Volume 9 of the French Masters of Jazz label's Sidney Bechet series, which collects sides from 1940 and 1941, is up to their usual excellent standards. Included here are recordings that are arguably among Bechet's finest, demonstrating the precision and nuance of a mature musician without the slightest diminution in the vigor and vitality of his youthful tone.
The opener, "Shake It and Break It," sets the mood, with Bechet's wailing soprano sax and a hard, swinging feel. Other numbers modulate the mood to a slower groove, such as the downtempo "The Way I Feel 'Dis Mornin'" and the bluesy "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" (featuring a highly unusual vocal performance from Bechet). There are six different ensemble configurations here, most notably Bechet's trio, which includes Earl Hines and Warren "Baby" Dodds, and the New Orleans Feetwarmers, whose chemistry sparks heated versions of "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," among others. The inclusion of alternative takes should please true jazz fanatics, but even the casual listener will find this set rewarding.