Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sidney Bechet - La Nuit est une Sorcière

Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) was the first great jazz saxophonist, specializing in soprano sax; he's one of my musical heroes. One of his more unusual projects came about in 1953, while he was living in France. Bechet wrote a ballet score, La Nuit est une Sorcière`(The Night is a Witch). Actually, since Bechet was not adept at reading or writing music, he demonstrated what he wanted to pianist James Tolliver, who did the actual orchestration. The music could be called "third stream" - that is, a blending of classical and jazz styles. Bechet's piece has been criticized as being naive, but I find it quite enjoyable, with its blend of 19th-century romanticism and the blues. Bechet plays many of the themes himself; his dramatic style works well with the full orchestra.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to find, in near-mint condition, a deluxe early edition of the record of the ballet made by Bechet and conductor Jacques Bazire with an unidentified symphony orchestra. This issue is on the London label; London was a division of British Decca which produced records for the overseas market. Although the recording is complete on one ten-inch LP, it's housed in a box which also contains a cardboard sleeve (with text entirely in French), a paper inner sleeve, and an insert with liner notes in English - a very cool package.

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