From the Record Shelves #124

Indian summer

78 rpm HMV B. 9061

Sidney Bechet was a genius. Had he stayed with the clarinet and no other instrument he simply would have been the best, agile, expressive and energetic. But he wanted more. Maybe his early experience of playing trumpet in the parades was the reason that he wanted to put himself in a leading role in the ensemble.

He found a soprano sax on tour in Europe and from then on he was never in the background on a record as far as I know. He dazzles us with his technical facility, he drives a band, he’s riffing, he’s bending notes and finding new unexpected ones, he’s creative, and he is inspiring. Within his chosen dominating role he is still different depending on the surroundings.

On this session in 1940 with his New Orleans Feetwarmers he plays a ballad type of song, and maybe it’s the first time that we hear this, one of his specialties, on a record. With a good accompaniment from Sonny White, piano; Charlie Howard, guitar; Wilson Meyers, bass and Kenny Clarke drums he revives a Victor Herbert song from 1919. In three choruses except the 16 bars he gives to the piano, he caresses the melody while giving it a swinging rhythm that will make any listener from one till a hundred years of age move their feet.