Sidney Bechet: Wild Cat Blues


Wild Cat Blues


Clarence Williams Blue Five


Ken Burns Jazz: Sidney Bechet (Columbia/Legacy)

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Sidney Bechet (soprano sax),

Thomas Morris (cornet), John Maysfield (trombone), Clarence Williams (piano), Buddy Christian (banjo)


Composed by Clarence Williams & Fats Waller


Recorded: New York, June 30, 1923


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

This was Sidney Bechet's first recording. Beyond the start of a tremendously important recording career, this track was historic because Bechet was the featured player, rather than simply serving as part of the ensemble in classic New Orleans style, and this recording was made more than two years before the first of the Louis Armstrong Hot Five tracks that are usually credited with the landmark step of featuring a solo artist.

This track starts out in classic New Orleans polyphonic ensemble style. It is grounded on the standard early 1920s chug/chug/chug rhythm, especially from Christian's banjo—as trumpeter Max Kaminsky said, "those '20s bands with that dreadful '20s beat." But it also has energy and bounce. Then Bechet soars above it all, and quickly we hear that the intense, unique vibrato that became so notable was already well developed. He also adds some of those great, crying, keening high notes that became another trademark, along with very inventive lines. To hear the recorded beginnings of this jazz giant is a treat, even if Clarence Williams was a better music entrepreneur than pianist, and despite the chugging rhythm and merely OK sidemen.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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