Sidney "Pops" Bechet

Sidney Bechet was born on Mai 15th 1897 in the legendary city where Jazz has its roots. He debuted with his clarinet at the family orchestra named "Silver Bells" under the leadership of his brother Leonard. His teachers were the famous clarinettists Georges Baquet and Lorenzo Tio.

All of his life Sidney Bechet was a great traveller. At the age of 17 he went on his first tour going through Texas with an orchestra assembled by Clarence Williams and Armand J. Piron, the two founders of the New Orleans music publishing house. Thereafter he played in his hometown with the Olympia Band, King Oliver, Kid Ory, Freddy Keppard and Buddy Christian until shortly before the Navy closed down Storyville. Like most of the New Orleans musicians after the closedown he moved to Chicago where he played in various groups. In 1919 he was hired by Marion Cook for the Southern Syncopated Orchestra about to go on tour all across Europe. This huge Orchestra with an astonishing variety of different music styles was a big hit in London and even played at Buckingham Palace for King George IV who personally congratulated Sidney Bechet for his performance. In the early ‘20s he played in various European capitols including Paris, Brussels and London where he led his own Orchestra. In addition to the clarinet he started to play soprano sax which seemed to offer him wider musical possibilities and new ways of expressing himself. From then on he specialised on his new instrument and still today is known as the master of the soprano sax. 1925 was a pretty busy year for Bechet. He shortly joined Duke Ellington’s Kentucky Club Orchestra before touring Europe with the "Revue Nègre". The "Revue Nègre" was an adoption of African art to European culture and stared famous personalities such as Josephine Backer, Luis Douglas and of course Sidney Bechet. All in all he performed all over Europe for two years, from Germany to Italy, from France to Poland, from Switzerland to Holland and even visiting Russia. In the early ‘30s he left Europe to found a new band New York. In 1938, shortly before starving, due to the economical crisis of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, he opened up a small tailor business in Harlem, New York.

After receiving honours in 1947 during the Dixieland Revival he finally moved to Paris, after he had almost been forgotten during the swing period. Within a few years he became a celebrated star comparable to Charles Trenet, Edith Piaff and Maurice Chevalier. The young existentialists celebrated him and his music, of which they thought that it would represent the fears and confusions of their time. This was wrong though because Bechet rather played happy New Orleans songs, then Bebop songs that more likely conformed the ideas of the existentialists.

Bechet is probably the only black Jazz musician that became rich in Europe. This and his glory brought a lot of Jazz musicians to Europe, who never reached his degree of fame. As a result of that he was indirectly responsible for the creation of various Dixieland Styles all over Europe.