Sidney Bechet was one of the first jazz virtuosos, dominating nearly every recording session in which he took part. Though his Blue Note and RCA Victor recordings are better known due to frequent reissues, there is a lot of rare, valuable material here. This limited-edition compilation collects many of his recordings (plus fourteen previously unissued selections) under the Sony music umbrella, including tracks made for Columbia, Okeh, Variety and Vocalion, all with greatly improved remastering.
Disc one concentrates on '20s dates led by pianist Clarence Williams, featuring female vocalists on over half of the tracks. Bechet's fellow musicians are adequate, but the fireworks take off on "Texas Moaner Blues, featuring fellow New Orleans native Louis Armstrong, in which Bechet switches to clarinet. Less successful are Virginia Liston's unremarkable vocals on other songs from the date. Many of these tracks were dubbed from 78 rpm discs loaned by collectors.
On the second disc, Bechet is a sideman in both orchestra and small group recordings led by Noble Sissle. He plays a little more clarinet on these dates, but doesn't get as much solo space. He leads a group with members of his working band of 1938, including drummer Zutty Singleton, bassist Henry Turner and guitarist Leonard Ware, plus pianist Dave Bowman and baritone saxophonist Ernie Caceres (borrowed from Bobby Hackett's group, which was alternating with him at Nick's at the time of the session). The two reed players offer smoking solos on "Jungle Drums, backed by Singleton's tom-toms. Bechet also appears with a sextet led by his protégé Bob Wilber and including stride pianist Dick Wellstood. Two numbers feature Bechet on soprano sax and Wilber on clarinet, but they change instruments for "Kansas City Man Blues, where it becomes apparent how close their sound is on clarinet.
The final disc opens with Bechet accompanied by pianist Lloyd Phillips, bassist Pops Foster, and either Freddie Moore or Arthur Herbert on drums. There are two takes of Bechet's boisterous "Buddy Bolden Stomp, three of "Just One of Those Things, and four of "Love For Sale, plus a moving interpretation of "Laura. Oddly, neither take of the gritty "My Woman's Blues has been issued before now, but perhaps the producer thought that Bechet's soprano sax was a bit overmodulated. It is a welcome addition to his legacy, as are the added bonuses of numerous vintage photographs and Wilber's detailed, insightful liner notes.
Disc One: Wild Cat Blues; Kansas City Man; Atlanta Blues; Kansas City Man Blues;
Jazzin' Babies Blues; 'Tain't Nobody's Bus'ness If I Do; New Orleans Hop Scop Blues; Oh
Daddy!; Graveyard Dream Blues; If I Let You Get Away With It; Shreveport Blues; Old
Fashioned Love; House Rent Blues (The Stomp); Mean Blues; Texas Moaner Blues; Early In
The Morning; You've Got The Right Key, But The Wrong Keyhole; I'm So Glad I'm a
Brownskin; Off And On Blues; Mandy, Make Up Your Mind; I'm A Little Blackbird Looking
For A Bluebird; Who'll Chop Your Suey (When I'm Gone); Cake Walking Babies From Home;
Harlem's Araby. Disc Two: Bandana Days; Bandana Days; I'm Just Wild About Harry;
Just Wild About Harry; Dear Old Southland; Okey-Doke; Okey-Doke; Characteristic Blues;
Characteristic Blues; What A Dream; What A Dream; Hold Tight; Hold Tight; Jungle Drums;
Chant In The Night; Spreadin' Joy; Spreadin' Joy; Spreadin' Joy; I Had It But It's All Gone
Now; I Had It But It's All Gone Now; I Had It But It's All Gone Now; Polka Dot Stomp.
Disc Three: Kansas
City Man Blues; Kansas City Man Blues; Kansas City Man Blues; Buddy Bolden Stomp; Buddy
Bolden Stomp; My Woman's Blues; My Woman's Blues; The Song Of Songs; Love For Sale;
My Woman's Blues; Just One Of Those Things; Just One Of Those Things; Just One Of
Those Things; Love For Sale; Love For Sale; Love For Sale; Laura; Laura; The Song Of
Songs;. Shake 'Em Up; Shake 'Em Up; Shake 'Em Up.
Sidney Bechet: soprano saxophone, clarinet, sarrusophone; Tom Morris, Louis Armstrong,
Johnny Dunn, Johnny Glasel: cornet; John Mayfield, Charlie Irvis, Aaron Thompson, Chester
Burrill, George Matthews, Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Bob Mielke: trombone; Clarence
Williams, Porter Grainger, Erskine Butterfield, Dave Bowman, Dick Wellstood, Lloyd Phillips:
piano; Buddy Christian, Sam Speed: banjo; Mamie Smith, Eva Taylor, Sara Martin, Margaret
Johnson, Virginia Liston, Sippie Wallace, Billy Banks, Two Fish Mongers: vocals; Bubber
Miley, Wendell Culley, Demas Dean, Clarence Brereton: trumpet; Bob Fuller: alto
saxophone; Jose Madera, Jerome Pasquall: clarinet, alto saxophone; James Tolliver: tenor
saxophone, arranger; Gil White: tenor saxophone; Jimmy Miller: guitar; Jimmy Jones, Henry
Turner, Charlie Treager, Pops Foster: bass; Wilbert Kirk, Zutty Singleton, Denny Strong,
Freddie Moore, Arthur Herbert: drums; Noble Sissle: director; Ernie Caceres: baritone
saxophone; Leonard Ware: electric guitar; Bob Wilber: clarinet, soprano saxophone.