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One of my favorite jazz books is Sidney Bechet’s Treat It Gentle (1960). For those of ya’ll who don’t know, clarinetist and soprano sax player Bechet is one treatitgentle-wwibof the towering individualists of the first half of 20th century American music— check out his recordings with Louis Armstrong of Corona via Chicago and New Orleans for jaw-dropping starters. Bechet took a similar route north and, although he never lived in New York for long, in 1918 he was looking mighty sharp by the sea: “So to fill in time I went and played with Tim Bryen on Coney Island. We all wore very fancy uniforms and the pay was good.” (Treat it Gentle, page 149.)

Tim who? Readers of John Strausbaugh‘s excellent cultural history Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture (2006) want to know, as do many other bold face names  (such as Brownsville hero Ralph Bakshi of  Coonskin genius) space does not permit me to mention. Alas, research suggests  that Tim Bryen did not exist; whether he’s an error of transcription, editing, typesetting,  nobody can say. J. Tim Brymn on the other handthunderbolt triumphas— now there was a man! Noble Sissle, with whom Bechet first recorded in 1933 for Brunswick, likewise pissed standing up and whenever I play  “Pops” Bechet With Noble Sissle’s Swingsters (as the label credit has it) 1938 Decca recording of “Viper Mad,” the whole room  goes apeshit. Toot toot! Swagger jacking a nickname from Louis “Pops” Armstrong was no timid move either, as Dallas Penn, a Corona native, can attest. — Willis Still Sunsweet

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