Jazz Music

Sidney Bechet And His New Orleans Feetwarmers - Maple Leaf Rag (1932)

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Sidney Bechet was born in New Orleans in 1897 to a middle-class Creole of color family. Sidney's older brother Leonard Victor Bechet (1877–1952) was a full-time dentist and a part-time trombonist and bandleader. Sidney Bechet quickly learned to play several musical instruments kept around the house, mostly by teaching himself; he soon decided to specialize in clarinet. At the age of six, Sidney started playing along with his brother's band at a family birthday party, debuting his talents to acclaim. Later in his youth, Bechet studied with such renowned Creole clarinetists as Lorenzo Tio, "Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle, and George Baquet.
Soon after, Bechet began to play in many New Orleans ensembles, improvising with what was "acceptable" for jazz at that time (obbligatos, with scales and arpeggios, and "variating" the melody). These ensembles included parade work with Henry Allen's celebrated Brass Band, the Olympia Orchestra, and John Robichaux's "genteel" dance orchestra. In 1911-1912, Bechet performed with Bunk Johnson in the Eagle Band of New Orleans, and in 1913-1914, with King Oliver in the Olympia Band.
The New Orleans Feetwarmers 1932 sides are the epitome of Hot Jazz. Sidney Bechet's soprano sax playing is nothing short of amazing on the song Shag. Ernest Meyers's scat singing solo on that same song has to be one of the finest examples of Jazz singing ever recorded. Unfortunately the records didn't sell well. The Hot Jazz style was pretty much dead by 1932. Public tastes were shifting to the less wild, more arranged, big band style of Swing. The New Orleans joyful style of collective improvisation that is represented here did not match the mood of the Depression era. In the late 1930's and 1940s Bechet revived the band's name as Sidney Bechet and his New Orleans Feetwarmers.

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