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Who is Sidney Bechet?

Born in New Orleans, Sidney Bechet was a child prodigy playing the the clarinet at the age of six. He grew up to become a master of both the Soprano Saxophone and the Clarinet. His creole family was very disapproving of him learning to play instruments. They wanted him to learn a more respectable trade like masonary or capentry.

As a teenager he played in a few bands in the infamous red-light district of New Orleans, Storyville. Sidney Bechet started touring throughout the deep south at age sixteen with pianist and singer, Clarence Williams. In 1919, he moved on to tour with trumpeter King Oliver's Band. That is where he met Louis Armstrong. In 1923, Bechet cut his first record featuring, "Wild City Blues," and "Kansas City Blues."

He was widely known in his time, of being the only man to be the equal of Louis Armstong in the realm of improvisation. Though Bechet toured often, he always stayed true to New Orleans by infusing his playing with the the essence of New Orleans.

Later in his life, he moved to Paris, where he was honored as an American Jazz legend. Bechet's signature sound can be heard resonating throughout songs like "Summertime," and "St. Louis Blues." He was considered one of the four most influential jazz musicians.

For a more detailed history on Sidney Bechet, check out his autobiography, Treat it Gentle, and John Chilton's book entitled Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz.



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