Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
In Tune -- by Eric Seddon
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning for
Jazz Advancement and Socialization
EARLYJAS
Sidney Bechet with
New Orleans Feetwarmers
            1932

Sidney Bechet & The New Orleans Feetwarmers (1932)

Sweetie Dear (Jordan/Cook)
I Want You Tonight (Bechet/Maxey)
I've Found a New Baby (Williams/Palmer)
Lay Your Racket (Bechet/Maxey)
Maple Lead Rag (Joplin)
Shag (Bechet)

Sidney Bechet  clarinet, soprano saxophone
Tommy Ladnier  trumpet
Teddy Nixon  trombone
Hank Duncan  piano
Wilson Myers  bass, vocals on "I Want You Tonight" and "Shag"
Morris Morand  drums
Billy Maxey  vocal on "Lay Your Racket"

In 1932, Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier declared fleeting independence from
commercial music, broke free from Noble Sissle's orchestra, and on September 15,
recorded six of the finest sides of their careers. The New Orleans reed man and
Louisiana trumpet player had met, oddly enough, in Moscow in 1926 while touring
through the Soviet Union, and had recorded with Sissle's group just prior to their
own small combo formation. They named the group the New Orleans
Feetwarmers, and though the vogue for small ensemble hot jazz was quickly
fading, these sides shout like a cry of freedom, remaining among Bechet's
crowning achievements.

The New Orleans Feetwarmers weren't just a studio organization, but a gigging
band, playing around White Plains, NY, and in Jersey City while they built up
repertoire. The night before these historic recordings were made, the sextet opened
New York's Savoy Ballroom, billed as "Ladnier and Bechet's New Orleans
Feetwarmers."  

Bechet gets composition credits on half the numbers. His clarinet soloing is unusual
and aggressive on "Sweetie Dear"--a study in his shocking brilliance. He's soulfully
bluesy on "I Want You Tonight", but nothing can prepare anyone for his soprano
sax tour de force on "I've Found a New Baby." From his masterful use of delay,
seemingly stepping in and out of time over the barlines, to his fast triplet figures,
jazz just doesn't get better than this. He pivots from lyrical and dazzling within split
seconds, diving and soaring at will. Anyone who believes New Orleans style jazz is
somehow less advanced than more self-consciously intellectual and modernist
styles needs to check this out. The Soprano Sax virtuosity continues on his own
"Lay Your Racket" and, especially "Maple Leaf Rag", which is up there with "I've
Found a New Baby" as an unsurpassably brilliant interpretation of the tune.
Throughout these recordings, his use of trills on both clarinet and soprano sax is
exciting and unique, worthy of study for all musicians hoping to expand their ideas.

For as brilliant as they sounded, the New Orleans Feetwarmers weren't long for
this world. The tastes in New York had already shifted, and Hot Jazz was
becoming increasingly unfashionable as the sweet music crooners began taking
over the gigging scene. The great depression was taking it's toll and most nightclubs
couldn't afford hiring a five or six piece band on a regular basis, opting instead for
a pianist alone (Chilton 90). It would be another couple of years before Benny
Goodman's band could bring back a hotter style, albeit primarily in the form of a
big band.

If the Feetwarmers had overarching societal problems contributing to their demise,
there were also internal problems. Bechet and Ladnier quarrelled over leadership
and billing, and at one point after a gig, drummer Morris Morand  got into a fight
with Bechet, even threatening to kill him (Chilton, 95). Bechet, as usual, moved on
quickly to join Willie "The Lion" Smith at Pod's and Jerry's Club, and the
Feetwarmers were no more. In the end, they left us one brilliant session, consisting
of six tunes, among which are two or three that will never be topped. For that we
can all be grateful.     

Recommended reading:

Chilton, John. Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz. OUP (New York). 1987