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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Petite Fleur

Phoenix 131534



1. Maple Leaf Rag;
2. I've Found a New Baby;
3. Weary Blues;
4. Really the Blues;
5. High Society;
6. Indian Summer;
7. Sidney's Blues;
8. Shake It and Break It;
9. Wild Man Blues;
10. Save It, Pretty Mama;
11. Stompy Jones;
12. Muskrat Ramble;
13. Baby Won't You Please Come Home;
14. The Sheik of Araby;
15. When It's Sleepy Time Down South;
16. I'm Coming Virginia;
17. Strange Fruit;
18. Blues in the Air;
19. The Mooche;
20. Twelfth Street Rag;
21. Mood Indigo;
22. What Is This Thing Called Love?;
23. Rose Room;
24. Oh! Lady Be Good;
25. Blues of Bechet;
26. Petite Fleur  


Numerous albums by Sidney Bechet have been issued with the title "Petite Fleur", no doubt because that was his most successful composition, even though it was Chris Barber who had a UK hit with it in 1959. This compilation illustrates Bechet's work from 1932 to 1941, with a live recording of Petite Fleur from 1952 added on at the end.

Sidney Bechet was unique: taking up the soprano saxophone when it was virtually unheard in jazz, and playing it with a wide vibrato which could express deep emotion as well as radiant joy. He also had a brilliant technique and seemed to be able to play anything he wanted, with a fluency that carried the listener along with it.

The opening Maple Leaf Rag shows that Sidney didn't always know the meaning of the word "restraint". He leads the New Orleans Feetwarmers at a frantic speed in Scott Joplin's masterpiece. Really the Blues proves that he could be restrained when necessary, with some neat counterpoint between soprano sax and clarinet, followed by Sidney improvising at the height of his lyrical powers. Indian Summer and When It's Sleepy Time Down South are also examples of his great lyrical performances.

Sidney's Blues has the rare feature of a vocal by Bechet, although his playing is better than his singing. Stompy Jones is the first of three Duke Ellington numbers on which Sidney repays the Duke's compliments (for example, that Bechet was "the very epitome of jazz"). On this track, Sidney uses one of Ellington's sidemen - Rex Stewart - in a performance which moves towards mainstream, away from the New Orleans style of most of the preceding tunes. The other Ellington compositions are The Mooche (with some atmospheric interpolations from Vic Dickenson's trombone) and Mood Indigo (with superb trumpet from Charlie Shavers).

Other particularly noteworthy tracks are The Sheik of Araby and Blues of Bechet, in both of which Sidney overdubbed himself on clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, piano, bass and drums to create an orchestra all on his own. Such an adventurous move was pioneering in 1941 but it was more impressive still because both tracks sound seamless as well as richly melodic.

This compilation reminds us of a musician who had a unique authority and buoyancy to his playing.

Tony Augarde

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