Jazz Crusade JCCD 3104, 2005, 16 tracks 60 min

Clarinet Marmalade, Four Or Five Time, Indiana, I’ve Got The Right To Sing The Blues, Old Man River, Alice Blue Gown, I’ve Got Rhythm, Sidney Bechet Interview, Struttin’ With Some Barbecue/Closing Theme, Opening Theme/Muscat Ramble, Medley: My Ideal/I’m Confessin’, Marie, Deep River, 0on The Sunny Side Of The Street, My Blue Heaven, Chinatown My Chinatown/Closing Theme



Jazz Crusade JCCD 3105, 2005, 16 tracks 60 min

Theme/Some Of These Days, I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me, Basin Street Blues, Begin The Beguine, Dinah, It’s Only A Paper Moon, That’s A Plenty/Closing Theme, Pops Foster Interview, West End Blues/Theme/Old Fashioned Love, Blues In The Air, Nobody’s Sweetheart Now, Summertime, Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, I Can’t Get Started With You, Tiger Rag, Bechet Farewell/Closing Theme

I doubt anyone would dispute that Sidney Bechet was a colossus; a towering genius that bestrode the traditional jazz scene for many years, especially in Europe where his influence is still quite profound, particularly so in France where he resided for many years. Mention ‘soprano sax’ and Bechet’s name is the first to hand; hear one and the comments tend to be ‘is/is not like Bechet’. The soprano sax is a tasty instrument but, like cream doughnuts, tends to be rather ‘filling’. I have other Bechet recordings and, when it is he leading a band, the front line consist of soprano sax and trumpet; a wise choice as it prevents too much ‘crowding’. These recordings are live ones put out as radio programmes from Boston, USA in June 1945. The trumpeter, New Yorker Johnny Windhurst, an 18 year old brought in to replace first Bunk Johnson and later Peter Bocage, old timers from New Orleans. Well, having re-listened to my other recordings, I think young Windhurst is the best trumpeter to take on the onerous task of fitting in with Bechet. A soprano sax tends to dominate and a soprano sax played by Sidney Bechet even more so. In some of the tracks Windhurst is definitely in the shade, but on others, such as , ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’ he not only gets to take the lead, but to my ear, drives the tune along his own lines. Two other tracks that stand out as being more trumpet led were ‘Struttin’ With Some Barbecue’ (vol 2) and ‘I Can’t Get Started With You’. I had wondered if it was Bechet getting confident enough with the young trumpeter to let him loose, but the dates between the recording of the programmes is a matter of days, and in fact some of the more soprano sax led tunes are later than the ones earlier mentioned.

Naturally, these being Bechet CDs you want to hear the man play. Well, every time I have heard a jazz programme where they want to include Bechet at his best, they have played one of his many versions of ‘Summertime’, so naturally there is one here on volume 2. Stunning is the word for it and it just confirms what a virtuoso he was on the soprano sax. I also loved his playing on ‘Begin the Beguine’. That is not to say that he can’t get too clever for his own good. Listen to ‘Tiger Rag’ where he shoves in an excess of notes at a breakneck speed and you will see what I mean.

Now the quality; well the tracks are from old records and, I must say having cleaned up many sound tracks myself, that the ‘wear’, as opposed to ‘snap crackle and pop’, is high but best left well alone; its removal would ‘strip’ the tracks, leaving you with something almost intolerably thin. The degree of noise varies a lot but, given the importance of the tracks, quite acceptable.

I must confess to liking the ‘period feel’ of the CDs especially with the interviews and intros/outros. I have a series of BBC Jazz Club recordings that I made on a reel-to-reel recorder in the late 60s and are now burnt to CD (don’t tell the BBC!). They are complete with Humphrey Lyttelton’s commentary. I just love them! The interview with Bechet intrigued me, especially when he talked about multi-tracking with him playing all instruments (complete with two examples). I had thought the first to do this was Eddie Cochran, but the old rocker was obviously not the first man off the blocks. Pops Foster’s interview is also interesting, though I had to play it a couple of times to catch all he said. Pop’s one also has a magnificent ‘Mahogany Hall Stomp’ with Louis Armstrong playing one of his nicest I have heard from his post Hot 5 & Hot 7 period.

No, very interesting CDs these, and well worth the spin. Now what I am after are some recordings by Johnny Windhurst who favourably impressed me.