FOR BIX BEIDERBECKE (The Ear Inn, March 13, 2011)

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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6 responses to “FOR BIX BEIDERBECKE (The Ear Inn, March 13, 2011)

  1. A tribute from the “best” to the “best.” What a swinging tribute to Bix!! I love it! Certainly not one of the posts that you listen to only once. Actually I save all of the posts, they all bear listening to several times, and I do! Thank you NM.

  2. Thanks, Michael, and thanks, Ida!
    “Twas a fun night, to be sure.
    As far as “San” being the shortest title in dixieland, not so–
    remember “Oh,” by Pee Wee Hunt?
    It was actually the flip side of “San” on a 45 of his!

  3. OH! You’re right!

  4. I must admit I did not know the song “Alone,” or recognize that Pete was quoting anything,but I looked it up on our old friend YouTube, and lo and behold, there it was! I vaguely remember hearing it in the movie, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen it. Luckily, I own a copy, so that is easily remedied.
    I must say I enjoy the male vocal more than the female vocal on this; for one thing, I could discern the melody when he was singing–it was just all vibrato and no notes when she’s singing, hehe!

  5. Great post! Thanks, indeed, to Jon, Pete, Matt, Greg and Michael!

    INRE: “Alone”
    I would be inclined to recall Harpo’s minutes with the song – complete with his rubber-wristed piano introduction and some seriously altered chords in his first chorus on harp…

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