I do not know what memories Bix Beiderbecke had of New York. Aside from that terrible apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where he died, I think that many of them were good: recording for OKeh, jamming in Harlem, playing against the Henderson band, drinking at Plunkett’s. Bixians can, I am sure, supply more.
Although Bix has been gone a long time, New Yorkers still celebrate him in many ways: a vigil on the anniversary of his death; WKCR-FM plays his music on his birthday, and (this year) the EarRegulars devoted an evening to honoring him.
The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Matt Munisteri (guitar), founding members, with Pete Martinez (Albert system clarinet) and Greg Cohen (string bass). And they played as if Bix was seated at the bar, grinning appreciatively — which, in a way, he always is.
Here’s Hoagy’s FREE WHEELING — later named RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, a wondrous way to start things off. Catch Jon-Erik’s clarion, flexible lines, Greg’s fervent support. Pete’s quotation early in his first chorus is a delicious in-joke. As ALONE, it is the romantic number in the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And his second chorus — only Matt could follow something like that, and how nimbly he does! Jon-Erik soars; Greg stomps, and the closing ensemble is a triumphant paradox: searing hot and cool to the touch at the same time:
It took me several choruses to recall the name of the next selection — it’s THERE’LL COME A TIME and it’s a tribute to the deep affection and deeper recall that all the editions of the EarRegulars show — not in an academic or pretentious way, but with love. This version, deliciously, has an easy stroll to it — it could be a 1938 Basie-inspired small group recording for Commodore, couldn’t it? (Think of Buck, Lester, Durham, Page.) And wait until the very end — the equine commentary is here and intact:
Pianist and wit Jeff Barnhart says that SAN has the distinction of being the Dixieland tune with the shortest title. I wouldn’t deny that, but it’s also a rocking composition — especially the way the EarRegulars launch into it, with quartet telepathy all around:
Finally, a song I take as a tribute to my serene and well-establish standing in academia — the JAZZ ME BLUES — which has the immortal line, worthy of Keats, “Professor, come on and jazz me!” I would have responded but it would have required that I put my camera down, so I couldn’t:
Bix thanks you. We all thank you, gentlemen of the ensemble!
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