Sidney Bechet Day

May 14, 1897 – May 14, 1959


Bechet Solo

Saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Sidney Bechet was born on May 14, 1897 in New Orleans.

His father was a dentist and part-time bandleader and in his music filled home, young Sidney quickly learned to play several instruments initially favoring the clarinet.

As early as 1919, Ernest Ansermet, a Swiss classical conductor, wrote a tribute to Bechet, comparing his music to Bach’s.

“Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz” – Duke Ellington

Sidney Bechet cycled through learning a number of different instruments as a youth before deciding to focus on clarinet, studying under renowned Creole clarinetists as Lorenzo Tio Jr., George Baquet, and “Big Eye” Louis Nelson Delisle.

By 1914 the young instrumentalist began touring with various bands frequently traveling as far North as Chicago with Freddie Keppard and others.

Joining up with “Will Marion Cook’s Syncopated Orchestra” in New York in 1919 he departed for London where the ensemble performed at the Royal Philharmonic Hall to great acclaim.

It was in England that Bechet first pick up the soprano saxophone, adapting rapidly to its large expressive tone he would soon all but abandon the clarinet.

Upon his return to the U.S. in July 1923 Sidney Bechet would produce his first recordings at New York sessions led by Clarence Williams.

Two years later in September he set sail for Europe once more as a cast member of the musical “Revue Nègre” which included Josephine Baker.

In 1932 Bechet began co-leading a sextet in New York with trumpeter Tommy Ladnier and performing at the Savoy Ballroom.

During the 1940s he would encounter increasing difficulty finding gigs in the Untied States Sidney witnessed first hand the decline of interest in his brand of New Orleans jazz.

Sidney Bechet relocated to France in 1950 following his solo performance at the “Salle Pleyel Jazz Festival” which made him famous in the country over night. -Hence forth he had no trouble finding well paid employment as a musician in France.

He married Elisabeth Ziegler in Antibes in 1951 and two years later signed the recording contract with French Vogue which lasted the rest of his life.

Sidney Bechet died from lung cancer in Paris on May 14th 1959 on his sixty-second birthday.

This film clip captures New Orleans Jazz legend Sidney Bechet playing an improvised soprano saxophone solo with clarinetist Andre Reweliotty’s band in 1953.

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