A NEW BIX PROJECT

Few jazz musicians stir up as much longing and yearning as Bix Beiderbecke. This isn’t an aesthetic judgment on his achievement as measured against anyone else’s, but I sense that he is so powerfully missed by so many people. Although his recorded legacy is not by any means the most brief, those who love his music both revel in its beauties and wish with all their hearts that there would be more. Nearly seventy-five years after his final appearance in a recording studio, it seems unlikely that more will surface — although more unusual events have happened.

So those who revere him and his music have turned to Alternate Universes — tributes that do more than offer beautifully recorded or more leisurely versions of Okeh, Victor, Gennett, Harmony, Columbia sessions — but attempts to recreate something unheard.  (The parallel experiment, and a beautiful one, has always been Bent Persson’s ongoing Studies in Louis, spread over many records and CDs, and always rewarding.)

Nearly fifteen years ago, the very imaginative trumpeter Randy Sandke and friends recorded a CD for the Nagel-Heyer label of music associated with Louis and Bix: here is Doug Ramsey’s 2000 review of that disc.  A few years later, Dick Hyman took a small group in to the studio for Arbors Records (with Tom Pletcher inventing new beauties) to consider what would have happened if Bix played Gershwin.  (A wonderful Stomp Off session paired Bent and Tom for, among other imaginative fancies, a Bix-meets-Louis romp on MAD.)

Now, a decade later, Julio Schwarz Andrade came up with this new imaginative venture and recruited the musicians, and Paul Adams of Lake Records is eager to record the results, so a CD will become reality with some support from you. It’s a continuation of Paul’s work over a number of years called Vintage Recording Projects — where he assembles wonderful idiomatic musicians, records them with a minimum of fuss (no baffles or headphones, just people playing in a suitable room) with delightful results. Here is what the most recent session looked and sounded like — heroically gratifying!

I’ll let Julio explain:

The premise is, of course, that there are many tunes that we know Bix played and was fond of, but never had the chance to record. So this is our humble attempt to right that historical / circumstantial wrong, and to recreate what could have been. The musicians are: Andy Schumm, cornet; Mauro Porro, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Josh Duffee, percussion.  The list of tunes hasn’t been finalized yet, but the following are being considered (in no particular order): STARDUST / SKYLARK / WOLVERINE BLUES / WASHBOARD BLUES / SWANEE / I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN / LAZY RIVER / IT MUST BE TRUE / PANAMA / ANGRY / HIAWATHA’S LULLABY / NO-ONE KNOWS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT among others.

Now, projects like this don’t take shape without support, so we are asking people to help out. Here is the link to contribute some . . . money.  A £30 donation gets your name in the booklet. Anything more than that gets you a place in heaven and eternal salvation as well. And all contributions will win gratitude from the organizers, the band, and future listeners.

The session will take place right after this year’s Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and I look forward to the results.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “A NEW BIX PROJECT

  1. Sam McKinstry

    Michael, you have hit the nail on the head about the reverence there is for Bix and its admixture with a ‘yearning’ that he did not leave us with more. This is a hitherto unspoken aspect of the Bix mystique and deserved to be said. The other aspect of Bix is of course his complex psychology and mindset. Why the alcoholism and the recurring melancholy strain? His family supported him in many ways, so he was not ‘unloved’ and his followers were
    many and fulsome in their praise. Here is a highly intelligent, sensitive and creative man whose introversion, absence and distance in time mean we have no chance whatsoever of fathoming his decline, but we still yearn for answers, carried along by the wonderful, original, music he created!

  2. Bix recorded “Washboard Blues” with Paul Whiteman (and Hoagy on vocal) on Nov 18, 1927. It is the first recording that Bix ever made with Whiteman. Two takes were issued, both included in “Bix Restored.”
    “Stampede,” Henderson’s composition arranged by Don Redman, was recorded by Jean Goldkettte on Feb 1, 1927, the same day that the band recorded “My Pretty Girl.” Two takes of “Stampede” were waxed, never issued. That is one “must” tune in an “Unrrecorded Bix” project.
    Several years ago I proposed a “Tunes I Wish Bix Had Recorded.” Among the tunes I listed were “Angry,” “Too Busy” and “Stardust.”
    The Indianapolis Star, Jul 23, 1924, has a piece on the Wolverines and mentions three compositions by Vic Berton played by the Wolverines: “Sobbin Blues,” “Blue Evening Blues” and “Lullaby Strain.” “Sobbin’ Blues” was recorded by Bunny Berigan and by Artie Shaw.
    Another suggestion. Sadly, Bix did not appear in the King Of Jazz. Here are some ideas for numbers that could be included in the Unrecorded Bix Project:
    – There was a segment in the “King of Jazz” movie titled “Meet The Boys.” Maybe the first track in the CD could be “Meet Bix” and have a number that Bix could have played in the movie, if he had been there.
    – “Tiger Rag” was played at the Oct 7, 1928 Carnegie Hall Concert (where Bix played his composition “In A Mist” with Roy Bargy and Lennie Hayton). According to Roy Bargy, the arrangement played by Whiteman at the Carnegie Hall Concert had solos by Bix, Tram, Friedman and Rank. Bix did record “Tiger Rag” with the Wolverines, but the arrangement played by Whiteman at Carnegie Hall must have been totally different. So maybe it could be included. I remind you that Bix learned to play cornet, in part, listening to the ODJB recording of “Tiger Rag.” So “Tiger Rag” is an important part of Bix’s musical history. There is a Challis arrangement of “Tiger Rag” in the Whiteman Collection in Williams College. I would guess that this is the one used in the Carnegie Hall Concert.

  3. This will be a fun and worthwhile project given the musicians involved. For my part, I always wondered what Bix would have done if he had lived to see 1932, the year hot music almost died. You could count the number of small-group recording dates on one hand, and the industry wanted no part of peppy tempo or modern harmony except for the occasional outburst from the likes of Cab Calloway or the Casa Loma boys. Even Whiteman himself couldn’t buck the trend.

    I suppose Bix might have found a special place in Trumbauer’s road band, which was excellent but doomed by the depression…taken a prominent role in Crosby’s sessions with Victor Young…or perhaps forged a collaboration with Reginald Foresythe, then visiting the states. Fun pipe dreams, anyway…

  4. Hi Albert,
    Many thanks for your insights! I have passed them on and I’m sure we will use at least some of them.
    I must admit I didn’t have the Whiteman version of Washboard Blues. I have got it now and there is Bix in the (all too short) “hot” chorus.
    About Tiger Rag – You might know that Vince Giordano recorded a version of Bill Challis’ arrangement (comissioned by Whiteman) in his “Goldkette Project” album. It is slightly scaled down to fit what would be Goldkette’s band, and it has a nice Bix-like solo by Tom Pletcher.

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