Sidney Bechet

Vol. 2: 1923-1930

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Nobody has ever assembled a more thorough survey of clarinet and soprano sax virtuoso Sidney Bechet's early works than the meticulously researched Masters of Jazz series, which touches upon every session he is verifiably known to have participated in as sideman or leader between the years 1923 and 1942. The second installment in this no-stone-unturned progression is layered with recordings by the Clarence Williams Blue Five, one of the hottest little bands of its day, and an equally solid unit known as the Red Onion Jazz Babies. On these recordings, Bechet is heard with cornetists Thomas Morris, Louis Armstrong and Bubber Miley; trombonists Charlie Irvis and Aaron Thompson; banjoist Buddy Christian, and pianists Lil Armstrong and Clarence Williams. By far the most unusual instrumental highlight is Bechet's purling sarrusophone solo on "Mandy, Make Up Your Mind." Bechet seems to have first encountered the sarrusophone (a mid-19th century double-reed version of the saxophone) in London a couple of years earlier, and claimed to have purchased what sounds like a bass or contrabass model from a pawnshop on the way to the recording studio. Vocalists heard on this collection are Margaret Johnson ("Who'll Chop Your Suey When I'm Gone" and "Done Made a Fool Out of Me"); Sippie Wallace ("Off and On Blues" and "I'm so Glad I'm Brownskin"); Eva Taylor (tracks 10,11,17, 18, and 21-- a reading of Bechet's own "Ghost of the Blues"); the seldom-heard Maureen Englin (who sings Bechet's "Foolin' Me"), Virginia Liston ("Jailhouse Blues," "Early in the Morning," and "You've Got the Right Key, But the Wrong Keyhole"), and Alberta Hunter as Josephine Beatty ("Early Every Mornin', "Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning" and, in vocal duet with Clarence Thomas, "Cake Walking Babies from Home"). Bechet's presence on "Jailhouse Blues" has never been fully verified, and is difficult to ascertain because he was credited on the 78 rpm Okeh record as the guitarist. Bechet himself explained that in response to a request for written recognition, Clarence Williams facetiously added his name to several records on which he did not actually play. Virginia Liston later said she thought the guitarist had been Sylvester Weaver. In July 1925, Bechet recorded "Junk Bucket Blues" and Fats Waller's red hot number "Harlem's Araby" with (according to various learned discographers) cornetist Johnny Dunn, trombonist Joe Nanton, alto saxophonist Bob Fuller, banjoist Sam Speed, and either Porter Grainger or Mike Jackson at the piano. This would be Bechet's final recording session before he sailed back to Europe, where he helped spread jazz throughout the entire continent. This invigorating collection of rarities and classic sides concludes with a couple of fascinating incidental interludes from the soundtrack of the motion picture Einbrecher. The ensemble, which made these recordings in Berlin during the summer and early autumn of 1930, is listed as Sidney Bechet & His New Yorkers. The inclusion of these precious soundtrack excerpts adds considerable ballast to this highly recommended stash of historic jazz records.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:55
2 2:56
3 2:37
4 2:41
5 3:11
6 2:59
7 3:17
8 2:54
9 2:50
10 3:06
11 3:14
12 2:45
13 2:46
14 3:13
15 3:21
16 3:03
17 2:56
18 3:20
19 2:58
20 3:08
21 2:23
22 1:42
23 1:24
blue highlight denotes track pick