The third volume in the Masters of Jazz chronological survey of Sidney Bechet's complete early recordings is quite similar to JSP's Classic Sides 1931-1937 in that the time period is almost identical and with certain exceptions the titles line up almost exactly. Masters of Jazz dealt in alternate takes of "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and "Bandana Days," while omitting five titles that the producers apparently thought contained insufficient quantities of his juju by not featuring him as a soloist. Within Bechet's discography the early and middle 1930s are relatively easy to understand and schematize, because he spent most of his time and energy blowing clarinet and saxophones with Noble Sissle's Orchestra or leading his own New Orleans Feetwarmers. Tracks one through five (recorded in 1931) and 12 through 22 (1936-1937) are choice examples of Bechet's work with a classy dance band led by Eubie Blake's old-time partner and colleague Noble Sissle. Trumpeter Tommy Ladnier contributed some fine solos to the 1931 sessions, and helped make Bechet's first-ever New Orleans Feetwarmers date (September 15, 1932) a roaring success. This hot little unit included Philadelphian trombonist Teddy Nixon, pianist Henry "Hank" Duncan, the exciting drummer Morris Morland, and bassist Wilson Myers, who sang "I Want You Tonight" and scatted his way through the explosive "Shag." The voice heard singing "Lay Your Racket" belonged to Billy Maxey, a stage actor who appeared in Connie's Hot Chocolates and recorded a comedy sketch from that vaudeville revue in 1929 with members of the cast backed by pianist Fats Waller. The difference between this collection and JSP's volume covering the same time period is most evident during the second half of the playlist, where three titles excised for containing little or no audible Bechet persona were replaced by the alternate takes. In addition to several endearing examples of Sissle's polished vocal delivery, the later Sissle sides include vocals by the Rhythmakers' own Billy Banks ("Dear Old Southland" and "You Can't Live in Harlem") and Valaida Snow's sister Lavaida Carter, who sings the second version of W.C. Handy's "Loveless Love." The pianist on the Sissle and Blake staples "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and "Bandana Days" has been identified as Erskine Butterfield, who eventually led his own band and specialized in a blend of European classical form, lounge music, and boogie-woogie. But that's another story altogether. This portion of the Sidney Bechet story is packed with great solos, solid New Orleans-style jazz, period vocals, and engaging swing arrangements.
Vol. 3: 1931-1937 Review
by arwulf arwulf