It seems like caving in to use the title of the French hit for a classic collection of Sidney’s, for that’s what this is, and nothing to do with Gallic teenagers. Let’s get the carping over: how can you have a collection which claims to be “his 48 finest” and yet which omits Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning and 2.19 Blues from 1940? The company could well have shoved their floral tribute and one of the other minor performances aside in favour of those two. 2.19 is also missing from the more expansive and expensive Properbox set. However a virtue is that no spare space remains for the two tracks to be crammed into the current double album as an addition.
Everything else is ok, including most importantly the transfers. It’s good to hear the Bechet-Spaniers jumping out with such presence, and one is remninded at every turn that here is a man respected or feared by his contemporaries among the great musicians – Armstrong and Ellington spring to mind. Morton’s High Society sounds pretty worn, but then it does on Properbox 18, and the quality of both is pretty similar – what a timeless wonder this track is! (The Properbox has 93 tracks on four CDs, but then it is no longer available and would have cost a lot more.)
It’s good to see the three excellent Noble Sissle tracks drawn to our attention. This was Sidney before his RCA period, and he was probably better here than anywhere except during that. It would have been good to have the missing track, Southern Sunset, which certainly counts as a classic of his work. The last four tracks with Luter, Lil Hardin and Vic Dickenson are weaker by Sidney’s standards, and that would have been a good space for the two that I’ve mentioned.
Despite their prevalence in everyone’s collection, Bechet’s tracks have not been easy to find, and this attractive set should find a home with younger people who certainly should have them. I’ll sit at home and hug my French 14-CD set of Sidney’s complete American masters 1923-53, with not a banjo in sight after Clarence Williams. We must encourage Retrospective, for they have created a magnificent catalogue.
CD1: (2) Wild Cat Blues; Kansas City Man Blues; (3) Sweetie Dear; Maple Leaf Rag; (4) Dear Old Southland; (5) Okey-Doke; (6) Blackstick; (7) Really The Blues; Weary Blues; (8) Summertime; (9) High Society; (10) Indian Summer; (11) Sweet Lorraine; China Boy; Four Or Five Times; (12) Perdido Street Blues; (13) Shake It And Break It; Wild Man Blues; Old Man Blues; (14) Blues In Thirds; Ain’t Misbehavin’; (15) Egyptian Fantasy; (16) The Sheik Of Araby; (17) When It’s Sleepy Time Down South (78.29)
CD2: (18) I’m Coming Virginia; Strange Fruit; (19) Blues In The Air; (20) Twelfth Street Rag; Mood Indigo; (21) After You’ve Gone; (22) St Louis Blues; Blue Horizon; (23) Milenberg Joys; Days Beyond Recall; (24) Out Of The Gallion; (25) Blame It On The Blues; Old Stack O’Lee Blues; (26) Buddy Bolden Stomp; (27) Where Am I?; (28) I’ve Found A New Baby; (29) Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Margie; (30) Black And Blue; (31) Le Marchand De Poissons; Si Tu Vois Ma Mere; (32) Black Bottom; (33) C Jam Blues (79.34)
Bechet (cl & ss) with:
(1) Guy Lognon (t); Jean-Louis Durand (tb); Charlie Lewis (p); Alf Masselier (b); Armand Molinetti (d). Paris, 21 January 1952.
(2) Clarence Williams (p) and his Blue Five; Thomas Morris (c); John Mayfield (tb); Buddy Christian (bj). NYC, 30 June 1923.
(3) Tommy Ladnier (t); Teddy Nixon (tb); Hank Duncan (p); Ernest Myers (b); Morris Morand (d). NYC, 15 September 1932.
(4) Noble Sissle Orch: Wendell Culley, Demas Dean, Clarence Brereton (t); Chester Burrill, George Matthews (tb); Jose Madera, Jerome Pasquall, Buster Tolliver, Gil White (reeds); Erskine Butterfield (p); Jimmy Miller (g); Jimmy Jones (b); Wilbert Kirk (d). NYC, 14 April 1937.
(5) Noble Sissle Swingsters: Jimmy Miller (g); Jimmy Jones (b); Wilbert Kirk (d). NYC, 16 April 1937.
(6) Noble Sissle Swingsters: Clarence Brereton (t); Gil White (cl, ts); Harry Brooks (p); Jimmy Miller (g); Jimmy Jones (b); O’Neil Spencer (d). NYC, 10 February 1938.
(7) Tommy Ladnier Orch: Ladnier (t); Mezz Mezzrow (cl, ts); Cliff Jackson (p); Teddy Bunn (g); Elmer James (b); Manzie Johnson (d). NYC, 28 November 1938.
(8) Meade Luxe Lewis (p); Teddy Bunn (g); Johnny Williams (b); Sid Catlett (d). NYC, 8 June 1939.
(9) Jelly Roll Morton (p) & His New Orleans Jazzmen: Sidney De Paris (t); Albert Nicholas (cl); Happy Caldwell (ts); Lawrence Lucie (g); Wellman Braud (bar); Zutty Singleton (d). NYC, 14 September 1939.
(10) Sonny White (p); Charlie Howard (g); Ernest Myers (b); Kenny Clarke (d). NYC, 5 February 1940.
(11) Muggsy Spanier (c); Carmen Mastren (g); Wellman Braud (b). NYC, 28 March 1940.
(12) Louis Armstrong (t); Claude Jones (tb); Luis Russell (p); Bernard Addison (g);; Wellman Braud (b); Zutty Singleton (d). NYC, 27 May 1940.
(13) Sidney De Paris (t); Sandy Williams (tb); Cliff jackson (p); Bernard Addison (g); Wellman Braud (b); Sid Catlett (d). NYC, 4 June 1940.
(14) Rex Stewart (c); Earl Hines (p); John Lindsay (b); Baby Dodds (d). NYC, 6 September 1940.
(15) Red Allen (t); Jay C Higginbotham (tb); Buster Tolliver (p); Wellman Braud (b); J C Heard (d). NYC, 8 January 1941.
(16) one man band: Bechet plays cl, ss, ts, b and d. NYC, 19 April 1941.
(17) Gus Aiken (t); Sandy Williams (tb); Lem Johnson (ts); Cliff Jackson (p); Ernest Meyers (b); Arthur Herbert (d).
(18) Charlie Shavers (t); Willie “The Lion” Smith (p); Everett Barksdale (g); Wellman Braud (b); Manzie Johnson (d). NYC, 13 September 1941.
(19) Henry Goodwin (t); Vic Dickenson (tb); Don Donaldson (p); Ernest Myers (b); Manzie Johnson (d). NYC, 14 October 1941.
(20) Charlie Shavers (t); Willie “The Lion” Smith (p); Everett Barksdale (g); Wellman Braud (b); Big Sid Catlett (d). NYC, 24 October 1941.
(21) Vic Dickenson (tb); Don Donaldson (p); Ernest Myers (b); Wilbert Kirk (d). NYC, 8 December 1943.
(22) Sidney De Paris (t); Vic Dickenson (tb); Art Hodes (p); Pops Foster (b); Manzie Johnson (d). NYC, 20 December 1944.
(23) Bunk Johnson (t); Sandy Williams (tb); Cliff Jackson (p); Pops Foster (b); Manzie Johnson (d). NYC, 10 March 1945.
(24) Mezz Mezzrow (cl); Fitz Weston (p); Pops Foster (b); Kaiser marshall (d). NYC, 30 August 1945.
(25) Albert Nicholas (cl); Art Hodes (p); Pops Foster (b); Danny Alvin (d). NYC, 12 February 1946.
(26) Lloyd Phillips (p); Pops Foster (b); Freddie Moore (d). NYC, 23 July 1947.
(27) Mezz Mezzrow (cl), Sammy Oprice (p); Pops Foster (b); Kaiser Marshall (d). NYC, Chicago, December 1947.
(28) Wild Bill Davison (c); Art Hodes (p); Walter Page (b); Freddie Moore (d). NYC, 21 January 1949.
(29) Eddie Bernard (p); Pierre Michelot (b); Kenny Clarke (d). Paris, 5 November 1949.
(30) Humphrey Lyttelton (t); Wally Fawkes (cl); Keith Christie (tb); George Webb (p); Buddy Vallis (bj); John Wright (b); Bernard Saward (d). London, 13 November 1949.
(31) Guy Longnon (t); Claude Luter (cl); Bernard Zacharias (tb); Christian Azzi (p); Roland Bianchini (b); Claude Philippe (bj); Moustache Galuipedes (d). Paris, 18 January 1952.
(32) Lil Armstrong (p); Zutty Singleton (d). Paris, 7 October 1952.
(33) Vic Dickenson (tb); George Wein (p); Jimmy Woode (b); Buzzy Drootin (d);. Boston, 25 October 1953.