Bix in


I did a search for Bix in the American web site. These are articles with significant information about Bix.

1.   An Interview of Geoffrey Ward by Gary Giddins.  December 2000.

Q. Did you learn anything that you didn’t know?

A. Wynton helped me see that the first generation of young whites to play the music were heroic too. They were a terrifically disparate bunch. Some came from well-to-do suburban families or small towns, others were street hoodlums. What they had in common was that they were irresistibly drawn to jazz, which their friends and families dismissed as “nigger music,” not worth listening to, let alone trying to play. They heard something in that music that spoke directly to them and they determined to try to play it for themselves. They weren’t necessarily better or worse on the subject of race than a lot of other whites, but they heard Louis Armstrong and they knew that sounding like that was something to strive for. Now, none of them ever achieved it, but no black musicians ever achieved it either.

Q. A lot of them were disowned.

<>A. Bix Beiderbecke’s family is the most famous example. His father never reconciled himself to the career his son chose to follow. But, as Wynton pointed out to me, it’s hard not to be sympathetic with the old man: Beiderbecke’s father had been afraid that if Bix became a jazz musician and lived that kind of life, he would become an alcoholic. And, of course, he did.

2. An Interview of Benny Goodman by Richard Sudhalter. October/November 1981.

Q. You began working around Chicago, and on the Lake Michigan excursion boats, where you met the cornetist and pianist Bix Beiderbecke. He was a good six years older than you, an experienced pro of twenty. What do you remember about him?

A. I think my first impression was the lasting one. I remember very clearly thinking, “Where, what planet, did this guy come from? Is he from outer space?” I’d never heard anything like the way he played—not in Chicago, no place. The tone—he had this wonderful, ringing cornet tone. He could have played in a symphony orchestra with that tone. But also the intervals he played, the figures—whatever the hell he did. There was a refinement about his playing. You know, in those days I played a little trumpet, and I could play all the solos from his records, by heart.

Q. What about the newer developments in jazz? Do you listen to any of it—and do you like what you hear?

A. I’ve tried. It’s hard to generalize, but it seems to me that a lot of the avant-garde music nowadays—maybe not the innovators, but certainly the copiers —is really kind of rough to listen to. I think one problem is very basic: they don’t tune up. I don’t see how you can play if you’re out of tune. Awhile ago, someone I know who’s very knowledgeable told me to listen to this girl flute player. Sure enough, when she started to play she was a quarter tone out—she just wasn’t a musician. And tone—let’s face it, the old-timers, like Louis, Bunny, Bix, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds—they had lovely sounds. Individual, but beautiful. It seems to come with their talent for improvising, their overall musicianship.

       3. An Interview of Wynton Marsalis by Tony Scherman. October 1995.

Q. I thought you said jazz was the opposite of provincial.

What I mean is, Armstrong could play more complexly than anybody who’s ever played but still sounded like a country boy. Down-home but sophisticated. Now, King Oliver was a phenomenal musician, but he didn’t play trumpet well enough to be put in with Armstrong. At least, he’s not documented doing it.

Actually, King Oliver is the best example of getting vocal effects on your instrument. That man could make a trumpet sound like it was talking. No one else even comes close. Believe me, I’m trying to figure out what King Oliver did. Nobody knows what kind of mute he played with. If anybody finds out, I would like to know. Please! Next comes Lester Young, who brought a new attitude to jazz, something I think he got from Frankie Trumbauer. The Bix Beiderbecke-Frankie Trumbauer school of playing is more genteel. The only reason I wouldn’t name Beiderbecke or Trumbauer is because I don’t feel they had enough of the thing Louis Armstrong had, the flatfooted inventiveness, the syncopation and swing, and that real penetrating insight into blues playing. They had only one part of the equation.

Q. People probably assume that it’s important to you to say that all great innovators of jazz have been black.

I don’t have to say it. I just say “Louis Armstrong.” I don’t say “black Louis Armstrong.” I mean, what about a pride in humanity? Ellington’s achievement is his achievement. It’s a human achievement. Because, remember, the Afro-American experience is American experience. Whenever the Negro is successful at something, there has to be an excuse made up for why. The best way to do that is to make his achievement seem like something only he can do, for some racially derived reason—which removes the direct competition and exchange that actually exist. Ellington listened to Gershwin and Paul Whiteman, Jelly Roll Morton to John Philip Sousa. Michael Jordan was taught by Dean Smith. Bix Beiderbecke learned from Louis Armstrong. These exchanges go on all the time in American life. We like to look at stuff as black and white, but most people’s experience is not that way.

       4. Memoranda of a Decade, Edited by Malcolm and Robert Cowley.
August, 1965


There was jazz music, and a legendary cornet player:
It is almost ten years since Bix Beiderbecke died, shortly after his twenty eighth birthday; it is at least twelve years since he played the bulk of his music. But he is as new and wonderful now as he was in those fast days on the big time, the highest expression of jazz when jazz was still young, the golden boy with the cornet he would sometimes carry around under his arm in a paper bag. …

I suppose the kids growing up in the belief that Glenn Miller is what it really takes to blow the roof off would wonder, in the midst of this rather dated small band clamor, what they were listening to and why. Well, it’s just jazz, kids, and as far as the groups in general go, not the best of its period. But Bix, the fellow riding above and ahead and all around with that clear-bell horn, Bix had swing before the phonies knew the word. He had it at its best and purest, for he had not only the compelling lift of syncopation, the ease within an intense and relentless rhythm; he had music in a way of invention that is only found when you find a good song, inevitable, sweet and perfect. He could take off out of any chord sequence, any good or silly tune, and wheel and lift with his gay new melodic figures as free of strain in the air as pigeons. He had a sense of harmonic structure that none can learn and few are born with; he had absolute pitch and absolute control of his instrument—in fact, no trumpet player I’ve ever heard could be so reckless and yet so right, so assured in all the range from tender to brash, from sorrow to a shout; his tone was as perfect without artifice as water in the brooks, and his lip and tongue and valve-work so exact in all registers that he could jump into a line of notes and make it sound like he’d slapped every one of them square in the face. With this technical assurance, he never had to cramp and plan and fuss himself: he could start at any point, and land on a dime.

From Otis Ferguson, “Young Man with a Horn Again,” The New Republican.”