Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz … everything he played in his whole life was completely original. I honestly think he was the most unique man to ever be in this music. — Duke Ellington.
He was the first among the players of the barely baptized “jazz” to be identified as “an artist of genius.” Very few jazz musicians are as well known as Sidney Bechet, especially among people not particularly familiar with the music. No one has a voice more easily and immediately recognizable– Eric Hobsbawm
The autobiographical writings of Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) are now widely regarded as poetic fictions. He did however, lead a most colourful life. Born in New Orleans he was playing jazz before the term had been coined, and is recognised as the first practitioner of that staple of jazz, the solo. During the 1920’s, when jazz was first reaching a wider audience via gramophone and radio, primarily in the USA, Bechet was away from the spotlight, travelling in Europe- during his time he enjoyed popularity in the Soviet Union, was deported from Britain, and was involved in a Montmartre shootout.
Bechet also pioneered the use of the soprano sax in jazz- making it his primary instrument.
His influence reaches the present day, via such greats as Coltrane down to Courtney Pine.