[Dixielandjazz] Re: Sidney Bechet - Club Basa.

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Fri Feb 6 13:55:27 PST 2004

on 6/2/04 7:49 AM, Stephen Barbone at barbonestreet at earthlink.net wrote (in

> "Bash - a".   Emphasis on the first syllable, the "a" being a "long a" and
pronounced as the "ay" in "say". So, "BASH ay" is about as close as one can
write it, given the above.<
Interesting. We young 1940s jazz turks in Melbourne always pronounced it
"BESH ay". I still do.
So we were close.
Steve also said 
> Bechet did open a jazz club under that name on Seventh Avenue in NYC circa
1924 or 1925. I'm not sure who his money partner was, and the club folded
pretty quickly. It was called "CLUB BASHA", and pronounced as stated above.
Maybe Bill Haesler can supply more detail if anyone is interested.<
Interested or not, here it is. (There is always the 'delete' key.)

The bare bones of that event are that in May 1925 Sidney Bechet ("the
clarinet wizard") went on tour with a theatrical 'racial burlesque' company
'Seven-Eleven'.He quit in New York in July 1925 where a large sum of royalty
payments money from his compositions awaited him.
Apparently Sidney always fancied himself as a businessman, but lacked the
money. Here was his chance.
He used the royalty monies to set up his own nightclub at 2493 Seventh
Avenue at West 145th Street called Club Basha. Basement premises on the site
of the former Hermit's End. (Lloyd Scott's band, with brother Cecil, was
there in 1924.) Bechet's partner in the enterprise, who had good contacts
for bootleg liquor, is now known only as 'George'.
The band had Johnny Hodges, cl/as; Sammy Davis (from New Orleans), p; Jacob
Patrick, tb; Smithy Frazier, g/bj; Tommy Benford, d; and was called Sidney
Bechet and His New Orleans Boys. It also seems that Bechet played alto at
that time, which has been confirmed separately by Benny Carter.
>From a slow start the club became successful very quickly. Then Bechet hired
a friend, Bessie Dessier, as a solo dancer. She became romantically involved
with George and would side with him against Sidney in minor business
disputes. One night Bessie refused to dance for Sidney's friend (Jerry
Preston, who owned the Log Cabin Club). Bechet's legendary temper flared, he
wanted to fire her and he and George almost came to blows with each
threatening to call in underworld mates. Gang violence looked inevitable.
But, untypically, Bechet backed down, resigned and was paid out by George.
The Club Basha (still using the name) was still operating in 1926. Bechet
had had enough of New York and left for Europe (with Claude Hopkins band and
the revue 'La Revue Negre', which included a very young Josephine Baker) in
late Sept 1925.
Oh well, Steve, you did ask!
Very kind regards,
PS: While checking some of the above, I came across 3-4 references (perhaps
from a one-only original source) which claim that the pronuciation 'Bash-ay'
was that used by Sidney's 'New York' musician friends in the 1920s. And
Oh no! More research needed?  

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