Bix Beiderbecke
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Cornet player Bix Beiderbecke (1903) was the first white jazz master. Born in Iowa, far away from any major source of black music, He was also the first major musician to learn about jazz from records, not first hand. He arrived in Chicago in 1921 and recorded for the first time in february 1924, with the Wolverine Orchestra (Tom Delaney's Jazz Me Blues). His reputation was rapidly established by a diverse output, mostly in New York: his own Davenport Blues (january 1925) for a quintet of cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano and drums (called the Rhythm Jugglers), Con Conrad's Singin' the Blues (february 1927), arranged by Bill Challis for Frank Trumbauer's orchestra, that contains Beiderbecke's most celebrated performance, the Original Dixieland Jass Band's Clarinet Marmalade (february 1927), also with Trumbauer, Clementine (september 1927) with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, Walter Donaldson's Changes (november 1927) with Paul Whiteman, Will Marion Cook's I'm Coming Virginia (may 1927), arranged by Irving Riskin again for Trumbauer's orchestra, containing some of his most moving passages. Contemporaries were shocked by the lyrical and pensive quality that Beiderbecke could evoke through his unorthodox handling of timbre and timing.
He formed his own orchestra (Gang) and continued to refine his introverted style, particularly via the october 1927 recordings of Spencer Williams' Royal Garden Blues, Fletcher Henderson's Goose Pimples and Howdy Quicksell's Sorry and Since My Best Girl Turned Me Down. His own compositions were less famous, and delivered as solo piano pieces, but in reality In a Mist (september 1927), perhaps his masterpiece, Candlelight (1930), Flashes (1931), In The Dark (1931), proved the depth of his musical vision. Before his untimely death, Beiderbecke gave several more essays of his lyrical playing: Bill Challis' San (january 1928), Fred Fisher's There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears (september 1927), George Gershwin's Concerto in F (october 1928), Bing Crosby's From Monday On (february 1928) and Irving Berlin's Waiting at the End of the Road (september 1929), all with Paul Whiteman, as well as Harry Barris' Mississippi Mud (january 1928) with Trumbauer, and the proto-swing of Maceo Pinkard's I'll Be a Friend with Pleasure (september 1930) with his own band. The association with Trumbauer was probably the most fruitful, while the commercial Goldkette orchestra allowed the talents of Beiderbecke, Trumbauer, guitarist Salvatore "Eddie Lang" Massaro and violinist Joe Venuti to come together, despite the limitations of Goldkette's repertory. They all eventually, and sadly, migrated into Paul Whiteman's orchestra, which was even more commercial and which even further diluted and restrained their inspiration. An alcoholic, he died in 1931 at the age of 28. His minimal, tenuous style of improvisation had basically reflected his imploding lifestyle. Needless to say, one wonders what Beiderbecke could have done had he played in black orchestras instead of white ones.
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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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