The great New Orleans soprano-saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet was 52 when he went to Paris in 1949 to perform at a jazz festival. The reception greeting him was so overwhelming that he soon decided to move permanently to France for what would be his final decade. While he was treasured by many American jazz fans, he was otherwise unknown in the U.S. In contrast, France treated him like a hero and a matinee idol.
Bechet’s French recordings are generally lesser known than his earlier performances. He usually used bands that were filled with fine ensemble players who could take decent solos while staying out of the way and letting the spotlight shine on him. The two-CD set Five Classic Albums Plus 3 – Second Set from the British Avid label has the music from no less than five LPs plus three EPs.
Dating from 1952-55, Bechet is heard with bands led by clarinetists Claude Luter and Andre Reweliotty. There is a great deal of joyful music on this twofer which includes many of Bechet’s original compositions. Highlights include the original version of “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (the haunting theme heard throughout Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris), “Dans Les Rues d’Antibes,” “Ghost Of The Blues,” the hit “Petite Fleur,” a “Show Boat Medley,” “When I Grow Too Old to Dream,” and two medleys of Bechet songs. Some of the music was formerly rare and all of it is rewarding, showing that Sidney Bechet deserved the acclaim that he received in France.