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The Bechet Legacy - Birch Hall Concerts Live

The Bechet Legacy, a group that specialized in the music of Sidney Bechet, was one of the highpoints in the careers of both Bob Wilber and Glenn Zottola. The previously unreleased music on this two-CD set from 1981-82 was the peak of this classic band’s existence. 


Sidney Bechet, a master on both the soprano-sax and clarinet, was one of the first major soloists in jazz history. Born in New Orleans in 1897, he was mostly self-taught and playing in public by the time he was eight. As a teenager he was considered one of the top jazz artists in New Orleans. At 17 he was traveling the South, three years later he reached Chicago and, after time in New York, in 1919 he toured Europe. In 1923 he became the first jazz horn soloist to be showcased on records. Throughout his career, Bechet was superb at both a soloist and at leading ensembles. During his final decade, he lived and played in France where he was a national celebrity.


Bob Wilber became Bechet’s protégé in 1946, learning from the master before emerging with his own sounds on clarinet, soprano and alto. Without copying Bechet, Wilber has helped keep small group swing and New Orleans jazz alive during the past 65 years. In 1979 when he and his wife singer Pug Horton formed Bechet Legacy, one of their most important additions to the group was trumpeter Glenn Zottola. A stirring trumpeter whose roots are in Louis Armstrong,   Zottola had recently completed a two year period with Benny Goodman. 


The combination of Wilber and Zottola with pianist Mark Shane, guitarist Mike Peter, bassist Len Skeet and drummer Butch Miles on this twofer results in many fireworks. The group performs swing standards and Bechet originals with such explosive numbers as “Lady Be Good,” “Down In Honky Tonk Town,” “China Boy,” “Just One Of Those Things” and “Dans Le Reu D’Antibes” receiving definitive and hard-swinging treatments. 


It is apparent from these timeless recordings that Bob Wilber and Glenn Zottola brought out the best in each other, and that Sidney Bechet would have loved to have joined them.

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Details

Details

Oh, Lady Be Good Done In Honky Tonk Town Coal Cart Blues Egyptian Fantasy Lazy Blues Summertime The Mooche Daydream Si Tu Vois Ma Mere Dans Le Rue D'Antibes I Keep Calling Your Name Sweet Lorraine I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart China Boy I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good Just One of Those Things Polka Dot Stomp Happiness is Just A Thing Called Joe Dear Old Southland Promenade Aux Champs-Elysees Georgia Cabin Memories of You Swing That Music

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Bob Wilber, Glenn Zottola
Instruments All Instruments , Vocal - Low Voice
Composer Sidney Bechet
Accompanist/ Conductor Bob Wilber - Soprano Sax, Clarinet; Glenn Zottola - Trumpet; Mark Shane - Piano; Mike Peters - Guitar, Banjo; Len Skeat - Bass; Butch Miles - Drums; Pug Horton - Vocals
SKU CJ04

Reviews

Customer Reviews (13)

RecommendedReview by CD Reviews
Quality
The Bechet Legacy was a band set up by Bob Wilber in 1980. Immediately prior to that, Glenn Zottola had been playing with Benny Goodman. When Bob Wilber approached Zottola to join “the Legacy”, there was no hesitation. Initially, the band included bassist Phil Flanagan, guitarist Chris Flory and drummer Chuck Riggs, a rhythm section which frequently accompanied Scott Hamilton. The music presented here dates from 1981 and 1982, when the band toured in the UK. The rhythm section had changed to include ex-Basie drummer, Butch Miles, pianist Mark Shane and our own Len Skeat and Mike Peters. The vocals were provided by ‘Pug’ Horton. It was no surprise when Bob Wilber formed the Bechet Legacy: after all, Wilber had, soon after the war, briefly lived with Bechet, whilst still his pupil. In the early 70’s, Bob had teamed up with Kenny Davern to form the original Soprano Summit and was to return to working later with Davern in the Summit Reunion.
When looking at the parallels between Bechet and the pretender, Wilber, it is evident that Bechet was the complete ‘one off’. To give you some idea of the tributes placed at Bechet’s feet, Duke Ellington said of him, “He was the very epitome of Jazz,” and “the most unique man to be in this music.”
In his early career he was described as being to the alto sax what Armstrong was to the trumpet: he player his reed (whether alto, clarinet or soprano) in such a strident, powerful way as to be the lead player even when alongside excellent trumpeters. Thus, we find that the situation between Wilber and Zottola (himself a powerful trumpeter) was not, in any way, a parallel to the situation between, say, Bechet and Tommy Ladnier, where Bechet was the dominant force. On these tracks, the lead is far more a shared duty. Bob Wilber is a brilliant improviser and lyrical player. Zottola is a confident, powerful, classic lead. Mark Shane is the perfect foil between the two.
The choice of material draws on several aspects of Bechet’s life: there are tunes associated with Duke Ellington (Bechet was an admirer of Ellington and vice versa), there are tunes which recall the time when Wilber and Bechet performed together (Polka Dot Stamp, for example). There are tunes associated with the Armstrong/Bechet era and the later Bechet/Spanier Big Four recordings, and then there are tunes, harking back to the 1950’s and Bechet’s time living in France (Si Tu Vois Mere, Dans Les Rues D’Antibes and Promenade Aux Champs-Eylsees).
The whole two-CD offering is a fine example of energetic, swinging music performed by masters of the genre. ‘Pug’ Horton sings on only two tracks (I got it Bad and Happiness Is Just the Thing Called Joe) and her version of Happiness is particularly enjoyable. Wilber’s fine clarinet playing is restricted to only six tracks over the two CDs, including some nice sympathetic accompaniment to his wife on Happiness and some real romping choruses on the final track Sing That Music. In fact the final track has the audience clearly wanting more.
A word about the live recording: these {previously unissued) recordings were done privately (but with the approval of the musicians} by Stan Bowmen and we should all give thanks. I am guessing that the equipment used in the recording may not have been ‘state-of-the-art’ but, nevertheless, the results are pretty good.
All the elements for great music were there: top musicians, great repertoire honoring one of the true jazz greats and played with supreme skill. A package just demanding your attention!
(Posted on 8/26/2015)
All Like It Hot!Review by Big Toots
Quality
Picture being with a group of young 21st Century musicians - say sax and trumpet players for argument’s sake - and they’re telling you that they’re bored to the gills with their current jazz listening fare. You know, that material that’s so over-intellectualized, electri-fried, contrived and ungodly sterile that, irrespective of tempo and groove, it just doesn’t move them - and worse - it doesn’t swing for them. Then, pull out this live recording, play it for them and watch their reaction. That would be not only an instantaneous and very swinging history lesson, but also an epic enlightenment and intro to both legendary jazzer, Sidney Bechet and the world-class musicians that comprise the Bechet Legacy – Bob Wilber, Glenn Zottola and crew, including fine vocalist Pug Horton, Mrs. Wilber.
Recorded live in 1991 at a series of Birch Hall concerts in England (where Wilber currently resides), this double-CD offers a hugely satisfying evening’s worth of the hottest jazz this side of the Sol. 23 – a number apropos for a very prime effort – classic selections associated with Bechet, Armstrong, Ellington and Goodman are magnificently performed with a hot-wire electricity that a studio effort can’t touch.
Bechet - one of the first inhabitants of the jazz pantheon - was an inspiration, teacher and mentor to Wilber and it shows demonstratively here. Wilber’s soprano (and clarinet) sound is full and rich, Bechet-tinged, dripping with virtuosity and heat (“Oh, Lady Be Good,” “The Mooche,” “China Boy”). Unfamiliar with Bechet, Kids? You’ll hear that Bechet-soprano sound reflected in John Coltrane’s soprano work; you know, when jazz “began” with “Giant Steps.” Trumpeter Zottola is absolutely impeccable, shading the incomparable Louis Armstrong superbly. Close your eyes: he has “Pops Chops” galore with all the range, stylistic flits, shakes and blitz-attacks in the swinging book. Together he and Wilber divine the melodic and improvisational nuances of the Masters they respectfully salute. And, each tips hat while intelligently adding their own graceful and inspiring jazz commentary (“I Got It Bad and that Ain’t Good,” “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere,” “Dear Old Southland”). The stellar rhythm section consisting of pianist, Mark Shane, drummer Butch Miles, guitarist Mike Peters and bassist, Len Skeat with vocals by Pug Horton assists, complements and helps to make this Legacy certainly create its own.
So, young musicians, drop the smartphones, the boring faux jazz, and get soprano-swinging smart with Sidney himself and the next best thing – The Bechet Legacy.
(Posted on 4/24/2015)
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music ExchangeReview by Mark S. Tucker
Quality
The guys who turned me onto old-timey musics were Robert Crumb and Ian Whitcomb. Way back when, while a young, long-haired, troublemaking hippie digging on Crumb's outrageous underground comix and loving what little I'd heard of Whitcomb (esp. his sole hit You Turn Me On), I figured if these cats were into stuff which previously I'd classed with Lawrence Welk and Old Spice (and they were HEAVILY into it), then I had to be missing something. I was, and, since then, I've slowly beefed up on all the elder golden sounds, even to the extent of recently getting hip to Jimmy Sturr and polka. It's true!, and I have to now watch out for barrels of boiling tar and chicken feathers in venues I still chirographically haunt (the avant-garde, progrock, electronica, etc.) lest I wind up looking like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit…but…it's worth the risk, and discs like this Bob Wilber / Glenn Zottola twofer show why. This is hipness and then some, babbaloo.

Wilber wields a soprano sax and clarinet while Zottola plies trumpet, both in a seven-man little big band bringing back not only the inimitable Sidney Bechet but also Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Spike Jones, Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, and the regal klatsch of over-the-top chopsters and hep cats who used to flat-foot floozy every dance hall and turntable from the Adirondacks to Tierra del Fuego back in the day. The Bechet Legacy: Birch Hall Concerts Live is exactly what it says, a very generous helping of in-concert rhapsodizing over joyously Pleistocenic music for Boomer dinosaurs, their rest-home parents, and even Gen X'ers alight with adventurous spirits. Like the Jazzhaus label over in Germany, Classic Jazz re-presents some great hidden materials to the public at large, and this one from 1981 is as cool as the recently issued Paul Winter Count Me In: 1962-1963 (here) set, though much more mannered in the wont of the era while humorous, decorous, upbeat, and suh-wingin'.

Wilber in fact took lessons from Bechet himself and Zottola scored a trifecta playing trumpet on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour as a lad, then toured with not only Jack Teagarden and Buddy Hackett but also Lionel Hampton, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. Christ, I thought I was big time just 'cause I saw Hendrix in concert, but these gents played with cats of equal magnitude well before Jimi ever picked up a guitar! Both gents trot out as huge a treasure chest of chops and improv as would make any modernist jazzbo beam with undiluted pleasure, but the ensemble also, in the old Dixie tradition this work directly stems from and lived within, gets in a wealth of equally slaying shout-outs and squibs, no one neglected, everyone ante-ing up an already considerable kitty. There's a point at which all great musics meet and shake hands, and I have a lot of trouble convincing devotees of the Grateful Dead, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Carnatic musics that there's just as much to revel in with sounds of this ilk, but it's as true as the day is long, and the proof is right dang here, y'all. Of course, it's equally tough to convince grandparents of the reverse and that maybe they'd get off just as much on Stevie Ray Vaughn and King Crimson as Ellington and Getz, but, well, who gives a damn anyway? As long as you 'n me can grin like crazed little monkeys at these flipped-out jams, the sun could go cold for all I care……just so long as there's enough electricity to keep the CD player going. Listen just to China Boy, and then join me in the cave. Bring some martinis 'n moonshine.
(Posted on 7/1/2014)
THE BECHET LEGACY - BIRCH HALL CONCERTS LIVEReview by Bob Schwartz - The Audiophile Voice
Quality
Thanks to Classic Jazz Records and an amateur recording engineer, a jazz lover named Stan Bowmen, we have a new double-disc set from Bob Wilber's Bechet Legacy band, in a live performance from its 1981 European tour. Having been on the road for a month of nightly gigs, the band plays its collective butt off. This belated release will delight admirers of Bob Wilber or Sidney Bechet, and should enlighten anyone not familiar with these masters of the soprano sax and the clarinet.
Bob Wilber has resisted categories and categorization for most of his 85 years. He turned 18 in 1946 just as most players his age were discovering bebop. Unmoved by bop and disappointed in the teaching and students at Manhattan School of Music, Wilber heard that Sidney Bechet was establishing a "school" at his house in Brooklyn, and he moved in with Bechet for eight months. But because Bechet was still active during much of the 1950's, and because Wilber didn't want to be typed, he spent much of the period playing tenor sax as a sideman in small groups and big bands. He later emerged as a featured soloist on soprano and clarinet and as a prodigious arranger, including for the movie Cotton Club.

Wilber recounts in his 1988 autobiography Music Was Not Enough that he had the "disadvantage" of a comfortable family bank account. He thus could pick and choose what to play and with whom. Classically trained and immersed in New Orleans and Ellington,, he also played with modernists like Lee Konitz. As an arranger, he anticipated the renewed focus on the entire history of jazz - before there was Jazz at Lincoln Center, he worked with the New York Jazz Repertory company and the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble to sponsor programs of jazz from all eras. Wilber credits his wife, British vocalist Pug Horton, for encouraging him in the 1970's to re-focus on his own passions - Ellington and Bechet. That's what this set provides - compositions by or associated with Bechet, and several by Ellington and Strayhorn. (Johnny Hodges was an early student of Bechet's, and Sidney and Duke were mutual admirers).

Wilber formed Bechet Legacy after a well-received stint at a New York club named Bechet's. Wilber's approach and arrangements show deep respect for but not confinement to Bechet's era and style. Glenn Zottola combines Armstrong-like flare with speed and precise articulation a la Clifford Brown, Wilber, Zottola, pianist Mark Shane and guitarist Mike Peters don't limit their jazz vocabulary (various licks creep in, as in Shane quoting Symphony Sid in the midst of Promenade Aux Champs-Elysees). These guys are like Bechet, melody players.

The band displays formidable chops and precision. The ensemble duet improvisations of Wilber and Zottola are a well-practiced joy and crisply recorded, with fine presence and soundstage placement. Some choruses are presented only as a quartet with guitar and bass. Other segments feature the energetic drummer Butch Miles. Several cuts range seven to nine minutes, allowing arranger Wilber to explore diverse textures, tempos and moods. Pug Horton contributes only two vocals, on I Got It Band And That Ain't Good, and Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe. One would like to hear more; these are sensitive and delightful.

Stan Bowmen recorded bands with their "permission" - presumably for love, not money. He did a fine job, likely assisted by modern mixing and mastering. The presence and placement of the horns is first rate, but the rest of the band (as in earlier eras) must be "brought up" in the mix for their featured turns. Bassist Len Skeat suffers worst in volume and timbre from this limitation. But the performances themselves, reflecting the band's time together on the road, are generally as polished as if done in a studio with multiple takes. (I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart, does speed up by 10 clicks - not unheard of in the studio, at least back in 1981).

The packaging is impressive but bears a few glitches - errors and disagreements between the package and the displayed "metadata" over a few song titles and lengths. But the printing on the discs is correct and there's a 12-page booklet of helpful notes by Scott Yanow. Classic Jazz Records has rescued a fine performance and issued a fine CD set.
(Posted on 5/21/2014)
The Bechet LegacyReview by Simon Sez
Quality
There was no one better suited to lead a group called Bechet Legacy then Bob Wilber. Wilber had been Sidney Bechet’s best known student and he became a major player himself on clarinet and soprano. In the late 1970s he put together Bechet Legacy to pay tribute to his former teacher, hiring the hot trumpeter Glenn Zottola and a rhythm section that included pianist Mark Shane who could often sound like Teddy Wilson.
This two-CD set has music that is being released for the first time. It seems strange that it never came out before because this is probably Bechet Legacy’s finest recording. Recorded at a concert, it is full of explosive and thrilling moments, especially on “China Boy,” “Just One Of Those Things” and “Dans Le Reu D’Antibes.” Just listen to Wilber and Zottola excite each other! This is truly hot jazz.

Simon Sez: If you love hot jazz, don’t even hesitate. Go out and buy the Bechet Legacy’s Birch Hall Concerts (CJ4) right now!
(Posted on 5/6/2014)
Birch Hall Concerts LiveReview by Donald Elfman
Quality
These performances exist because of a time in 1946 when saxophonist/clarinetist Bob Wilbert studied with Sidney Bechet. The joy and spirit of these concerts - made by collector Stan Bowmen in England in 1981-82 and previously unreleased - comes directly from the lessons Bechet imparted to the then-18-year-old. The album celebrates what Wilber calls, "all of the beautiful music that he wrote and recorded through the years" and is chock full - 23 tunes in all - reflecting Swing and traditional music from nearly a century.

Things open up with the Gershwin standard, "Oh Lady Be Good". Wilber and trumpeter Glenn Zottola swing the lead, propelled by the knockout, steady pulse of pianist Mark Shane, bassist Len Skeat and drummer Butch Miles. The two play hot and lovely solos and complement Shane's own short but perfectly smart solo. Guitarist Mike Peters is a little hard to hear but he's right in the spirit of things.

In addition to a handful of Ellington gems and standards from the Great American Songbook, the group performs its magic on six tunes composed by Bechet. "Egyptian Fantasy" is a sinuous, slow beauty featuring Wilber on clarinet, who takes the line first and then offers appropriate accompaniment to Zottola. It sounds like a Middle East-meets-New Orleans blues as both horn players sail in and out of the melody.

Three tunes are reminders that Bechet's legacy is due in great part to France. The sentimentally gorgeous ballad "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere (If You See My Mother)" features soprano and trumpet buoyed by a rhythm figure from Peters on banjo while "Promenade Aux Champs-Elysees" is a jaunty walk and "Dans Le Rues D'Antibes" a stirring march. (Posted on 5/5/2014)
There's a timeless element to this wonderful musicReview by Nick Mondello
Quality
Every so often a jewel of a recording is unearthed, prompting the obligatory question: “Why not sooner?” This wonderfully energetic, swinging effort is a treasure of an example.

“The Bechet Legacy” with woodwind artist Bob Wilber and trumpeter Glenn Zottola up front, delivers significant homage to Sidney Bechet and to the Golden Era of hot jazz. The Double-CD set, recorded live in England over three decades ago, is a home run of Ruthian swing.

Saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet played a pivotal role in the development of the art form both here in the U.S and as a longer-term resident and performer in Europe. His is the robust saxophone root of the tree that would eventually sprout Johnny Hodges, (a Bechet student), Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker.

Delivering an array of Swing Era standards from Bechet’s and others’ pens, Wilber (a protégé of Bechet’s) and Zottola soar through the selections with enormous vigor. There’s significant swing across the two session dates where the musical magnificence -- and joy – never ceases.

Legacy leader, Wilber, of World’s Greatest jazz Band game, swings heavy on both soprano and clarinet. His improvised lines burst with chops, innovation and expression. He’s got a gorgeous sound on both axes and is no “vibrato cornball” on either. Partner Zottola, a scion of Zottola trumpet mouthpiece fame, has all of the Armstrong vocabulary in his wheelhouse. He’s got a vibrant sound, chops galore and swings at a level that would send other trumpeters to the woodshed. Like Pops, he uses the upper register shrewdly to fire up his solo forays. These are two stellar musicians performing with the ultimate respect for the tradition at hand.

The selections include tunes associated with Bechet, Armstrong, Ellington and others (“China Boy,” “Lady Be Good,” “Memories of You). Supported by a cooking rhythm section of pianist, Mark Shane, drummer Butch Miles, guitarist Mike Peters and bassist, Len Skeat (and a vocal by Mrs. Bob Wilber, Pug Horton), this legacy creates its own.

There’s a timeless element to this wonderful music. With so much of today’s jazz over-intellectualized and sterile, Wilber, Zottola and team deliver a vivid, swinging exposure to a timeless musical tradition in a romp.
(Posted on 1/31/2014)
We can be glad that these recordings were dug out of the archives and made available for us all to enjoy.Review by Tony Augarde
Quality
Bob Wilber formed The Bechet Legacy in honour of his former teacher, Sidney Bechet. He keeps the great man’s memory alive by playing his compositions and other music from the era when Bechet flourished. In fact Bob Wilber has a calmer approach to the clarinet and soprano sax than Sidney Bechet did. It was therefore a good idea for Wilber to recruit Glenn Zottola as his colleague in the front line of The Bechet Legacy, because Zottola has a very contrasting style.

Whereas most of Bob Wilber’s playing is legato, Glenn Zottola’s is generally the precise opposite – staccato. In fact Glenn might be called a disciple of Louis Armstrong, because his methods are so similar to Satch’s. While Bob Wilber charms with subtle romance and lyricism, Glenn Zottola astounds with high notes and hugely impressive displays.

This recording was made by an enthusiastic amateur at two concerts in Lancaster in the early 1980s. True to its name, The Bechet Legacy plays no fewer than eight compositions by Sidney Bechet, including the mysterious Egyptian Fantasy, the poignant Si Tu Vois Ma Mère, and the evocative Georgia Cabin. This is a reminder, if it were needed, that Bechet could compose atmospheric pieces.

Other highlights include Summertime, a tune which Sidney Bechet memorably recorded. Wilber follows in Bechet’s footsteps with several emotional choruses. The first CD ends with a cherishable version of Sweet Lorraine, starting at mid-tempo but hotting up when Zottola’s trumpet solo brings on the melodrama. Glenn also features in Memories of You, where he is backed simply by the rhythm section.
(Posted on 12/4/2013)
Call it hot jazz or Dixieland or classic jazz, this set is the spirited essence and you need to hear it. Review by Owen Cordle
Quality
Soprano Saxophonist and clarinetist Bob Wilber formed the Bechet Legacy in the late ’70′s. He had studied with Sidney Bechet as a teenager in the ’40′s, and it was a fitting time to formally honor his late mentor. On this two-CD set, recorded in England in 1981 and ’82, original Bechet Legacy members Glenn Zottola (trumpet) and Mark Shane (piano) are heard along with Mike Peters (guitar, banjo), Len Skeat (bass) and Butch Miles (drums). Vocalist Pug Horton, Wilber’s wife, is added on two tracks.

It’s hard to imagine how this set could be improved. These were nights of musical ecstasy. The electricity surges in the opening, “Oh, Lady Be Good,” followed by “Down in Honky Tonk Town” and, later in disc two a flying “Just One of Those Things.” Then there are the ravishing ballads: “Summertime,” “Daydream,” “I Keep Calling Your Name” and Horton features, “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” and “Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe.” With Zotolla playing ‘Louis Armstrong’ to Wilber’s ‘Bechet,’ the performances contain telepathic trumpet and soprano (or clarinet) interplay, propulsive background riffing and a strong ensemble commitment from all. Or as ‘Scott Yanow’ says in his copious and superlative liner notes, “Bechet Legacy was never about the music being merely a string of solos.” Furthermore, the rhythm section is swing defined.

We tend to regard the jazz of Bechet, Armstrong and their musical descendants as essentially happy music, and Wiber and company have surely captured that uplifting feeling throughout this set. Call it hot jazz or Dixieland or classic jazz, this set is the spirited essence and you need to hear it.
(Posted on 12/4/2013)
Lovers of classic jazz will want to run not walk to pick up this!Review by Scott Albin
Quality

Lovers of classic jazz, and Bob Wilber’s Soprano Summit (co-led with Kenny Davern) and Bechet Legacy groups in particular, will want to run not walk to pick up this two-fer containing over two hours of previously unreleased music from The Bechet Legacy during its 1981 and 1982 British tours. Those familiar with The Bechet Legacy’s On the Road album, recorded in studio with the same personnel while in the midst of the 1981 British tour, will have a very good idea of what to expect, but these 23 live tracks are even more exhilarating and rewarding. Wilber’s ravishing soprano sax and clarinet are joined on the totally-in-sync front line by dynamic trumpeter Glenn Zottola, and they are fervently supported by pianist Mark Shane, guitarist Mike Peters, bassist Len Skeat, and drummer Butch Miles, with Wilber’s wife Joanne “Pug” Horton providing gratifying vocals on several numbers. As one would expect, most of the selections were either composed and/or associated with the great soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet, with whom Wilber studied, performed, and even lived as a young man in the late ’40′s.

Bechet and Louis Armstrong recorded “Down in Honky Tonk Town ” together in 1940, and this up tempo version captures their spirit, with Wilber’s soprano and Zottola’s trumpet evoking their respective idols with aplomb. The other four players solo enthusiastically as well before a typically heated ensemble finale. “Coal Cart Blues” was recorded by Armstrong both with and without Bechet, and this arrangement with the two horns plus rhythm guitar and bass vividly captures the sound of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four, with solo space for all four and soprano and trumpet interacting mellifluously. Bechet’s evocative “Egyptian Fantasy” is sensitively performed by Wilber and Zottola, as they brilliantly inject their own personal touches into the harmonious mix. “Lazy Blues,” an early Bechet composition, is given a deceptively relaxed spin by Zottola and Wilber on clarinet, with the latter’s penetrating, incisive solo, and Zottola’s commanding, exultant statement to follow. Shane enhances the track with his stylish stride improv. “Summertime” was a hit for Bechet, and Wilber brings both his own and Sidney’s personalities to the fore, playing the soprano with less vibrato but no less lyrical flair than his inspiration.

Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche,” a favorite of Bechet’s, gets a stirring run-through by Wilber’s resonant clarinet and Zottola’s gutsy plunger-muted trumpet, along with some elegant fills from Peters. Bechet’s lovely, sentimental ballad “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” finds Wilber’s soprano and Zottola in captivating harmonic allegiance, and the trumpeter delivers a stunningly expressive solo prior to the duo’s unabashedly melodic reprise. The Bechet tune “Dans Le Rue D’Antibes” has a buoyant marching theme and rhythm, and Wilber’s extended soprano flight escalates in intensity as Zottola riffs and Shane strides. Zottola succeeds him in his best jabbing, wailing form, and after the pianist’s prancing improv, the two lead voices hook up for two intertwining, joyful choruses. Also patterned after a Bechet-Spanier Big Four arrangement is “Sweet Lorraine.” Wilber on soprano and Zottola are compelling in their keen lyricism both together and individually, with the latter especially fiery and imaginative. Wilber and Bechet recorded “Polka Dot Stomp” in 1947 and both soprano and trumpet here pounce infectiously on its “Muskrat Ramble”-like changes, as do Peters and Shane in their solos.

One luxuriates in the delightful harmonic blend of unison soprano and trumpet on the theme of Bechet’s celebratory “Promenade Aux Champs-Elysees.” Wilber’s solo perfectly combines melodicism with rhythmic vitality, while Zottola follows Armstrong’s example in his highly communicative pronouncement. Shane’s effervescent turn is also a stimulating listen, and Skeat and Miles are given space to entice as well. Bechet’s endearing “Georgia Cabin” is split between soprano and trumpet before Zottola’s majestic solo and Wilber’s more subtly ingratiating one. The wealth of riches on these two glorious CDs also includes superior performances of the standards “Memories of You,” “Oh, Lady Be Good,” and “Just One of Those Things,” in addition to Billy Strayhorn’s “Daydream,” and Ellington’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” and “I Got It Bad and that Ain’t Good,” the latter highlighted by Horton’s deep-toned, nuanced reading of the lyrics, not a little remindful of Jack Teagarden’s approach.
(Posted on 12/4/2013)
Review by Jack Goodstein
Quality
Fans of Dixieland music will find a lot to like on this album. Standout tracks on the first disc include Bechet's "Egyptian Fantasy," an interesting take on the Ellington classic "The Mooche," and a soulful take on "Sweet Lorraine." The Pug Horton vocals on tunes like "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" and "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe" highlight the second disc, along with an impressive upbeat modern reading of "Just One of Those Things" and some exciting ensemble work in "China Boy." But these are only my own favorites from a set of very fine performances. (Posted on 6/14/2013)
Review by Joe Lang
Quality
Sidney Bechet passed fifty four years ago. A pioneer in jazz (he beat Louis Armstrong to the recording studio by several months), Bechet has never received the wide spread acclaim that is so deserving.

Fortunately we have Bob Wilbur and The Bechet Legacy to keep the flame alive and the joint jumping. Focusing primarily on the clarinet and soprano saxophone left plenty of time for Bechet to become a viable force as a composer perhaps the first triple threat artist in the early stages of the improvisation music we have come to know as jazz.

This particular collection is a two disc set that pops in the tradition of the roots of the real deal players and pioneers that came out of New Orleans. Recorded in the early 80's there is a hard swing here that Bechet used to influence other icons including Benny Goodman. Glenn Zootola co-leads this band on trumpet. A live recording including such standards as "Lady Be Good" and "Just One Of Those Things."

Incredibly entertaining and a well put together package recorded live. (Posted on 5/17/2013)
Review by Jim Eigo - Warwick, NY
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Wilber wields a soprano sax and clarinet while Zottola plies trumpet, both in a seven-man little big band bringing back not only the inimitable Sidney Bechet but also Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Tommy Dorsey, and Lionel Hampton. The Bechet Legacy: Birch Hall Concerts Live is exactly what it says, a very generous helping of joyously music for. This one from 1981 is as cool as the recently issued Paul Winter Count Me In: 1962-1963 set, though much more mannered in the wont of the era while humorous, decorous, upbeat, and suh-wingin'.

Wilber in fact took lessons from Bechet himself and Zottola scored a trifecta playing trumpet on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour as a lad, then toured with not only Jack Teagarden and Bobby Hackett but also Lionel Hampton, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. Christ, I thought I was big time just 'cause I saw Hendrix in concert, but these gents played with cats of equal magnitude well before Jimi ever picked up a guitar! Both trot out as huge a treasure chest of chops and improv as would make any modernist jazzbo beam with undiluted pleasure. (Posted on 5/17/2013)

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