Soprano Saxophonist and New Orleans native Sidney Bechet (1897-1957) is now listed in the database. Bechet wrote the ballet, La Nuit Est Une Sorcière, while he was living in Paris in the 1950s. The ballet received mixed reviews when it premiered in 1953. The mixture of classical and jazz themes confused the audience. Even more troubling was the story by André Coffrant; a young somnambulist kills his fiancée and his parents as they try to wake him up from his trance. The somnambulist’s black valet witnesses the violence, and the valet uses his body to draw the somnambulist to the window– falling to his death.
In the video above, Bechet’s soprano is heard during this movement featuring the somnambulist, his fiancée, and the valet attendant. Even through the initial reviews were negative, when the ballet was fully staged for the first time in 1955 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Bechet received 9 curtain calls. Bechet recorded this music in France, but it’s difficult to find the album, the last re-issue was in 1993.
To find out more about Sidney Bechet and his concert works, check out the book Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz by John Chilton.