Personalities | Sidney Bechet | Twenties | Jazz & Blues
(Soprano saxophone, clarinet, 1897–1959)
A child prodigy who left school at the age of 16 and worked with various bands around New Orleans, the Creole clarinetist thrilled audiences and players alike with his soaring tone, forceful attack, penetrating solos, dazzling facility and unusually fast vibrato. In 1917, Bechet and King Oliver played together briefly in Kid Ory’s band until Bechet relocated to Chicago. The following year, while on a European tour with Will Marion Cook’s Southern Syncopated Orchestra, Bechet discovered the instrument with which he would eventually make jazz history: the unsual straight soprano saxophone.
Bechet made his first recordings in 1923 with the Clarence Williams Blue Five and continued to record prolifically throughout the 1920s and 1930s, scoring a hit in 1938 with his bluesy rendition of George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. The New Orleans revival of the 1940s made him an international star and he lived out his final years in France, where he was fêted as a national hero.
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