More ammunition to destroy the myth ....

More ammunition to destroy the myth ....

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

February 7th, 2011, 8:19 pm #1


.... that Bix's name appeared in print only a couple of times during his lifetime.

Two examples from Variety.

Sep 18, 1928. From the disc reviews section by Abel Green.
<p align="center"><strong>Bix Beiderbecke</strong>
<p align="left">"<em>Old Man River</em> and <em>Wa-Da-Da</em> are rhythmic excuses for Beiderbecke and his gang to make jazz whoopee on Okeh No. 41088. They are among the foremost exponents of ultra-modernistic jazzique and no matter the theme as long as they have something around which to trick up their modulations."
<p align="left">Oct 10, 1929. A review of  Paul Whiteman's Carnegie Hall concert of Oct 7, 1929. I will post the complete review in a couple of days. Today, I only want to mention the section about Bix. <em>"Leon Bix Beiderbecke's 'In A Mist' for three pianos was an instrumental interlude with the composer, Bargy and Leonard Hayton at the ivories. It was just so-so. The general entusiasm which ran produced a volume response not altogether consistently proportionate with the general merits." </em>I guess the critic (Abel Green) did not like "In A Mist."
<p align="left">Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 7th, 2011, 8:46 pm #2


From he "Disk Reviews" column by Abel Green, Variety, Jan 9, 1929.
<p align="center"><strong>Frank Trumbauer</strong>
<p align="left"><em>Heading his own orchestra as Okeh recording dance purveyors, Trumbauer who is wth Whiteman organization gives out some snappy dansapation [sic] with "Take Your Tomorrow" and "Love Affiars." While Whiteman is exclusively Columbia, Trumbauer as an Okeh artist is linked to Columbia since both companies are now allied although operating independently."</em>
<p align="left">Albert
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hal smith
hal smith

February 7th, 2011, 11:10 pm #3

.... that Bix's name appeared in print only a couple of times during his lifetime.

Two examples from Variety.

Sep 18, 1928. From the disc reviews section by Abel Green.
<p align="center"><strong>Bix Beiderbecke</strong>
<p align="left">"<em>Old Man River</em> and <em>Wa-Da-Da</em> are rhythmic excuses for Beiderbecke and his gang to make jazz whoopee on Okeh No. 41088. They are among the foremost exponents of ultra-modernistic jazzique and no matter the theme as long as they have something around which to trick up their modulations."
<p align="left">Oct 10, 1929. A review of  Paul Whiteman's Carnegie Hall concert of Oct 7, 1929. I will post the complete review in a couple of days. Today, I only want to mention the section about Bix. <em>"Leon Bix Beiderbecke's 'In A Mist' for three pianos was an instrumental interlude with the composer, Bargy and Leonard Hayton at the ivories. It was just so-so. The general entusiasm which ran produced a volume response not altogether consistently proportionate with the general merits." </em>I guess the critic (Abel Green) did not like "In A Mist."
<p align="left">Albert
I never cared for it either sorry to say and I might add that goes for all of Bix's composition's maybe except Davenport Blues I can take it or leave it.
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Ken Bristo
Ken Bristo

February 8th, 2011, 7:15 pm #4

.... that Bix's name appeared in print only a couple of times during his lifetime.

Two examples from Variety.

Sep 18, 1928. From the disc reviews section by Abel Green.
<p align="center"><strong>Bix Beiderbecke</strong>
<p align="left">"<em>Old Man River</em> and <em>Wa-Da-Da</em> are rhythmic excuses for Beiderbecke and his gang to make jazz whoopee on Okeh No. 41088. They are among the foremost exponents of ultra-modernistic jazzique and no matter the theme as long as they have something around which to trick up their modulations."
<p align="left">Oct 10, 1929. A review of  Paul Whiteman's Carnegie Hall concert of Oct 7, 1929. I will post the complete review in a couple of days. Today, I only want to mention the section about Bix. <em>"Leon Bix Beiderbecke's 'In A Mist' for three pianos was an instrumental interlude with the composer, Bargy and Leonard Hayton at the ivories. It was just so-so. The general entusiasm which ran produced a volume response not altogether consistently proportionate with the general merits." </em>I guess the critic (Abel Green) did not like "In A Mist."
<p align="left">Albert
'Variety' was a specialist publication dealing with show business in general. When featuring a subject or review of for example, New York Jazz or Whiteman's Orchestra, there's a good chance Bix's name would possibly get a mention somewhere in the columns.
But the original claim that Bix's name only appeared in print a couple of times during his lifetime surely refers to the National press. Would the average reader of the broadsheet dailies have the faintest idea who Bix Beiderbecke was? In 1930 the population of the States was around, give or take a few, 120 million. Out of those how many Americans could tell you who he was? More then than now, jazz had a minority following among the general public.
Today, all around the world, his name and music is heard or seen in print enough that, the name is familiar to millions even if that is the extent of their knowledge.
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Laura Demilio
Laura Demilio

February 8th, 2011, 8:18 pm #5

I never cared for it either sorry to say and I might add that goes for all of Bix's composition's maybe except Davenport Blues I can take it or leave it.
I wish Bix had recorded In The Dark. That's my favorite of his compositions. Maybe In a Mist is really the famous one because he himself was playing the piano on the recording; maybe it really is most people's preference anyway, but personally I find In The Dark to be the superior composition.

Laura
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Ken Bristow
Ken Bristow

February 9th, 2011, 12:37 am #6

'Variety' was a specialist publication dealing with show business in general. When featuring a subject or review of for example, New York Jazz or Whiteman's Orchestra, there's a good chance Bix's name would possibly get a mention somewhere in the columns.
But the original claim that Bix's name only appeared in print a couple of times during his lifetime surely refers to the National press. Would the average reader of the broadsheet dailies have the faintest idea who Bix Beiderbecke was? In 1930 the population of the States was around, give or take a few, 120 million. Out of those how many Americans could tell you who he was? More then than now, jazz had a minority following among the general public.
Today, all around the world, his name and music is heard or seen in print enough that, the name is familiar to millions even if that is the extent of their knowledge.
The failure of the American National press to give Bix the occasional mention carried on in one form or another up to the very end. After the October 1929 crash, musicians were just as likely to be in and out of gainful employment as any other citizen. Gramophone record sales were well down in 1931. When times were hard, why buy records when there was plenty of music of all varieties to be heard for free on the radio? Bix was a resident of New York occasionally in previous years and in the months up to his death in August 1931. An extensive obituary appeared in the local Davenport press but there was no mention of his death in the New York Times. Nothing at all. Why was this? The shock news must have been relayed to the editorial staff working in the entertainment section of the newspaper. Yet they deemed it to be of little or no interest to the average reader to even warrant a mention, let alone the publishing of an obituary to Bix, one of the original innovators of the art form and one of the most creative forces in the history of jazz.
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Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

February 9th, 2011, 3:11 am #7

I wish Bix had recorded In The Dark. That's my favorite of his compositions. Maybe In a Mist is really the famous one because he himself was playing the piano on the recording; maybe it really is most people's preference anyway, but personally I find In The Dark to be the superior composition.

Laura
I really like "In the Dark," too. I think Dick Hyman's slower version is very moving; if there is anyone not familiar with it already, Hyman's solo piano can be heard on <em>MookRyan's</em> great video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzATlLUv6Gw

Ralph Sutton's video on YouTube is a somewhat different but wonderful piano performance, well worth hearing.

Another interesting take on "In The Dark" is on Geoff Muldaur's album "Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke," arranged for a small ensemble.
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

February 9th, 2011, 9:55 am #8

The failure of the American National press to give Bix the occasional mention carried on in one form or another up to the very end. After the October 1929 crash, musicians were just as likely to be in and out of gainful employment as any other citizen. Gramophone record sales were well down in 1931. When times were hard, why buy records when there was plenty of music of all varieties to be heard for free on the radio? Bix was a resident of New York occasionally in previous years and in the months up to his death in August 1931. An extensive obituary appeared in the local Davenport press but there was no mention of his death in the New York Times. Nothing at all. Why was this? The shock news must have been relayed to the editorial staff working in the entertainment section of the newspaper. Yet they deemed it to be of little or no interest to the average reader to even warrant a mention, let alone the publishing of an obituary to Bix, one of the original innovators of the art form and one of the most creative forces in the history of jazz.
Even though Albert and others have found many more than two mentions of Bix in various publications, it is still more-or-less true that his overall visibility in national news was close to nil.

Ken has a point. Most of the best news about Bix was carried in specialist rags, like "Variety," "Orchestra World" and "Melody Maker" (The article about in the latter about Whiteman's "Sweet Sue" and Bix's solo thereon, posted on this site, gave me Goose Pimples).

Bix was hardly alone. The fact is that in the '20s, musicians as a class were regarded as blue collar labor. They only gradually rose to the status of "professional" workers. Dance orchestras abounded, and who played sax or trumpet or piano in a given band mattered as little to the public as who the bellboys were in a hotel, or who were the waiters in a restaurant. Even the most accomplished sidemen "enjoyed" this status. I doubt that anyone who went to the Cotton Club in 1928 knew or cared that Johnny Hodges was playing alto, or Bubber Miley the trumpet. Playing popular music was just another way to make a living.

It was only after the rise of swing in the '30s that lay people began to notice sidemen in bands. The public and press attention lavished on Harry James, Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton when they worked for Benny Goodman led directly to them leading bands of their own. Fortunately, they were good leaders.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, or "observer effect" comes into play: The act of observing a phenomenon changes it. Applied to music history: If Harry James and company had received as little press attention as Bix, they might have worked for Goodman a lot longer. Bunny Berigan got so famous as a sideman - which he was perfectly happy to be - that he was practically forced to become a bandleader, a job he was eminently unsuited for - hastening his demise.

Similarly, I think if Bix had received the same kind and amount of attention in his lifetime, it would have been his ruin!

-Brad K
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Alberta
Alberta

February 9th, 2011, 1:50 pm #9

.... that Bix's name appeared in print only a couple of times during his lifetime.

Two examples from Variety.

Sep 18, 1928. From the disc reviews section by Abel Green.
<p align="center"><strong>Bix Beiderbecke</strong>
<p align="left">"<em>Old Man River</em> and <em>Wa-Da-Da</em> are rhythmic excuses for Beiderbecke and his gang to make jazz whoopee on Okeh No. 41088. They are among the foremost exponents of ultra-modernistic jazzique and no matter the theme as long as they have something around which to trick up their modulations."
<p align="left">Oct 10, 1929. A review of  Paul Whiteman's Carnegie Hall concert of Oct 7, 1929. I will post the complete review in a couple of days. Today, I only want to mention the section about Bix. <em>"Leon Bix Beiderbecke's 'In A Mist' for three pianos was an instrumental interlude with the composer, Bargy and Leonard Hayton at the ivories. It was just so-so. The general entusiasm which ran produced a volume response not altogether consistently proportionate with the general merits." </em>I guess the critic (Abel Green) did not like "In A Mist."
<p align="left">Albert
So it is the case that the crowd at Carnegie Hall really was enthusiastic, as various Whiteman band members have claimed. It makes me happy that what Bix seemed to think was his principal contribution, the piano works, received acclaim and he saw it.

As for the myth of 2 mentions in print, I don't think I ever heard that one. I do recall someone writing, I think it was Sudhalter, perhaps in the intro to Bix Man and Legend, who mentioned that Bix was "praised" perhaps twice in print in his lifetime, though I can't find it now. No time to read the entire intro. The comment by Abel Green isn't praise. But I am sure Bix was praised more than twice in print. I mean, he played innumerable small towns and college dances and proms and it's hard to believe that college newspapers didn't go wild.

As for the piano compositions, my fave is Flashes, though I love them all and share the opinion Bix implied at least once, that his recorded jazz work is not in the same league as his piano compositions. To me it's clear that there's huge and somewhat wasted musical intelligence in the horn work. Wasted because when you're dealing with the constraints of chords the whole band is playing, AND when you're limited to 8 bars, there are limits to what you can do. But to my ear Bix pushed at those limits in nearly every solo, and in that way blazed a trail in dance music that most musicians were not equipped to trek with him. And to my ear, very few players indeed in the 1920s blazed similar trails.

I am finally reading Neil Gabler's book "Life: The Movie", in which, among many other ideas, he stresses the differences between entertainment and art. One is, entertainment (i.e., jazz dance music) appeals strictly to the emotions, while art (i.e., the piano compositions) appeals to the intellect as well. To me, what makes Bix's horn work great is that nearly all of it appeals to the intellect as well (as much as you can in 4 or 8 bars, that is), as do all the piano compositions. I really can't say that about most 20s dance music I've heard, though I'm willing to be educated if anyone has advice.
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Laura Demilio
Laura Demilio

February 9th, 2011, 2:10 pm #10

Even though Albert and others have found many more than two mentions of Bix in various publications, it is still more-or-less true that his overall visibility in national news was close to nil.

Ken has a point. Most of the best news about Bix was carried in specialist rags, like "Variety," "Orchestra World" and "Melody Maker" (The article about in the latter about Whiteman's "Sweet Sue" and Bix's solo thereon, posted on this site, gave me Goose Pimples).

Bix was hardly alone. The fact is that in the '20s, musicians as a class were regarded as blue collar labor. They only gradually rose to the status of "professional" workers. Dance orchestras abounded, and who played sax or trumpet or piano in a given band mattered as little to the public as who the bellboys were in a hotel, or who were the waiters in a restaurant. Even the most accomplished sidemen "enjoyed" this status. I doubt that anyone who went to the Cotton Club in 1928 knew or cared that Johnny Hodges was playing alto, or Bubber Miley the trumpet. Playing popular music was just another way to make a living.

It was only after the rise of swing in the '30s that lay people began to notice sidemen in bands. The public and press attention lavished on Harry James, Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton when they worked for Benny Goodman led directly to them leading bands of their own. Fortunately, they were good leaders.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, or "observer effect" comes into play: The act of observing a phenomenon changes it. Applied to music history: If Harry James and company had received as little press attention as Bix, they might have worked for Goodman a lot longer. Bunny Berigan got so famous as a sideman - which he was perfectly happy to be - that he was practically forced to become a bandleader, a job he was eminently unsuited for - hastening his demise.

Similarly, I think if Bix had received the same kind and amount of attention in his lifetime, it would have been his ruin!

-Brad K
I agree with you, Brad. Big-time fame would have ruined Bix, with his shy modesty and self-effacing, self-deprecating humor. What fame and notice he garnered in his life sometimes made him uncomfortable, as we learn from anecdotes where he was bothered about having trouble remembering names of all the people who came up to him to talk, and had a pat polite generic response to all of his college fans: "So how's everything down there? You still [at school, at work] there?" which certainly flattered the admirer, unable to guess Bix had no idea who the person was or what school they were at. He would walk away suddenly after signing a few autographs if we believe the stories mentioning that, and we have a description of his bashfully hasty bow to enthusiastic applause after a Whiteman concert performance of In A Mist, hastily hurrying back to his seat. We have the distinct impresion Bix liked to blend in with the group, play along in the band as a sideman with choice solos, to be sure, but not as a celebrity personage in his own right.

After all, it's been pretty much concluded that the fast-paced life and the responsibility of handling being a member in the most famous popular-music white band in the country accelerated Bix's drinking -- the pressure of travel, the grueling and exhausting schedule, always on the road or in concert halls or in recording studios. Having to contend with crowds of people pushing to get at him and shouting for him, demanding his attention, or just the pressure of having to be "on" and nice to people at parties or speakeasy clubs after the show -- for some performers it's easier and part of their outgoing extrovert personalities; for a shy and sensitive person like Bix it had to be a real pain in the butt. Opera singers in interviews complain that, although they love and appreciate their fans, being expected to make chat, shake hands, and meet people's barrage of questions and compliments at parties after a two-hour performance of emotional singing is very wearing; they want nothing better than to take the plate of refreshments (and perhaps a drink or two) into a corner of the room and just unwind without expected socializing -- or worse yet, being called upon for more performance at the gathering -- not "sitting in" with others, but once more being the center of attention.

We all wish Bix had gotten the fame he deserved while alive, been able to continue on to lead bands and compose, but could we honestly imagine him as a celebrity personality doing USO tours during the war and appearing in major movies throughout the 1940's and 50's? He looked so ill-at-ease and uncomfortable glimpsed in the 1928 newsreel of My Ohio Home. This was a man who went home to Davenport to hang around town with his friends playing music in local venues, not some guy waving from a car in the town Memorial Day parade or something.

Laura
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