My review of Wolfe's "Finding Bix."

My review of Wolfe's "Finding Bix."

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

June 24th, 2017, 6:33 pm #1

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carl
carl

June 25th, 2017, 11:26 pm #2

...Publishing Bixigraphy as a book? I could see it as a top reference, as well as highly entertaining. A lot of topics could have their own chapters. The trick is in finding an impartial dispassionate editor as no such Bix fan exists. If I read your review correctly, it sounds like Mr W has already been dipping his wick.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 25th, 2017, 11:59 pm #3

.... more time than I have left. I am 86 and 1/4.

Albert
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Laura Demilio
Laura Demilio

June 26th, 2017, 11:39 pm #4

86 1/4 and of sharper mind than many people half your age. What about an assistant to put such a book together?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 27th, 2017, 12:43 am #5

A biography of a musician without an analysis of his music is like looking at a 78 rpm record without a record player to bring out the music stored in the grooves.
I have a dream. I wrote a Bix timeline for the Bix Muuseum. It was originally an enormous document with relevant images and links to Bix's recordings. I was up to 1925. Then, since the Museum was going to have stations where the complete Bix music would be available for listening, the links to recordings in the timeline were removed. I completed the timeline with only words and images. It was still an enormous, unmanageable document. The timeline is being edited to a manageable size at present (not by me).
I still have the dream of a Bix Chronology in Words, Images and Sound. I have one article in progress about Merle Johnston. Once I finish that, I will perhaps fulfill my dream It may take a long time and who knows ...

Albert
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Cliff Preiss
Cliff Preiss

July 1st, 2017, 4:05 am #6

Albert's review of "Finding Bix" is typically thorough, and I agree that Wolfe's use of cliffhangers is a cheap device. But Albert is judging the book with standards that don't really apply to it. Wolfe wrote a combination of memoir, cultural history, and light historical sleuthing, not a straightforward biography. He meshes fact and fiction because fact and fiction have long been intertwined in the "Bix Beiderbecke Legend." Its a very personal book, and it has more than its share of flaws; he would have done well to have hired a knowledgeable fact checker to read his manuscript before submitting it for publication.

The main reason I'm writing, though, is to follow up on what was written about Richard Sudhalter's ominous footnote in "Lost Chords." I had bought a copy of Sudhalter's book immediately upon its release (he later signed it for me), and when I got to the footnote, I was stupefied both by its melodrama and how he acknowledged his awareness of details regarding a deep dark secret that had to me been just been the wispiest of rumors. I thought it probably had something to do with sex, but that was all.

At the time, I felt that Sudhalter either should have revealed all in his Bix chapter or that he should not have written a single word about the rumor. This weird middle ground of acknowleging some sort of shoe ready to drop, but also saying that it would remain undropped seemed ridiculous to me, and I decided to let Sudhalter know that I felt that way.

I had his telephone number, although Sudhalter knew me only vaguely as an associate of Phil Schaap's at WKCR. So I called him and first congratulated him on the book, which of course was a fine achievement. Then I mentioned my feelings about the footnote, saying that I assumed it had something to do with the gay rumor about Bix started with Berton's book. I told Sudhalter that I was gay and that this was no longer the 1970s, and that any real facts--not rumors--that might have to do with Bix's sexual orientation shouldn't be erased from the historical record.

Sudhalter replied that he was very glad that I told him that I was gay, because he wanted to have a gay person's opinion of what had happened all those years ago. He then told me about Bix's incident with an underaged girl (he didn't tell me she was five, though!) and then asked me if I believed that this incident might have meant that Bix was gay. I was shocked by the question, and then explained to him that homosexuality and pedophilia were two very different and entirely unrelated things. He thanked me for my opinion and asked that I not spread the story around; I thanked him for his candor and I didn't say a word about the story to anyone until after Geoffrey Ward's book was released.

I took Sudhalter's misunderstanding about sexuality to be a generational thing. Imagine my renewed shock upon reading Wolfe's book and seeing that someone born in 1971 could be similarly confused about whether this incident might have any bearing on whether Bix was gay or not. (Spoiler: it doesn't.)

In any case, back when Ward's book was released, I had a conversation with Phil Schaap in which I said that the nature of the the incident narrowed the source of the gay rumor about Bix back to only being Ralph Berton's book, to which he replied, "what did Ralph Berton say?" That question threw me for a loop, because I knew that Phil had interviewed Berton on WKCR some years before. (This was before I had read Berton's book myself, so all I knew about Berton at the time of that interview was that he was considered by many to be an unreliable witness.)

So after a split-second recovery, I told Phil that Berton wrote that Bix had a fling with his brother. Phil knew none of this; he had never read the book because Sudhalter had impugned its veracity. Then Phil said incredulously "Vic Berton was gay?" So I explained to him that Ralph Berton had another brother. And then I said to him--just as incredulously--"You interviewed Ralph Berton without knowing that he claimed that Bix had a fling with his brother?" And then we laughed about it.



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

July 1st, 2017, 4:30 pm #7

Fascinating material. I also was shocked by the ominous footnote. Here are some links to what I have said. I can't find my posting with the long criticism of the footnote.

2004 http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... ly+guarded+...

2014http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1417732330
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

July 1st, 2017, 4:44 pm #8

Fromhttp://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1208291563


I will accept, for the sake of the discussion, the statement that we know little about what Bixs personality/character. I will make two points.

First, let me make the general statement that Bix is not unique in the fact that we know little about the essence of his character, that he is an enigma. Is there a musician from the 1920s who died young and is not an enigma? Consider, for example, Eddie Lang, another musician from the 1920s who met an untimely death at an early age. He was the quiet half of the Venuti-Lang partnership. We have an excellent discography (which also serves, at least in part, as chronology) Feeling My Way by Ray Mitchell. We have some biographical information about him, including a comprehensive medical report about the circumstances surrounding his death. We do not know his political preferences, what books, if any, he read, we do not have interviews of him (or do we?). We know that he enjoyed gambling and billiards and that he was a good husband. But what do we really know about him? Is Eddie Lang an enigma? I dont think so. And why not I ask? Perhaps because there is no aura of fascination surrounding him, and historians/fans have not attempted to uncork all facets of Eddie Langs personality as they have tried in the case of Bix.

Second, let us not forget that Bix was a musical genius. By definition, a genius is unknowable to the common, average individual. Superlative individuals, as McPartland tells, are not like us. Their creativity, their obsession with their field of endeavor, their dedication, places them apart from the average individual. Richard Hadlock (Jazz Masters of the Twenties) articulates these concepts very effectively. He [Bix] was, like many intelligent men who are preoccupied with their lifes work, absentminded and sometimes removed from all that went around him. Even among jazz musicians, a notoriously individualistic lot, Bix was regarded as an odd duck. Read what Wingy Manone tells us about Bix (Trumpet on the Wing), He was always talking about music, telling us, Lets play this chord, or Lets figure out some three-way harmony for the trumpets after the job tonight. It seemed to us [note he is talking about musicians in general, not just himself] he didnt want us to enjoy our life. Certainly, Bix was not like most musicians, he was a genius, totally dedicated to his music, and I dont find it surprising that normal musicians viewed him as different from them.

Albert
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Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

July 4th, 2017, 1:47 am #9

Yours is a very sensible statement. Despite the idyllically carefree American boyhood, the jolly schoolboyish pranks, the guy never got enough fried chicken, Bix was a genius and as Wingy noted, <em>not like us.</em> He was put here to do one thing, and he tried to be faithful to that calling as best he could.
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