Bechet: Volume 10 - 1940 (Masters of Jazz MJCD 100)
I have a terrible confession to make. My first - and,
still best - loves in jazz are all herein. The Bechet-Spanier
Big Four records are all here...and, nothing Ive
listened to since - not even the avant garde in all of
its seductive shapes, or the veritable keys to history
- can dissuade me from believing that this remains the
very best jazz album Ive ever heard.
Bechet, for a start, comes first. No question. He carved
out the solo role in jazz, years before Armstrong. And,
having investigated, I know I damn-well lucked out, amazingly,
in that my introduction to jazz at real length was via
this set - I found it on an s/h Swaggie lp - albeit we
not only get the quartets full ten tracks here,
but also Bechets 1940 set w/Armstrong & Orchestra...all
w/the inimitable John R.T. Daviss remastering.
But, its the quartet that always cleans my clock.
Drummerless, elegant in their acoustic bass/guitar framing
- the top duo similarly matched/poised in their interplay
- one of those miraculous sessions where all balance eventually
seems effortless, merely the bouncing-point whence we
take off... Both Bechet & Spanier play w/time, in
their own ways, as do our rhythm section, and yet the
thing I feel elevates this above the rest is that - on
top of all of these other virtues - Sidney Bechet really
applies his encyclopaedic tones in by far the most archetonic
way in his long & impossibly distinguished career.
By the way, though, what about the totally elegant &
impassioned way Spanier introduces things for Sidney most
times, pulling back to a tasty support role when suitable...only
to come back - in one of three voices - and turn things
round & always be masterful in the clinches, freeing/feeding
Bechet in the very best way possible...
And Sidney obliges. The famed woody/fiddle tone gets
unleashed, as does our reckless piper from Pan Unbound,
the rockin mechanism, that eternally stunning understudy
& the keening stylistic Master...the whole orchestra
is here, in fact, all here...and, used in the most integrated
And, I swear, this album also remains unsurpassed for
understanding exactly how group improvisation around an
agreed song can work - or, maybe equal top w/Alex Chiltons
Like Flies on Sherbet, at least...polyphony
& heterophony, to be sure.
Or...just try Bechets opening/first solo on the
Armstrong/Bechet cuts - he certainly sets the bar high,
doesnt he? Armstrong has to basically rebuild the
track in order to take it back. Comes in beautifully the
next, but he was challenged, to be sure. And where elsell
you hear the one who invented jazz singing backed by the
one who invented the modern solo role in jazz, eh? Too
much showboating, at points, to be sure, which is why
my heart hearks back to the Bechet-Spanier Big Four. One
of the absolutely great quartets on record... No question.
John Henry Calvinist