Take a listen to the song in the media posted above. That’s Sidney Bechet, one of the great jazz saxophonists of all time, playing “Petite Fleur,” one of his signature songs later in life. This particular recording was made in Paris in 1952, and Sidney is joined by Claude Luter on clarinet.
I used to live in New Orleans. Let me tell you, you can just hear New Orleans in this sultry song–the chirp of cicadas, the rustling of the weeping willow fronds, the burbling of the dark swamp waters, beer and gin filling glasses in hootch parlors on Bourbon Street and the Rue Royale. It’s fitting that Sidney recorded this in Paris, which was the mother of New Orleans. The pathos of the music is also evocative of its time–the first few years after World War II when the world wasn’t sure how it was going to rebuild itself, or how to make sense of the carnage that had almost destroyed it a few years before.
I have George Sheridan, professor of European history at University of Oregon, to thank for introducing me to this song. He played it in class while discussing cultural developments in post-WWII Europe. I’m going to be doing an interview with Professor Sheridan sometime this summer. The moment I heard this song I knew I had to put it on the blog. Enjoy!