musicology #278


twolegendsclash #1

(Noble Sissle Orchestra (feat Sidney Bechet) – Dear Old Southland)

As promised a new theme starts today, a ‘Soundclash’ between two of the greatest soloists, innovators, and players of instrument ever recorded. I say recorded because there were others who didn’t record, (Buddy Bolden for instance), or who like Louis Armstrong’s mentor Joe ‘King’ Oliver had health problems that affected the quality of their recorded legacy. Others like Frank Dusen refused to record on the basis that others would be able to hear and imitate their ‘licks’ claiming them as their own. Imitation and competition was fierce as ragtime evolved into ‘Jazz’ and many of the original cats were left behind as the age of recording began to take shape. Not only that but, (as hard as it is for us to imagine today), recording was nothing, (financially), compared to live performance and maybe those players thought that this new fangled technology would never account to much. Youngbloods like Armstrong and Bechet on the other hand were in the right place at the right time and were ‘modernists’ to the core.

First up is Clarinet and Saxophone virtuoso Sidney Bechet, who along with Armstrong took improvisation to a new level. That’s not to say that there weren’t others who were as innovative and talented, Johnny Dodds or ‘Big Eye’ Louis Nelson for example, (who Bechet had lessons with).

Born in 1897 Bechet grew up in New Orlean’s Seventh Ward graduating as a fourteen year old from his brother Leonard’s Silver Leaf band into Bunk Johnson/ Frankie Dusen’s famed rough house ‘Eagle band’ which had previously featured the Legendary Buddy Bolden and later Joe ‘King’ Oliver. This is where the young Bechet’s talent really began to shine and take shape. Obviously no recordings exist from them days so I can’t lay one on you so this 1937 cut featuring brother Bechet on Soprano Sax, (recorded with the Noble Sissle Orchestra in New York), will have to do.

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