A review of "Finding Bix."

A review of "Finding Bix."

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 10th, 2017, 10:36 pm #1

Library Journal, April 1, 2017.

Wolfe, Brendan.
Finding Bix: The Life and
Afterlife of a Jazz Legend.
Univ. of Iowa.
May 2017. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN
9781609385064. pap. $24.95
; ebk. ISBN
9781609385071.
MUSIC
Hailing from Bix Beiderbecke’s (1903–31)hometown of Davenport, IA, the author charts his personal quest to understand the somewhat elusive history and character of the jazz cornetist. Wolfe begins with a brief history of the town and its role in nurturing Beiderbecke. He continues
with the now familiar story: Beiderbecke as a child prodigy on piano; his first infatuation with jazz and supposed meeting with Louis Armstrong; his dedication to jazz in Chicago; his heyday with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; his precipitous decline after only six years; and his death from alcoholism. Throughout, he weighs the sometimes contradictory evidence in previous works about
Beiderbecke, such as Richard Sudhalter and Philip Evans’s meticulous Bix: Man and Legend, and
Ralph Berton’s more chatty Remembering Bix.

VERDICT
Breezy, engaging, and entertaining, this new entry in the Beiderbecke bibliography will be a fascinating starting point for those unfamiliar with the musician but will be of less interest to jazz fans who already know the basic story.

David P. Szatmary, formerly Univ. of Washington
************

I still did not get my copy of "Finding Bix" from amazon. To include in the same sentence Sudhalter and Evans and Berton (the former meticulous, the latter more chatty) gives an impression of equivalence between these two works. Nothing could be farther from reality. Sudhalter and Evans is a scholarly work, with detailed documentation; Berton is full of fabrications and false information.

Albert
Quote
Like
Share

Alberta
Alberta

April 10th, 2017, 10:50 pm #2

Isn't that the first wide publication of the extant Bix letters? Seems to me reading Bix in his own voice is pretty revealing, if what you're interested in is the Bix biography. But I thought this book was something different, a sort of meta-biography, the story of the legend, the legion of admirers whose sheer numbers enable them to have taken over Bix Inc. over the decades. Not that they set out to, but that seems to be what has happened.

I haven't read it yet--looking forward to it, and to the discussion here.
Quote
Share

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 10th, 2017, 11:13 pm #3

Library Journal, April 1, 2017.

Wolfe, Brendan.
Finding Bix: The Life and
Afterlife of a Jazz Legend.
Univ. of Iowa.
May 2017. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN
9781609385064. pap. $24.95
; ebk. ISBN
9781609385071.
MUSIC
Hailing from Bix Beiderbecke’s (1903–31)hometown of Davenport, IA, the author charts his personal quest to understand the somewhat elusive history and character of the jazz cornetist. Wolfe begins with a brief history of the town and its role in nurturing Beiderbecke. He continues
with the now familiar story: Beiderbecke as a child prodigy on piano; his first infatuation with jazz and supposed meeting with Louis Armstrong; his dedication to jazz in Chicago; his heyday with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; his precipitous decline after only six years; and his death from alcoholism. Throughout, he weighs the sometimes contradictory evidence in previous works about
Beiderbecke, such as Richard Sudhalter and Philip Evans’s meticulous Bix: Man and Legend, and
Ralph Berton’s more chatty Remembering Bix.

VERDICT
Breezy, engaging, and entertaining, this new entry in the Beiderbecke bibliography will be a fascinating starting point for those unfamiliar with the musician but will be of less interest to jazz fans who already know the basic story.

David P. Szatmary, formerly Univ. of Washington
************

I still did not get my copy of "Finding Bix" from amazon. To include in the same sentence Sudhalter and Evans and Berton (the former meticulous, the latter more chatty) gives an impression of equivalence between these two works. Nothing could be farther from reality. Sudhalter and Evans is a scholarly work, with detailed documentation; Berton is full of fabrications and false information.

Albert
The fourth entry in this page.

https://soundcloud.com/withgoodreason

I was surprised to hear that the record that Burnie brought home Bix "literally wore that record though; still exists, you can see through it where he played it over and over and over again." I wonder where exactly that record is located at the present time. Another surprising quote (to me): "I feel you can't really understand Rock'n'Roll, the myth of Rock'n'Roll without knowing that on some level it came from Bix Beiderbecke." Really?

Albert
Quote
Like
Share

Joe Mosbrook
Joe Mosbrook

April 11th, 2017, 12:58 am #4

I have never considered Bix and Rock 'n Roll in the same thought, and never will. That's an insult to Bix.
Quote
Share

Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

April 11th, 2017, 11:58 pm #5

There <em>are</em> some similarities between early rock and early jazz, as well as many differences.

In several ways the 1920s and the 1960s have factors in common, both producing a new expression of an older form of music, both relying upon highly rhythmic and largely improvisational small ensemble playing. There are some notable parallels in the social scene in which they both arose as well. I would suppose those commonalities were what the speaker had in mind.
Quote
Share

Nick Dellow
Nick Dellow

April 12th, 2017, 9:04 am #6


Your comment about commonalities brings to mind the fact that, though the music itself might be different, the reaction of the British press to the ODJB in 1919-1920, during their London sojourn, was very similar to the reaction of the British press to punk rock in 1976-1977 (i.e. a mixture of revulsion, haughty disdain and inordinate fascination!).

As far as popular music lineage goes, basically it's Ragtime and Spirituals to Jazz & Blues to R&B to Rock & Roll to Pop. A vast oversimplification of course, but that's the basic chronological progression of the genres! The connection to Bix does seem rather tenuous, but I don't see why it's an insult to him, as Joe Mosbrook proclaims!

For a more nuanced assessment of the influence that Bix has had on popular music since his death, one needs to refer to The Observer newspaper of August 2nd, 1981. In an article entitled "The Great Bix Beiderbecke", the British jazz critic Dave Gelly (now OBE) states:-

"Unlike Louis Armstrong, almost exactly his contemporary, Bix had behind him not the African heritage of the blues, but the European musical tradition brought to America by his German ancestors. His unique contribution to jazz history, apart from his own genius, was to establish a style in which European notions of pitch and tone fitted happily into the Afro-American idiom. From Bix to Benny Goodman to Stan Getz, the development of that style can be discerned quite clearly.
It can be found, too, in the line of white popular singers which descends from Bing Crosby. Beiderbecke and Crosby were both members of the Paul Whiteman orchestra in the late Twenties and Bing often told, in later years, of how he had modelled his phrasing on Bix. The coincidence is suspiciously neat, but another new album from that period, 'Bix 'n' Bing' (ASV Living Era AJA 5005) illustrates the uncanny similarity between the two.
The Beiderbecke-Crosby connection is, therefore, directly responsible for that whole fertile tract of popular music - half jazz, half sentimental ballad - which we associate with artists like Frank Sinatra. More than half a century after they were made, the records prove the case conclusively".


I think Mr Gelly slightly over-eggs his pudding here, but when one considers that a number of today's pop singers publically promulgate the notion that they have been influenced by the likes of Frank Sinatra (including Adele - hence her name being mentioned in the title), the comment that Brendan Wolfe makes seems to carry some weight, if a little unevenly distributed!
Quote
Share

Nick Dellow
Nick Dellow

April 12th, 2017, 10:23 am #7

The fourth entry in this page.

https://soundcloud.com/withgoodreason

I was surprised to hear that the record that Burnie brought home Bix "literally wore that record though; still exists, you can see through it where he played it over and over and over again." I wonder where exactly that record is located at the present time. Another surprising quote (to me): "I feel you can't really understand Rock'n'Roll, the myth of Rock'n'Roll without knowing that on some level it came from Bix Beiderbecke." Really?

Albert
In my other post, further down in this string (in response to Glenda) I attempted to address the potential musical lineage between Bix and modern pop music/singers, but actually, in order put Brendan's Wolfe's remarks into some sort of context I think that one needs to hear what he said directly after the comment given in your post:-

"I feel you can't really understand Rock 'n' Roll and the myth of Rock 'n' Roll without knowing that on some level it came from Bix Beiderbecke, and the sort of live fast, die young template has really stayed in American culture."

It seems to me that he is making a connection here between how Bix is often viewed in a romanticised way as an idolised figure who died all too young (as a result of alcoholism) and Rock & Roll mythology whereby rock singers and musicians who die young (as a result of alcoholism or overdosing on drugs) are revered in the same way.


P.S. At the risk of sounding pedantic, one simply can't "see through" a worn out 78 record, no matter how many times it has been played!
Quote
Share

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 12th, 2017, 2:40 pm #8

Your comment about commonalities brings to mind the fact that, though the music itself might be different, the reaction of the British press to the ODJB in 1919-1920, during their London sojourn, was very similar to the reaction of the British press to punk rock in 1976-1977 (i.e. a mixture of revulsion, haughty disdain and inordinate fascination!).

As far as popular music lineage goes, basically it's Ragtime and Spirituals to Jazz & Blues to R&B to Rock & Roll to Pop. A vast oversimplification of course, but that's the basic chronological progression of the genres! The connection to Bix does seem rather tenuous, but I don't see why it's an insult to him, as Joe Mosbrook proclaims!

For a more nuanced assessment of the influence that Bix has had on popular music since his death, one needs to refer to The Observer newspaper of August 2nd, 1981. In an article entitled "The Great Bix Beiderbecke", the British jazz critic Dave Gelly (now OBE) states:-

"Unlike Louis Armstrong, almost exactly his contemporary, Bix had behind him not the African heritage of the blues, but the European musical tradition brought to America by his German ancestors. His unique contribution to jazz history, apart from his own genius, was to establish a style in which European notions of pitch and tone fitted happily into the Afro-American idiom. From Bix to Benny Goodman to Stan Getz, the development of that style can be discerned quite clearly.
It can be found, too, in the line of white popular singers which descends from Bing Crosby. Beiderbecke and Crosby were both members of the Paul Whiteman orchestra in the late Twenties and Bing often told, in later years, of how he had modelled his phrasing on Bix. The coincidence is suspiciously neat, but another new album from that period, 'Bix 'n' Bing' (ASV Living Era AJA 5005) illustrates the uncanny similarity between the two.
The Beiderbecke-Crosby connection is, therefore, directly responsible for that whole fertile tract of popular music - half jazz, half sentimental ballad - which we associate with artists like Frank Sinatra. More than half a century after they were made, the records prove the case conclusively".


I think Mr Gelly slightly over-eggs his pudding here, but when one considers that a number of today's pop singers publically promulgate the notion that they have been influenced by the likes of Frank Sinatra (including Adele - hence her name being mentioned in the title), the comment that Brendan Wolfe makes seems to carry some weight, if a little unevenly distributed!
.... one could make the fallacious argument that Bix influenced all of popular music from the 1930s on. I think that would be an unreasonable stretch. What about Benny Goodman and the Dorseys? Certainly in their early days they were influenced/inspired by Bix, but by the 1930s they developed their own individual styles that had little, if any, of Bix's musical sensibility. Yes, many musicians in the Rock'n'Roll era succumbed to drugs and alcohol. Does that make Bix the factor that determined their addiction?

Here is the complete quote as given by Nick. Apologies for having truncated it in my posting:

"I feel you can't really understand Rock 'n' Roll and the myth of Rock 'n' Roll without knowing that on some level it came from Bix Beiderbecke, and the sort of live fast, die young template has really stayed in American culture."

To understand anyone who lived fast and died young in American culture it is necessary to go back to Bix? That is nonsense. Causes of drug addiction (including alcohol) vary substantially from person to person. To take Bix's alcohol addiction as the model for other junkies is irrational.

Albert
Quote
Like
Share

Liz Beiderbecke-Hart
Liz Beiderbecke-Hart

April 12th, 2017, 10:12 pm #9

Library Journal, April 1, 2017.

Wolfe, Brendan.
Finding Bix: The Life and
Afterlife of a Jazz Legend.
Univ. of Iowa.
May 2017. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN
9781609385064. pap. $24.95
; ebk. ISBN
9781609385071.
MUSIC
Hailing from Bix Beiderbecke’s (1903–31)hometown of Davenport, IA, the author charts his personal quest to understand the somewhat elusive history and character of the jazz cornetist. Wolfe begins with a brief history of the town and its role in nurturing Beiderbecke. He continues
with the now familiar story: Beiderbecke as a child prodigy on piano; his first infatuation with jazz and supposed meeting with Louis Armstrong; his dedication to jazz in Chicago; his heyday with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; his precipitous decline after only six years; and his death from alcoholism. Throughout, he weighs the sometimes contradictory evidence in previous works about
Beiderbecke, such as Richard Sudhalter and Philip Evans’s meticulous Bix: Man and Legend, and
Ralph Berton’s more chatty Remembering Bix.

VERDICT
Breezy, engaging, and entertaining, this new entry in the Beiderbecke bibliography will be a fascinating starting point for those unfamiliar with the musician but will be of less interest to jazz fans who already know the basic story.

David P. Szatmary, formerly Univ. of Washington
************

I still did not get my copy of "Finding Bix" from amazon. To include in the same sentence Sudhalter and Evans and Berton (the former meticulous, the latter more chatty) gives an impression of equivalence between these two works. Nothing could be farther from reality. Sudhalter and Evans is a scholarly work, with detailed documentation; Berton is full of fabrications and false information.

Albert
Agreed.
Quote
Share

Liz Beiderbecke-Hart
Liz Beiderbecke-Hart

April 12th, 2017, 11:22 pm #10

Isn't that the first wide publication of the extant Bix letters? Seems to me reading Bix in his own voice is pretty revealing, if what you're interested in is the Bix biography. But I thought this book was something different, a sort of meta-biography, the story of the legend, the legion of admirers whose sheer numbers enable them to have taken over Bix Inc. over the decades. Not that they set out to, but that seems to be what has happened.

I haven't read it yet--looking forward to it, and to the discussion here.
Exactly, Alberta.....

The Evans and Evans book, Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, contains the transcripts of letters Bix's mother, Agatha, had saved, which were written from Bix's childhood through the day before his death. I had inherited these letters.

The letters had never been made available before. This collection is now housed in the Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives (set to open in Davenport late July of this year).

Copies of these letters were meticulously transcribed by the Evans' for their book Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story (published in July 1998).

I provided these letters to Phil and Linda for two reasons: for the enjoyment of the readers AND as a gesture of gratitude to Phil for all the exhaustive research he had done (and was continuing to do) about Bix.

Phil and Linda Evans were two of the finest people I've ever met. We were very good friends and I miss them both very much.

In my opinion, no biography about Bix can compete with Phil and Linda Evans' biography Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story.





Quote
Share