Sidney Bechet Impact On Jazz

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From Bechet to Marsalis: The Evolution of Jazz

Jazz: An overview
In the 20th century, Jazz was one of the most expressive forms of music around, as it was just starting out and was born in a time where victims of oppression were beginning to stand up and rebel. In comparison to classical music, Jazz is a very new genre of music. It’s evolution is vividly evident in it’s contrast of instrumentation, dynamics, and the introduction of modal jazz which I will discuss later on in this essay. One of the first jazz virtuoso’s that appeared and had a significant influence on jazz, was Sidney Bechet, on clarinet and saxophone.

20th Century New Orleans
Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
Born into a middle class family in New Orleans, Louisiana,
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Even though Bechet and Armstrong were both from New Orleans, they grew up in completely different areas. Bechet was the son of a dentist, who lived in a relatively peaceful part of New Orleans with his family. Armstrong on the other hand, grew up in a world of violence and corruption. In a time where the world was changing in war, science, literature and many other things, Armstrong came at the perfect time for jazz music. His genius was noticed by many at Wynton Marsalis describes Armstrong as the “embodiment of jazz” in the second episode of Ken Burns’ documentary on jazz. (Burns, Ken,Jazz, BBC, 2001) He was known to have better spirit in music rather than technical ability. One example of Armstrong’s incredible spirit is heard in his rendition of “West End Blues”, composed by his idol Joe King Oliver. The introduction to this number features an improvised cadenza in which Louis Armstrong plays with immense feeling. William Russel, a jazz writer, has commented saying that “other jazz trumpeters would be better off avoiding the too frequent imitations of Armstrong's introduction on the number”. (William Russel, Review of West End Blues, unknown, 4/12/2014) This is due to the emotion and natural feeling Armstrong put into the…show more content…
With this popularity, jazz musicians decided to form larger ensembles, known as “Big Bands”. These big bands would typically consist of trumpets, saxophones, trombones, drums, bass (or double bass), piano and would usually have a soloist. These bands were like the symphony orchestras of jazz. A few of the most popular big bands would’ve been led by Chick Webb, Paul Whiteman, Glenn Miller, Ted Lewis and an all-female big band named “Helen Lewis and her all-girl jazz syncopaters”. The popularity of these groups was astounding. They were selling out venues everywhere and going on regular tours across America. These bands would have some impeccably skilled jazz musicians as soloist’s also such as Bix Beiderbecke and Dizzy Gillespie. One big band that stood out from this era would be Benny Goodman’s big band. Their popularity was almost unbelievable. Benny himself was widely known as the “King of Swing” and had some of the most dedicated fans at the time. Radio was the most important aspect for Benny as his recordings would be heard by a wider audience. This ultimately led to the crazy fan-base he gained. For example, in their performance at the Stanley Theatre, it was reported that most of the audience were dancing down the aisles to the music. People had never experienced music like this before. It was almost like an explosion of life and freedom, caused by a wave of new and exciting music. Goodman’s performance at
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