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Sidney Bechet

Five Classic Albums plus

AVID AMSC 1278 [77:07 + 79:58]

 

 

 

CD1

1-8: ‘On Parade’

1. Le Marchand De Poissons

2. Si Tu Vois Ma Mère

3. Wabash Blues

4. Dans Les Rues d’Antibes

5. Strike Up The Band

6. As-Tu Le Cafard?

7. Pattes De Mouche

8. Ghost Of The Blues

9-16: ‘Ambiance’

9. It’s No Sin

10. Because Of You

11. That Old Black Magic

12. I Get A Kick Out Of You

13. You’re Lucky To Me

14. Petite Fleur

15. Girl’s Dance

16. Blues

17-24: ‘Deux Heures Du Matin Au Vieux-Colombier’

17. Porter Love Song

18. Embraceable You

19. 12th Street Rag

20. Au Clair De La Lune

21. Ol’ Man River

22. Show Boat Medley

23. You Rascal You

24. Le Loup, La Biche Et Le Chevalier

CD2

1-8: ‘Rendez-Vous’

1. La Complainte Des Infideles

2. Brave Margot

3. Jacqueline

4. La Canne-Le Fossoyeur

5. Big Chief

6. Nuages

7. Elizabeth II

8. Pleure Pas Nelly

9-16: ‘Bechet Revient’

9. Rose De Picardie

10. Temperamental

11. When I Grow Too Old To Dream

12. Leilie

13. La Complainte De Mackie (Mack The Knife)

14. Le Chant Des Canons

15. Some Sweet Day

16. Chante Chante

17. A Moi d’Payer from Airs Du Film “Serie Noire” (EP)

18. Blues Dans Le Blues from Airs Du Film “Serie Noire” (EP)

19. Trottoirs De Paris from Airs Du Film “Serie Noire” (EP)

20. Pourtant from Airs Du Film “Serie Noire” (EP)

21. Un Ange Comme Ça from Un Ange Comme Ça (EP)

22. South Rampart Street Parade from Un Ange Comme Ça (EP)

23. Halle Hallelujah / Les Hommes Sont Géréreux / L’Enchainée d’Amour / Le Blues De Mes Réves / Halle Hallelujah from L’Inspecteur Connait La Musique (EP)

24. Halle Hallelujah / I Had It But It’s All Gone Now / Blues / Halle Hallelujah from L’Inspecteur Connait La Musique (EP)

Sidney Bechet with Claude Luter’s Orchestra, André Réwéliotty’s Orchestra, the Sidney Bechet All Stars

Recorded 1952-55

 

This is the second release in Avid’s Bechet odyssey. The earlier one covered his 1949-51 recordings with Claude Luter’s band whilst this twofer advances things chronologically and adds the band of André Réwéliotty to the Luter mix. By this stage Bechet was the sopranist nonpareil, a veritable throbbing hothouse of virtuosic coloratura, his hard and oscillating vibrato curiously reminiscent of that of his younger contemporary, Edith Piaf. Where Piaf was defiant, though, Bechet was imperious, and he runs the show throughout most of the tracks parceling out a few solos to his dependent and often cowed band members along the way. It’s surprisingly seldom that even Luter gets a solo.

On Parade does literally that on one or two numbers, given the leader’s propensity for limelight-hogging, and indeed dusts down some parade style marching on Dans les rues d’Antibes, one of his most colourfully vivacious later compositions. Guy Longnon takes a long cornet intro on As-tu le Cafard? but in the main the band is merely a functional unit to supply figures, riffs and the necessary rhythmic backing for Bechet’s soaring melodrama. All compositions bar Gershwin’sStrike up the Band are his on this first disinterred LP. Ambiance was recorded a few days later with a different band, Bechet’s so-called All Stars, which did include the expatriate pianist Charlie Lewis. Here they play five standards and three Bechet originals, one of which is the immortal Petite Fleur during which Lewis takes the Latin-tinged solo at the keyboard. Many of the backing voicings Bechet seemed to like are reminiscent of Ellington’s Jungle Music days, muted trumpet à la Bubber Miley from Lognon, and heavy almost parodically derivative percussion from the enthusiastic and not over-subtle Moustache Galépidès.

Those who enjoy Bechet’s occasional propensity for carve-up tempos may enjoy Ol’ Man River from the LP Deux Heures du Matin au Vieux-Colombier where he’s re-joined by Luter’s band for a rather predictable bill of fare, not over-imaginatively projected but energetically performed.

The second disc pairs Bechet with the band of Réwéliotty, whose lumpy band often featured the two-trumpet front line of Longnon (from Luter’s band) and Marcel Bornstein. Aural congestion can often result in these circumstances, especially when Bechet takes the lead, which he does almost always, the two brass men having somehow to weave parts away from the melody line. It’s good to hear Bechet’s English and French vocal exhortations on La Complainte des Infideles and also how he co-opted the French chanson tradition to his own ends – no Piaf or Trenet here, but Brassens certainly. One of the best pieces in this LP is a bullish, punchy Bechet original called Big Chief: it could almost be a self-portrait. For Elizabeth II he composed, perhaps surprisingly, a right royal blues with a hint of Georgia on my Mind. For his mistress, Jacqueline, he was altogether more romantic – there’s even a celeste. There’s a fine loping, brooding piece called Temperamental on the album Bechet Revient made in March 1954 (it too could be a musical self-portrait of the famously irascible, gun-toting musician). To fill up the twofer there are some examples of a couple of film scores – more Ellingtonian Jungle Music for Un Ange Comme Ça and easy-going medleys for L’Inspecteur connait la musique.

Because these albums contained French liner notes Avid has commissioned a new note from Nick Dellow who explains the context of the recordings and the reason for the omission of a couple of EP tracks from this twofer. Given that Bechet was largely the soloistic prince amongst a willing band of enraptured followers he was never pushed in these late albums. We have here a superb but improvisationally limited display of skill, inimitable tonal breadth and virtuosic panache. Fine transfers complete the package.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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