African Americans in New Orleans: The Music--Part One

Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) was born in New Orleans and began to play jazz here before leaving for Chicago, New York, and Europe in 1916. He began on the clarinet but later switched to the saxophone, the instrument on which he made his reputation. Bechet was one of the pioneers who made jazz popular throughout the nation and is widely regarded as one of its greatest players. In the 1950s he took up permanent residence in France, where he died and is buried. May 14, 1997 will mark the centennial of Sidney Bechet's birth. That milestone will be celebrated with the Sidney Bechet Centennial Conference here in New Orleans. .

From the title page of Sidney Bechet's autobiography.
Sidney and Leonard Bechet. Leonard, an older brother, made his living as a dentist but was an accomplished trombonist. In Treat It Gentle, Sidney recounts how he learned to play on a clarinet owned by Leonard. The photograph appears in Al Rose and Edmond Souchon, New Orleans Jazz, a Family Album (Baton Rouge, 1978).

The Bechet family as listed in the 1910 U.S. census for New Orleans. Despite the fact that young Sidney had been playing with jazz groups for several years, he is not yet listed as a musician.

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January 30, 1997--wme