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Sidney Bechet: An American in Paris

Sidney Bechet, one of the giants of early jazz, wanted to lead. Bechet, like fellow jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton, was a Creole of Color. A couple of good profiles — from AllMusic and the Red Hot Jazz Archive — paint a vivid picture or the artist, who settled in France to escape the racism of the U.S.

Here is the start of his profile at AllMusic:

Sidney Bechet was the first important jazz soloist on records in history (beating Louis Armstrong by a few months). A brilliant soprano saxophonist and clarinetist with a wide vibrato that listeners either loved or hated, Bechet’s style did not evolve much through the years but he never lost his enthusiasm or creativity. A master at both individual and collective improvisation within the genre of New Orleans jazz, Bechet was such a dominant player that trumpeters found it very difficult to play with him. Bechet wanted to play lead and it was up to the other horns to stay out of his way. (Continue Reading…)

More can be found at the Red Hot Jazz Archive:

Sidney Bechet was a child prodigy in New Orleans. He was such good clarinet player that, in his youth he was featured by some of the top bands in the city. Bechet’s style of playing clarinet and soprano sax dominated many of the bands that he was in. He played lead parts that were usually reserved for trumpets and was a master of improvisation. (Continue Reading…)

The clips are from early and late in his career. St. Louis Blues is above and the same song — preceded by American Rhythm — is below.