Biography of Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)

Saxophonist and clarinetist and interpreter of jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana, in a family of seven children, born on May 14, 1897. His father, Omar Bechet, was a shoemaker fond of dancing and music lover, who encouraged his children to study music. Accompanied by his mother, Josephine, Bechet was going to listen to operas and circus bands.

He began to secretly play the clarinet from his older brother, Leonard, at the age of six; When his family discovered that he/she played, his mother, rather than stop him, encouraged him to study; impressed by his precociousness, his brother introduced him in the family band, the Silver Bells, directed by Leonard; Sidney played with Freddie Keppard and taught with George Baquet, Big Eye Louis Nelson and Lorenzo Tio; subsequently acted with Bunk Johnson and Louis Armstrong, with whom he/she played the legendary composition of Williams Cake Walkin' ' Babies From Home. This was proclaimed by many critics as the best of the series of Williams, song in which there is a brilliant interaction between Armstrong and Bechet.

In 1917, he/she toured the Midwest with Bruce and Bruce Touring Company; in 1919, he/she acted in Europe together with Will Marion Cook and the Southern Syncopated Orchestra. Bechet worked in Paris and London, where he/she acquired a saxophone soprano, with him became one of the great New Orleans Jazz.

He recorded several albums with Clarence Williams; some of his earliest legendary recordings were which conducted sessions with him in the band Clarence William completo Blue Five, covering a period of three years (1923-1925); among them are Wild Cat Blues, Kansas City Man, Texas Moaner Blues, Mandy and Make Up Your Mind. He/She briefly performed with Duke Ellington, which partnered in important musical collaboration by touching on a cabaret for whites from the center of the city, the Kentucky Club, where acted the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Even though Ellington respected the talent of Bechet and had it in high esteem, he/she could not tolerate his eccentric hobby to stage a huge dog. Bechet soon left Ellington to open a restaurant on Lenox Avenue called the Club Basha, a name derived from his nickname, Bash. The restaurant had a brief life. He/She returned to music with Claude Hopkins and Josephine Baker, in 1925, with whom went on tour in Europe with the Revue Negre production. At the end of the tour the following year, in Berlin, Bechet traveled to Russia, where he/she played in Kiev, Kharkov and Odessa, as "Speaker saxophone".

He moved to Paris in the summer of 1928, where he/she joined the leader of a group, Noble Sissle, who played in Les Ambassadors Club. Bechet, like many African-American artists, carried a gun to protect themselves; one night, out of a night cub in Montmartre, was involved in a shooting incident in which a French woman was injured. He/She was arrested and sentenced, so it entered the jail, where he/she remained for 11 months and finally was deported.

In 1931 he/she formed a group with trumpeter Tommy ladnier, former member of the New Orleans Feetwarmers; in 1934 he/she joined back to Noble Sissle. During the 1940s was renewed interest in traditional jazz, which helped him in his career. He/She formed a trio with Nick in Greenwich Village in New York and in the Town Hall concerts; He/She performed at a concert in Washington organized by Nesuhi Ertegun, with stars as Vic Dickerson trombonist and pianist Art Hodes. In 1945 he/she played with Armstrong in the concert of the Jazz Foundation in New Orleans and made several recordings with Bunk Johnson; He/She appeared at the Paris Jazz festival in 1949, in response to the offers of the European promoters, and after the festival, he/she returned to America. In 1951, he/she moved definitively to France where it became an international celebrity and won enough to buy a property on the outskirts of Paris. His musical association with the French Claude Luter and his band provided him with work until 1955. Around this year appeared in two films and a ballet: is ' rie Noire, by Eric Stronheim, and Blues, by Vivane Romance. In 1958 he/she made international tours and recorded tapes that were published posthumously under the title Treat it Gentle.

Bechet made his first recordings in the Decade of the 1920s with the Clarence William Blues Five and the Louis Armstrong completo Red Onion Jazz Babies. Some of his best compositions are Les Oignons (1949) and Petite Fleur (1952). In 1956 he/she collaborated in the opera La nuit est une sorcière (the night is a witch), along with James Toliver.

It was musically formed in the streets and cabarets of New Orleans; clarinetist and alto saxophone, Sydney Bechet emerged as the largest and most important exponent of the first jazz and was the first musician who rose to fame playing the saxophone. By the time they moved definitively to France, at the beginning of the 1950s, it had traveled on two continents and played in various groups from New Orleans to the British Royal family at Buckingham Palace. While never truly moved away from jazz roots in New Orleans, he/she continued, until his death in 1959, acting in different musical situations.

In 1958 he/she began to feel stomach pains when he/she played in Boston; you had to enter at the General Hospital in Boston. As he/she hoped more French physicians, he/she waited for his return to Paris to undergo the operation indicated. Despite their later weakness, due to cancer, Bechet expressed his desire to return to America. Preparations completed, however, the day of his birthday, which was also that of his death, on May 14, 1959.


Bechet, GNP. Bechet With Clarence Williams, Pearl. Blackstick (1931-1938), MCA Jazz. In New York, 1937-1940, JSP. Jazz at Storyville, Black Lion. Really the Blues, was Living. Summertime, Musical Memories. The Best of Sidney Bechet, Blue Note. The Complete Sidney Bechet, Vol. 1 & 2, RCA. The Legendary Sidney Bechet, RCA/Bluebird. The Victor Sessions: Master Takes, RCA/Bluebird. Sidney Bechet - 1924 to 1938, ABC, 1989. The Jazz Collector Edition Sidney Bechet: Rare Recordings 1947-1953, Laser Light, 1990. An Introduction to Sidney Bechet: His Best Recordings 1923-1941, The Best of Jazz, 1994. Writings Bechet, Sidney, Treat It Gentle, 1960.


BAILLET, Whitney: American Musicians: Fifty-Six Portraits of Jazz, Oxford University Press, 1986.

BAILLET, Whitney: Jelly Roll, Jabbo, and Fats: 19 Portraits in Jazz, Oxford University Press, 1983.

BECHET, Sidney: Treat it Gentle, 1960.

HADLOCK, Richard: Jazz Masters of the 20s, Da Capo Press, 1972.

COHASSEY, John: Contemporary Musicians, November, 1996 (Volume 17).