By John Stevenson
A biography of famed New Orleans jazz composer, clarinettist and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, will be launched in London on Sunday 4th May in the Cabaret Suite of the Hippodrome, Leicester Square London WC2H 7JH. It has been organised by Jazzmo’thology and Books of Africa.
Bechet (1897-1959), who was an innovator on clarinet and soprano saxophone, issued recordings before Louis Armstrong and played alongside Satchmo in the Clarence Williams Blue Five. He played extensively in Europe, settling in Paris in 1950. His tremendous dexterity on the straight sax comes to the fore on his hit 1939 recording of ‘Summertime’ and on various versions of his own very popular composition, ‘Petite Fleur’.
Bechet also co-led an ensemble with pianist Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith that recorded several early versions of what came to be known as called Latin jazz, integrating traditional méringue, rhumba and Haitian tunes into the jazz canon. During Bechet’s stay in England he performed before King George V.
Though he was only five years old when his father succumbed to lung cancer, the younger Bechet has gone on to lead a protean musical life as a funk-jazz drummer, pianist, composer and curator of his father’s considerable artistic legacy. The biography acquaints readers with the exciting worlds of jazz in America and France and some of the many artistes Bechet meets, such as Lena Horne, Yves Montand, Kenny Clarke and many others.
The launch will also incorporate a musical performance of Bechet’s works and a panel discussion, including Daniel-Sidney Bechet; Howard Rye, co-author of ‘Blues & Gospel Records 1890-1943′ and ‘Black Europe’; Alyn Shipton, well-known broadcaster on BBC Radio 3; and, Gary Crosby OBE, Chairman of Dune Records and leader of Jazz Jamaica.
For tickets and information, go to www.hippodromecasino.com/whatson/sidney-bechet-my-father-book-launch-concert/