Sympathy for Mr. King

Sympathy for Mr. King

Brad Kay
Brad Kay

December 15th, 2010, 12:43 am #1

Listening to The Virginians, whose 1922-'24 Victor records I am remastering, I begin to understand Eddie King's "problem" with Bix.

These entertaining and highly danceable records, which King supervised, have a certain consistency. Nothing occurs that could distract a listener or a dancer from the overall, homogeneous effect of the performances, not even Ross Gorman's hot antics on clarinet. This is enough the case from record to record that it seems to reveal the fine Italian hand of Mr. King, who had this overriding conception of what, after all, a Victor record truly was. He'd been producing them for ten years by 1922. (n.b.: Listen to the difference between the explosive first Original Dixieland Jazz Band sides in 1917/18, which King did not produce, and their more commercial ones from 1920/21, which he did.)

Of course, whenever Bix stood for a solo, he energized the music in his unique way. He compels the attention of the listener, usually putting the whole rest of the band in the shade. It is this attractive singularity that upset King's Victor record apple cart, causing him to red-tag "I Didn't Know" and anything else Bix soloed on. Call it the shock of the new, and King was shocked and didn't like it.

I think it not a mere coincidence that Victor's sudden embrace (starting in late 1926) of truly hot jazz performances and "Race" and Hillbilly music coincides with Eddie King's waning influence and departure from the label.

-Brad Kay
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Alberta
Alberta

December 15th, 2010, 11:59 am #2

What does Italian hand mean?
The comment is this. You seem to feel, as do most others, that Bix's solo on I Didn't Know is out of the ordinary for the period. I never thought so. Why is this? Why did King object to Bix on that particular side? There is a flubbed note (is that the term?), but beyond that, I always thought the solo rather ordinary. It is certainly tamer than many other dance cornet solos of the period. Was the solo too sedate? Too not-corny? What was King's objection?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

December 15th, 2010, 8:05 pm #3

Listening to The Virginians, whose 1922-'24 Victor records I am remastering, I begin to understand Eddie King's "problem" with Bix.

These entertaining and highly danceable records, which King supervised, have a certain consistency. Nothing occurs that could distract a listener or a dancer from the overall, homogeneous effect of the performances, not even Ross Gorman's hot antics on clarinet. This is enough the case from record to record that it seems to reveal the fine Italian hand of Mr. King, who had this overriding conception of what, after all, a Victor record truly was. He'd been producing them for ten years by 1922. (n.b.: Listen to the difference between the explosive first Original Dixieland Jazz Band sides in 1917/18, which King did not produce, and their more commercial ones from 1920/21, which he did.)

Of course, whenever Bix stood for a solo, he energized the music in his unique way. He compels the attention of the listener, usually putting the whole rest of the band in the shade. It is this attractive singularity that upset King's Victor record apple cart, causing him to red-tag "I Didn't Know" and anything else Bix soloed on. Call it the shock of the new, and King was shocked and didn't like it.

I think it not a mere coincidence that Victor's sudden embrace (starting in late 1926) of truly hot jazz performances and "Race" and Hillbilly music coincides with Eddie King's waning influence and departure from the label.

-Brad Kay
.... 10 pages of hits!  Lots of discussions and diverging opinions.

Here is one fairly detailed posrting with a lot of data.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 155656173/

Albert
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

December 16th, 2010, 12:22 am #4

What does Italian hand mean?
The comment is this. You seem to feel, as do most others, that Bix's solo on I Didn't Know is out of the ordinary for the period. I never thought so. Why is this? Why did King object to Bix on that particular side? There is a flubbed note (is that the term?), but beyond that, I always thought the solo rather ordinary. It is certainly tamer than many other dance cornet solos of the period. Was the solo too sedate? Too not-corny? What was King's objection?
Alberta,

Yes, as jazz inventions go, Bix's "I Didn't Know" solo is not too adventurous; he stays pretty close to the melody. Rather, it is the sheer sound of his horn that grabs the attention, and makes you sort of forget what else was going on. It stands out in a way that Tommy Dorsey's trombone solo, immediately preceding it, does not.

Also, there's the take of "I Didn't Know" we DON'T get to hear - the one where Bix took a whole chorus, and presumably was much more inventive. The take we have, with his half-chorus, finds him chastened by Eddie King's rebuke, and sticking closer to the melody as a means of self-protection. Didn't help, though.

-Brad K
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

December 16th, 2010, 12:37 am #5

What does Italian hand mean?
The comment is this. You seem to feel, as do most others, that Bix's solo on I Didn't Know is out of the ordinary for the period. I never thought so. Why is this? Why did King object to Bix on that particular side? There is a flubbed note (is that the term?), but beyond that, I always thought the solo rather ordinary. It is certainly tamer than many other dance cornet solos of the period. Was the solo too sedate? Too not-corny? What was King's objection?
Oh, it's just an expression I am fond of using that connotes individuality of taste and execution. I don't know its origin. I tend to use it ironically, to ascribe to a perpetrator some feat that was botched up or in questionable, if not horrible, taste.

In the film, "Amadeus," Salieri has just conducted his new opera, and asks Mozart what he thinks of it. "What can I say but ... Salieri!" answers Wolfgang. "Fine Italian Hand" is somewhat in that spirit.

-Brad K
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

December 16th, 2010, 3:18 am #6

An online article about "Individuality" (www.thefreedictionary.com/individuality) shows that my usage is not far off the mark. The term dates to about 1823:

"A Fine Italian Hand": A distinctive or characteristic style; subtle craftiness. The literal Italian hand is the graceful penmanship which replaced the heavy Gothic script of northern Europe in the 17th century, and is now used throughout Western Europe and America. Figuratively, a fine Italian hand may refer to that characteristic or distinguishing quality of an object or work of art which identifies its creator. In its more negative sense, however, this expression describes a cunning scheme in which the plotters identity is revealed through his subtle yet intrinsic design.
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Alberta
Alberta

December 16th, 2010, 12:45 pm #7

Thanks for the education! Never heard it before.

As for Bix's solo, I'm on the fence. I am not so sure that the solo on I Didn't Know thrills me (it does!) because it's compelling, or because I know it's Bix. To me it's musically interesting, and, more than that, musically of-a-piece (don't know if that makes sense. What I mean is, it hangs together, isn't all over the place the way sooooo much 1920s music is.) It is perfectly clear to me that the person who played the solo has a high level of musical intelligence. But is that distracting? Don't know.

But one thing's for sure, if I had been in the dancing public in the 20s, I would have bought the record in part for that solo, and wasn't selling records the point?

From my perusal of the material in Albert's link on this subject, it sounds to me that Bix rubbed King the wrong way. It might have been more personal than musical. It also might have been musical, but based on some other playing of Bix's. But this record? I just don't hear the problem.

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Laura Demilio
Laura Demilio

December 16th, 2010, 3:04 pm #8

Oh, it's just an expression I am fond of using that connotes individuality of taste and execution. I don't know its origin. I tend to use it ironically, to ascribe to a perpetrator some feat that was botched up or in questionable, if not horrible, taste.

In the film, "Amadeus," Salieri has just conducted his new opera, and asks Mozart what he thinks of it. "What can I say but ... Salieri!" answers Wolfgang. "Fine Italian Hand" is somewhat in that spirit.

-Brad K
The notorious Renaissance family who virtually "ran everything" in the Italian states and the Vatican during that era -- the Borgias were often behind extravagant political moves, power maneuverings, Machiavellian intrigues and espionage -- we all know of Lucrezia Borgia's reputed penchant for poisoning rivals, and Cesare Borgia's hierarchal climb in the Church to position of Pope.

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

December 16th, 2010, 3:20 pm #9

Alberta,

Yes, as jazz inventions go, Bix's "I Didn't Know" solo is not too adventurous; he stays pretty close to the melody. Rather, it is the sheer sound of his horn that grabs the attention, and makes you sort of forget what else was going on. It stands out in a way that Tommy Dorsey's trombone solo, immediately preceding it, does not.

Also, there's the take of "I Didn't Know" we DON'T get to hear - the one where Bix took a whole chorus, and presumably was much more inventive. The take we have, with his half-chorus, finds him chastened by Eddie King's rebuke, and sticking closer to the melody as a means of self-protection. Didn't help, though.

-Brad K
According to Brain McKuen, Victor A & R Director, the disposition of the takes was the following.

1. Destroyed. 2. Partly corroded master found decades later and issued on LPM 2323. 3. Destroyed. 4. Hold conditional. 5. Hold 30 days.

I am surprised at your statement "the take of 'I Didn't Know' we DON'T get to hear - the one where Bix took a whole chorus." I have not seen ny reference to Bix taking a whole chorus in an unissued take. Where did you read or heard this?

According to the Victor Recording Book (thanks to Vince for this information) the composition of the band for takes 1-3 was violin, 2 cornets, 2 trombones, 3 saxs., banjo, tuba, piano, traps. For takes 4 and 5 use 3 cornets.

Question 1. All discographies give 3 trumpets/cornets for the take that was released. Listen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UyZWqDG6Ek  use 480 p

How many trumpets/cornets do you hear?

We don't really know why no take of "I Didn't Know" was issued at the time. It was not because they did not try hard: 5 takes were waxed. On the same day, four takes of "I Want to See My Tennessee" were waxed (take 4 issued Vic 19548), and five takes of "Remember" were waxed (take 3 issued Vic 19548, HMV B-2037: two violins used here). I point out that the Victor book tells us that all nine takes of Tennessee and Remember had two cornets, as did takes 1-3 of "I Didn't Know." So out of a total of 14 takes waxed at that recording session, two were mastered and issued at the time. Was "I Didn't Know" singled out particularly because of Bix's solo? Is it possible that with portable equipment set up in the Detroit Athletic Club, there were technical difficulties and that is why only two takes out of fourteen were issued, and all takes of "I Didn't Know" were casualties?

"Remember"   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aohe5eikYrk   (two cornets/trumpets)

"I Want to See My Tennessee"  http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/goldkette/tenessee.ram  (two cornets/trumpets)

The next day, Nov 25, 1924 four numbers were waxed, "Play Me Slow" (4 takes), "Honest and Truly" (4 takes). "Medley Fox-Trot" (4 takes) and "Adoration" (4 takes). Out of 16 takes, four were issued, a 25 % yield, a bit better than the 14 % yield the day before, but nothing to write home about.

"Play Me Slow"  http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/goldket ... meslow.ram  (According to discographies, no Bix; two horns)

"Honest and Truly"   http://www.redhotjazz.com/Songs/goldkette/honestru.ram  (According to discographies, no Bix; two horns)

"Adoration"   http://bixography.com/Adoration.ram  (According to discographies, Bix is here; three horns; do you hear Bix?)

Do you hear two horns in "Remember," "I Want to See My Tennessee," "Play Me Slow" and "Honest and Truly" but three in "Adoration"?

Albert

 

 

 
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Glenda Childress
Glenda Childress

December 16th, 2010, 4:16 pm #10

In the second half of the number the trumpet section line (listen after the violin solo and on to the end) sounds like one Bix's trios, harmonized and brightened by his horn, to me. It's very hard to be sure because of the quality of the recording. Although it's not that inventive, the solo definite sounds like Bix, so he must have been in there, "finding that note that no one else had found."
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