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Going for Goola: Moving the Emotions and Dazzling the Mind

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Sidney Bechet, jazz genius, walked the 1920’s streets of Paris in finger-popping, toe-tapping dignity, knowing unquestionably that he was seen, honored, and free. His charcoal skin was golden in France. There, Bechet could stride.

Sidney Bechet blew his horn like an angel, to the angels, with the angels, for the angels. And the people couldn’t get enough of the man.

No one has since found the sound of Sidney Bechet. The man was, as we all are meant to be, one of a kind.

He preceded even the great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong, in winning record contracts (1923). He performed with Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker; in London’s Royal Philharmonic Hall and Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom; and from Moscow to Berlin. “Sidney Bechet created a style which moved the emotions even as it dazzled the mind” extolls New York Times critic, Robert Parker.

As with all of us, life was not always smooth for Sidney Bechet. He could not always find his stride. Back in an America not yet ready for black men of genius, Bechet fell into hard times. He couldn’t land gigs. To survive, he took up the scissors and needles of a tailor, and performed only in the back of his shop.

In hard times, Sidney Bechet paced the scuffed floors of his Harlem apartment, armpits sweating in summer, fingers frozen in winter. He may have felt invisible, his genius in hiding, perhaps played out or dried up. Most of us know this feeling from time to time—when our specialness leaves us behind. When that happens, we need Goola.

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