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Sidney Bechet is considered by some jazz experts to be the greatest soprano saxophonist ever and he was equally adept with the clarinet as well. Bechet was also a hothead who had legal issues that would eventually plague his career.

Bechet was born May 14, 1897 in New Orleans, La. As a member of a middle-class Creole family, Bechet had access to music and culture. An older brother who was dentist and part-time bandleader served as an early inspiration, and Bechet took to the clarinet as a boy. By the age of 13, Bechet was a full-fledged musician although his parents frowned upon as a career choice.

As an adult, Bechet traveled to Europe and discovered the saxophone while in London. Bechet’s playing style was innovative, and he became known for his signature wails and aggressive playing style. This made him a virtual star across Europe, but living across the pond wasn’t a cakewalk.

Legal issues began to mount due to Bechet’s alleged mistreatment of women and his overall bad attitude. He was convicted of assault in 1922, and was deported back to the States. But Bechet resumed his career returning to Europe and touring around the globe.

Little Known Black History Month: Sidney Bechet  was originally published on

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