in a local cemetery.
Bechet played a jazz musician in three films, Serie Noire,L'Inspecteur connait la musique and, Quelle équipe!
His playing style was intense and passionate and had a wide vibrato. He was also known to be proficient at playing several instruments and a master of improvisation (both individual and collective). Bechet liked to have his sound dominate in a performance, and trumpeters found it difficult to play alongside him.
A jazz band is a musical ensemble that plays jazz music. Jazz bands vary in the quantity of its members and the style of jazz that they play but it is common to find a jazz band made up of a rhythm section and a horn section.
John Cornelius Hodges was an American alto saxophonist, best known for solo work with Duke Ellington's big band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years. Hodges was also featured on soprano saxophone, but refused to play soprano after 1946. He is considered one of the definitive alto saxophone players of the big band era.
Thomas James Ladnier was an American jazz trumpeter. French jazz critic Hugues Panassié rated him second only to Louis Armstrong.
Jimmie Noone was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader. After beginning his career in New Orleans he led Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra, an influential Chicago band that recorded for Vocalion and Decca Records. Maurice Ravel acknowledged basing his Boléro on a Jimmie Noone improvisation. At the time of his death Noone had his own quartet in Los Angeles and was part of an all-star band that was an important force in reviving interest in traditional New Orleans jazz in the 1940s.
Willie Gary "Bunk" Johnson was a prominent jazz trumpeter in New Orleans. Johnson gave the year of his birth as 1879, although there is speculation that he may have been younger by as much as a decade.
Albany Leon "Barney" Bigard was an American jazz clarinetist known for his 15-year tenure with Duke Ellington. He also played tenor saxophone.
The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) were one of the most influential jazz bands of the early to mid-1920s. The band included New Orleans and Chicago musicians who helped shape Chicago jazz and influenced many younger jazz musicians.
Milton Mesirow, better known as Mezz Mezzrow, was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is well known for organizing and financing historic recording sessions with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. He also recorded a number of times with Bechet and briefly acted as manager for Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow is equally well remembered as a colorful character, as portrayed in his autobiography, Really the Blues, co-written with Bernard Wolfe and published in 1946.
Arthur James "Zutty" Singleton was an American jazz drummer.
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Evan Christopher is an American clarinetist and composer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Recognized mainly for a personal brand of "contemporary early-jazz", he strives to extend the legacy of the clarinet style created by early New Orleans clarinetists such as Lorenzo Tio Jr., Sidney Bechet, Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, and Johnny Dodds.
Bob Wilber is an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and band leader. Although his scope covers a wide range of jazz, Wilber has been a dedicated advocate of classic styles, working throughout his career to present traditional jazz pieces in a contemporary manner. He played with many distinguished jazz leaders in the 1950s and 1960s, including Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, Jack Teagarden and Eddie Condon. In the late 1960s, he was an original member of the World's Greatest Jazz Band, and in the early 70s of Soprano Summit, a band which gained wide attention. In the late 1970s, he formed the Bechet Legacy Band.
"The Sheik of Araby" is a song that was written in 1921 by Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler, with music by Ted Snyder. It was composed in response to the popularity of the Rudolph Valentino feature film The Sheik. In 1926, to go with the film The Son of the Sheik, Ted Snyder worked parts of the melody into "That Night in Araby", a related song with words by Billy Rose.
Edmond Hall was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader. Over his long career Hall worked extensively with many top performers as both a sideman and bandleader and is perhaps best known for the 1941 chamber jazz song "Profoundly Blue," which is regarded as a pre-World War II jazz classic.
Vernon Ford Story (1922–2007) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.
Edward Maxwell "Max" Miller was an American jazz pianist and vibraphone player. He had a forty year career that peaked in the 1940s and '50s. Many of his compositions use extended chord harmonies, polyphony, and polytonality and were influenced by Stravinsky, Bartók, and Hindemith.
Louis Albert Cottrell Jr. was a Louisiana Creole jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist. He was the son of the influential drummer Louis Cottrell, Sr., and grandfather of New Orleans jazz drummer Louis Cottrell. As leader of the Heritage Hall Jazz Band, he performed at the famous Carnegie Hall in 1974.
Wilson "Serious" Myers was an American jazz double-bassist, vocalist, bandleader and arranger, best known for his contributions to New Orleans jazz.
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