“The definitive work on Bechet. This is one of those rare books that once started you have difficulty putting down.”–Jazz Journal
Fifty years after hearing Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) in 1923, Duke Ellington recalled, “I have never forgotten the power and imagination with which he played.” The first great jazz soloist, Bechet was a genius of the clarinet and the notoriously difficult soprano saxophone. In a career that spanned five decades and two continents he worked with Bunk Johnson, King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. He was a giant in early New Orleans jazz and a pioneer of improvisation whose contribution to the music, from the traditional to the avant-garde, has been a vital and lasting one. This biography reveals with insight and precision the man and his music, and illuminates the many events obscured by Bechet’s own highly readable but factually suspect autobiography, Treat It Gentle.