Blue Plaque to Jazz Giant and Pioneer Sidney Bechet – 24 November

Nubian Jak Community Trust presents 

Sidney Bechet plaque unveiling ceremony

Monday 24 November    

1pm – 1.25pm

27 Conway Street, W1T 6BW

The year is 1907 and in the garden of a house in New Orleans, the great cornet player Freddie Keppard and the Manual Perez band were playing for Leonard Bechet’s 21st birthday party. While they were playing they heard some striking clarinet accompaniment coming from inside the house. Intrigued, a couple of the band members went to see who was playing. There they discovered a young Sidney Bechet furiously playing along with the band on his brother’s clarinet. He was only 10 years old, but to the musicians who saw him, it was immediately apparent that they were witnessing a talent well beyond his years.

12 years later when Sidney Bechet arrived in Liverpool on 14th June 1919 with the pioneering Southern Syncopated Orchestra, he became the first acknowledged Jazz great to set foot in Great Britain. In August of the same year he would be playing before the king at Buckingham Palace.

Not long after in October 1919, the distinguished Swiss classical conductor Ernest Ansermet who had heard Bechet play at a London concert with the SSO, was moved to publish what many consider to be the first serious musical consideration of jazz in print. Bechet’s impact on the Russian composer Stravinsky is also well documented.

Over the next three years Sidney remained mainly in London as part of SSO breakaway group the Jazz Kings, playing all over the UK, including long residencies at the Embassy Club in Old Bond Street.

He was rubbing shoulders with the very elite of British society, and among his students was a certain Charles Henry Maxwell Knight, the future British spy who was the inspiration for the character “M”, head of the Secret Intelligence Service in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. By 1922 Sidney was  living at 27 Southampton Street in an area which included other famous residents such as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, and Victorian Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. Southampton Street was renamed Conway Street after WW2, and the Sidney Bechet blue heritage plaque will be unveiled at his former home on 24 November 2014 by his son Daniel.

Composer Duke Ellington said of Bechet that “Of all the musicians, Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz.”

For more info:

General Enquiries: Nu Jak Media – 0800 093 0400


Mr Daniel Bechet said: “Whenever someone asked him about his music, my father would always say, “I play what I live!”

John Chilton – Sidney Bechet Biographer said : “I have always been fascinated by Sidney Bechet’s music: he was featured on the first jazz recording that I consciously heard, and his was the first photograph that I ever stuck in a scrap book.”

Howard Rye – Historian said: “As one of the greatest and most influential improvising musicians of the twentieth century, Bechet richly deserves to have his stay here commemorated.”

Jak Beula – Chair of the Nubian Jak Commemorative Plaque Scheme said: “As someone who did more than any other to pioneer the art form known as Jazz in Britain and Europe, it is very pleasing that at long last Sidney Bechet should be honoured with a blue plaque in Britain, at his former home in Fitzrovia.

The Nubian Jak Community Trust is the only national BME plaque and sculpture scheme in the UK and Europe. T  For more information contact: 0800 093 0400 or follow us on twitter @nubianjak                                                  

The Sidney Bechet Heritage Plaque Tribute was raised by public subscription. The name of every donor will be inscribed at the back of the plaque for future posterity.


About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s