Here is a peripatetic grab bag of this and that from a span of exactly a decade, an unevenly fruitful period for Bechet that culminated in his becoming a national hero of sorts in France. Taking advantage of expired copyrights, Naxos draws from a variety of labels, sampling from some 1940 sessions from HRS, his brief swinging renaissance at Victor in 1941, his freewheeling post-recording-ban Blue Notes, some superb Columbia sessions with Bob Wilber's Wildcats, and single items from Melotone ("I Told You Once, I Told You Twice" with Humphrey Lyttelton) and Commodore (a surprisingly faithful Dixieland treatment of "National Emblem March"). Also included for their sheer newsworthy curiosity value are those notorious one-man-band records that Bechet made for Victor, "The Sheik of Araby" and "Blues of Bechet." Musically, the one-man tracks are not much, and some of the instruments on the former are inaudible, but it's a marvel that such a feat could be done at all in those pre-tape days. The pressings naturally vary a lot in condition, given the multiplicity of sources, yet producer David Lennick's transfers are well above average in this field; indeed, his versions of the Victor material are far more faithful to the sound of the 78s than RCA's own pale transfers in their 1990 complete edition of master takes. This disc could serve as a good single-disc introduction to Bechet -- especially at Naxos' bargain price.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell