Extracurricular Bix

Extracurricular Bix

Brad Kay
Brad Kay

July 15th, 2017, 7:34 pm #1

In a recent FaceBook thread (LeonBismarkBeiderbecke), Albert hurled a sturdy blow at the base canard that "Poor Bix" never got to play with musicians of his calibre, who were worthy of his talent. I expanded on this, as follows:

It takes nothing away from the superb musicianship of the guys Bix DID record with (especially Lang, Rollini, Don Murray, Venuti and Tram), to wonder how he sounded in other circumstances with other people. AND those circumstances actually did arise - just not in a recording lab. As a sort of musical chameleon, Bix had the uncanny knack of fitting in perfectly with any group. Over the years, I have read reliable reports that he sat in with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra (see below), Duke Ellington's Cotton Club Orchestra and other black bands; and with various Chicagoans, including Frank Teschemacher, Joe Sullivan and Gene Krupa. Fats Waller, and of course, Louis Armstrong.

I corresponded briefly in 1967 with John Hammond, at Columbia Records. This was early in my collecting career, and I had inquired as to whether there were any more unissued Bix records lurking in the vaults. Hammond was kind enough to write back and say that regrettably, the cupboard was bare. But he recalled vividly going up to Small’s Paradise in Harlem in early 1928, when he was seventeen or eighteen. He’d become a regular patron, and partook often.

He wrote that one night, Bix sat in with the house band, Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra. At the time, this group included Jimmy Harrison on trombone, Jabbo Smith on trumpet, Edgar Sampson and Benny Carter on reeds and violin, and Cyrus St. Clair on tuba. Fast company, indeed! Hammond reported that Bix sounded like a regular member of the band, blending seamlessly with everyone, and soloing magnificently, carrying on like he never did with his regular outfits. Evidently, Bix sought out great musicians of any stripe, and could adjust instantly to his surroundings. Hammond also said that absolutely nobody minded that Bix was white, not the musicians, nor the patrons, nor the (gangster) management.

I quickly lost this letter, but recollect it decently

-Brad Kay
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

July 15th, 2017, 8:30 pm #2

Debbie White The stuff dreams are made of....many thanks for sharing, Brad.
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Glenda Teal Childress
Glenda Teal Childress And let's not forget Bix's recordings in 1930 with Teagarden, Krupa, both Dorseys, Goodman, Venuti, Lang, Bud Freeman, and Bubber Miley of Duke Ellington fame. To be fair, IMHO, these guys were second to none, black or white.
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Albert Haim

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Cristian Medina Valenzuela
Cristian Medina Valenzuela Here in Chile my contry the Odeon published all the gang and other group from the great Bix until today..
was in 1936
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Albert Haim
Albert Haim How reliable is John Hammond's account about Bix sitting with Charlie Johnson's orchestra? If you google John Hammond, you will find references to "he [Hammond] didn’t like facts getting in the way of a good story." (Dunstan Prial) and his agenda "He's [Hammond] dedicated to the cause of the Negro." (Otis Ferguson). I am sure everyone knows about the Bessie Smith story.
I am surprised that Evans did not come up with reports of Bix sitting with Duke Ellington's Cotton Club orchestra. You mention "reliable reports." Sources?.
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John Wright
John Wright Can't take the Hammond stories as reliable unless we have interviews with band members to confirm - if the events occurred the musicians would remember it and have talked about it, but I expect there are no recorded memories, so Hammond must be regarded as unreliable and unsubstantiated
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Barry McCanna
Barry McCanna Benny Waters, who played with Charlie Johnson's Orchestra in those years (sic) does not recall Beiderbecke ever sitting in with the band (from Voices of the Jazz Age, by Chip Deffas). Which is not to say that Hammond didn't see Bix sitting in with another band at Small's Paradise. His memory could well have been faulty. Not sure either where Otis Ferguson was coming from. Hammond was quite close to Goodman, and married his sister.
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Glenda Teal Childress
Glenda Teal Childress Sudhalter and Lion both talked about Bix's fondness for sitting in with all sorts of bands about town, in Harlem, in Chicago, and otherwise and had friends in both. But the time has passed to question them now.
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Albert Haim
Albert Haim There is no time limit to correct errors, to add to a subject or to question old data.
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Mark Gabrish Conlan
Mark Gabrish Conlan

July 15th, 2017, 9:58 pm #3

"Hammond was quite close to Goodman, and married his sister." Actually it was Goodman who married Hammond's sister, not the other way around.
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Phil Schaap
Phil Schaap

July 18th, 2017, 9:01 pm #4

Debbie White The stuff dreams are made of....many thanks for sharing, Brad.
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Glenda Teal Childress
Glenda Teal Childress And let's not forget Bix's recordings in 1930 with Teagarden, Krupa, both Dorseys, Goodman, Venuti, Lang, Bud Freeman, and Bubber Miley of Duke Ellington fame. To be fair, IMHO, these guys were second to none, black or white.
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Albert Haim

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Cristian Medina Valenzuela
Cristian Medina Valenzuela Here in Chile my contry the Odeon published all the gang and other group from the great Bix until today..
was in 1936
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Albert Haim
Albert Haim How reliable is John Hammond's account about Bix sitting with Charlie Johnson's orchestra? If you google John Hammond, you will find references to "he [Hammond] didn’t like facts getting in the way of a good story." (Dunstan Prial) and his agenda "He's [Hammond] dedicated to the cause of the Negro." (Otis Ferguson). I am sure everyone knows about the Bessie Smith story.
I am surprised that Evans did not come up with reports of Bix sitting with Duke Ellington's Cotton Club orchestra. You mention "reliable reports." Sources?.
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John Wright
John Wright Can't take the Hammond stories as reliable unless we have interviews with band members to confirm - if the events occurred the musicians would remember it and have talked about it, but I expect there are no recorded memories, so Hammond must be regarded as unreliable and unsubstantiated
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Barry McCanna
Barry McCanna Benny Waters, who played with Charlie Johnson's Orchestra in those years (sic) does not recall Beiderbecke ever sitting in with the band (from Voices of the Jazz Age, by Chip Deffas). Which is not to say that Hammond didn't see Bix sitting in with another band at Small's Paradise. His memory could well have been faulty. Not sure either where Otis Ferguson was coming from. Hammond was quite close to Goodman, and married his sister.
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Glenda Teal Childress
Glenda Teal Childress Sudhalter and Lion both talked about Bix's fondness for sitting in with all sorts of bands about town, in Harlem, in Chicago, and otherwise and had friends in both. But the time has passed to question them now.
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Albert Haim
Albert Haim There is no time limit to correct errors, to add to a subject or to question old data.
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Comrades Bix:
It's entirely plausible that John Hammond heard Bix sit-in with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra at Smalls' Paradise. I was troubled, however, by Hammond's "gangster management" statement.
I didn't know Ed Smalls, the African-American owner of Smalls' Paradise, and if he actually was a "gangster" and Hammond (or anyone) had the data to prove it - so be it.
HOWEVER:
I was friends with Perry "Stoney" Smith who was in the house band at the original SMALLS' PARADISE, including its grand opening, and was told by Ed Smalls as they were about to move (circa 1925) to the still extant location (West 135th Street and Seventh Ave, now Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd: it is now an educational facility associated with the Abyssinian Baptist Church) that he could keep his job if he learned to play saxophone. Perry Smith was initially a violinist and the house unit was of strings at the first address, but Smalls advised him that a real Jazz Orchestra would be the norm at the new place. Stoney quickly learned sax, largely tenor sax. Perry Smith is my key Ed Smalls' primary source but I also knew quite well from Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra: Benny Carter, Jabbo Smith, and Benny Waters.
These four and several others that were acquaintances of mine all admired Ed Smalls and that Smalls' Paradise was black owned and opened to all. Ed (Edwin) Smalls was the grandnephew (I've read that he was the grandson) of Robert Smalls, the African American naval hero in the Civil War and later a United States Congressman (yes: in the 19th Century). I actually worked Mondays at Smalls' Paradise in the early 1980s when the Cobbs-Johnson 18 Piece Orchestra helped launch the swing dance revival. Johnson was Howard "The Swan" Johnson, brother of plectorist Bobby Johnson in Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra (Howard and Bobby were not related to Charlie).
Until the posting of the Hammond 1967 letter, I had never heard that Ed Smalls was a gangster; so, I would tend to doubt it.
As to Bix's sitting in:
Not that it really disputes John Hammond - I actually accept his recollection that Bix sat in at Smalls' Paradise and with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra - but Benny Waters, Jabbo Smith, and Benny Carter never told me of such an encounter. Benny Waters had great stories of hanging with Bix in the summer of 1927 when both Johnson's band and Goldkette's Victor Recording Orchestra held forth in Atlantic City. Benny Carter and Benny Waters recalled Jimmy Dorsey often sitting in with Johnson's band at Smalls. They never mentioned Bix sitting in. It, nevertheless, quite likely happened and Hammond might well have been there.
I hope this data and perspective is helpful.
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

July 19th, 2017, 7:01 am #5

Hi Phil,

Nice to commune with you.

Okay, I parenthetically inserted "gangster" because it was my understanding that the Mob had the club scene, especially in Black neighborhoods, all wrapped up. If Ed Smalls actually was just an owner-operator, more power to him. I thought if Connie Immerman (the bootlegger) and Owney Madden (the gangster) were club owners, could Small's Paradise be far behind?

best,

Brad Kay
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