Sidney Bechet (1897 – 1959)
(2007 INDUCTEE) IN 1924, SIDNEY BECHET RECORDED FOR GENNETT IN NEW YORK WITH THE RED ONION JAZZ BABIES. HE IS MOST FAMOUS FOR PLAYING CLARINET AND SORPANO SAXOPHONE
DONATED BY WEST END BANK, S.B.
A New Orleans native of Creole descent, Sidney Bechet learned to play a hand-me-down clarinet at an early age. He soon took up other instruments as well, and as an adult once made an overdubbed recording of “The Sheik of Araby” during which he played six different instruments. Though his family was musical and exposed him to the accepted music of the day, what he heard in the streets appealed to him more. After breaking in with various local bands, Bechet went to Chicago in 1916 with pianist Clarence Williams and in 1919 joined Will Marion Cook’s Southern Syncopated Orchestra for an overseas tour. During an engagement in London, he bought and learned to play a soprano saxophone, which he then made his main instrument. In late 1924 and early 1925 he recorded for Gennett with Clarence Williams’ Red Onion Jazz Babies. His Gennett recordings were the first on which he and Louis Armstrong performed together. A master of improvisation, he is often ranked with Armstrong in influence on jazz and jazz musicians. Among jazz luminaries he taught or influenced were Buster Bailey, Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, and Branford Marsalis. Bechet spent much of his later life in France, where he composed “Petit Fleur” and many other pieces which were to become jazz classics.
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