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Sidney Bechet’s One-Man Band (1941) challenged the collaborative spirit of jazz. Playing multiple instruments in turn, the celebrated New Orleans jazzman raised the ire of the American Federation of Musicians for monopolizing jobs. For fellow clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow (1946), however, Bechet had encapsulated the spirit of New Orleans music; he was a ‘man at peace with himself, all his parts in harmony’. Drawing on oral history, reception texts and private recordings, this paper re-examines the One-Man Band as a collaborative act. I locate Bechet’s first experiments with overdubbing in recordings among friends, and a later instance in his contrapuntal response to a homemade disc from old-time trumpeter Bunk Johnson. My work aims to reframe the first generation of jazz musicians, commonly regarded as objects of ethnographic attention, as subjects of media history. I revisit issues of liveness and community in jazz, while exploring technology’s role in the New Orleans revival.

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Senior Lecturer in Music

Gavin Williams

Lecturer in Music

Sophie Redfern

Lecturer in Music

Event details

St Davids Room
Strand Campus
Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

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