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Mezz-Bechet: King Jazz, Volume 1

Although the Mezzrow-Bechet material has been twice reissued on CDs in Europe, George Buck is to be congratulated for finally securing rights to its U.S. release, especially i n Bechet’s centennial year. All known completed takes are here, in chronological order.

Maybe Mezz was, as annotator Paige Van Vorst asserts, “one of the most outlandish figures in jazz.” He was certainly never viewed very sympathetically in his own country, where he served a prison term for selling pot. As a clarinetist, he neither displayed nor claimed an impressive technique, and sometimes it was quite rusty when other pursuits had interrupted his music making. But he could play the blues more convincingly than most of the white musicians who spoke so patronizingly of him and his liking for the black world. The fact that he was responsible for so many successful record sessions during his erratic career attests to his uncompromising vision. It is illustrated by the men he chose, proven players whether out of favor or not’ such as Lips Page, Sammy Price, Danny Barker, Pops Foster, Wellman Braud, Baby Dodds, Sidney Catlett, Kaiser Marshall and, of course, the great Sidney Bechet.

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