Bix Beiderbecke: The Bix Beiderbecke Legend

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Despite its title, this is not a “Best of Bix for Beginners” compilation, more a “Something for the Bix Buffs” offering. It came out originally in 1961, as 14 LP tracks on RCA Victor, compiled by George Avakian and Charles Edward Smith. This CD contains a further 11, mainly alternate takes.    

Anyway, if you love Bix you’ll have all the obvious stuff already, so the prospect of extra takes of , for instance, “From Monday On” should be as welcome as the flowers in May. They had six goes at it altogether, over two days. Three survive and they’re all here. Bix’s entry in take four is the best, a great, joyous whoop at the start of his 32-bar solo. You don’t often get even that much uninterrupted Bix. The conventions of the day, not to mention the three-minute limit of a 10-inch 78 record, prevented expansive solos. I often wonder what he would have done over three or four straight choruses.

Among other delights here are “You Took Advantage of Me”, featuring a chase chorus by Bix (in a straight mute) and Trumbauer (on alto). two takes of “I’ll Be a Friend With Pleasure”, in which Bix  demonstrates the art of sticking close to the song’s melody while remaining unmistakably himself, and both takes of “San” (coconut shells and all).

It would have been nice to have “When?”, containing the Bix solo from which Lester Young borrowed what became the last eight bars of “Tickletoe”, but that might be taking buffery a little too far.

And let’s not forget the piano pieces, four impressionistic morsels, one recorded by Bix himself and the others played by Jess Stacey. They make attractive light music, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but others did it equally well. No-one played jazz cornet with the debonair elegance of Bix Beiderbecke.

Had it not been for Bix’s presence, how many of these recordings would have survived their era? Maybe a few of the ones featuring the young Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys, for their juvenile charm. But. generally speaking, it’s the pinpoints of Beiderbecke sparkle, however fleeting, that make the whole thing worth listening to. The rest fades into the background, like an overdressed stage set.

Discography
(1) Clementine; (2) I Don’t Know; (3, 15) Sunday; (4-5) Changes; (6-7) Lonely Melody; (8) From Monday On; (9, 18) There Ain’t No Sweet Man; (10, 19) San; (11) Dardanella; (12) You Took Advantage of Me; (13) Barnacle Bill the Sailor; (14, 20) I’ll Be a Friend With Pleasure; (16-17) From Monday On; (21) Wringin’ and Twistin’; (22) In a Mist; (23) Flashes; (24) In the Dark; (25) Candlelights (75.27)
Beiderbecke (c), except tracks 22-25, with:
(1, 15) Jean Goldkette Orchestra; 13 players, incl. Frankie Trumbauer (c-mel); Joe Venuti (vln); Eddie Lang (g). NYC, 15 September 1927. (2) Goldkette Orch; 13 players incl. Venuti (vln); Tommy Dorsey (tb). Detroit, 24 November 1927.
(3, 15) Goldkette Orch; 13 players incl. Spiegle Willcox (tb); Trumbauer (c-mel); Venuti (vln); Lang (g); Chauncey Morehouse (d). NYC, 15 October 1927.
(4- 5) Paul Whiteman Orch; 21 players, incl. Henry Busse (t); Trumbauer (c-mel); Jimmy Dorsey (cl, as, bar); Matty Malneck (vn), plus The Rhythm Boys – Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, Harry Barris, Bill Challis (v). Chicago, 23 November 1927.
(6-7) Whiteman Orch; 18 players, plus vocalists, largely as above. NYC, 4 January 1928.
(8) Whiteman Orch; 17 players plus vocalists, largely as above.
(9, 18) Whiteman Orch; 21 players, incl, Jimmy Dorsey (cl, as); Trumbauer (c-mel); Roy Bargy (p), plus Rhythm Boys.
(10, 19) Whiteman Orch: Charlie Margulis (t); Jimmy Dorsey (cl, c); Bill Rank (tb); Trumbauer (c-mel); Min Leibrook (bss); Bill Challis (p, arr); Matty Malneck (vn);Carl Kress (g); Harold McDonald (d). NYC, 12 January 1928.
(11) Whiteman Orch; 18 players, no vocals, largely as 6-7. NYC, 9 February 1928.
(12) Whiteman Orch; 25 players, largely as (5). NYC, 25 April 1928.
(13) Hoagy Carmichael Orch; Bubber Miley (t); Tommy Dorsey (tb); Benny Goodman (cl); Arthus Brilhart (as); Bud Freeman (ts); Joe Venuti (vn, v); Irving Brodsky (p, v); Eddie Lang (g); Harry Goodman (tu); Gene Krupa (d); Hoagy Carmichael, Carson Robison (v). NYC, 21 May 1930.
(14, 20) Bix Beiderbecke Orch; Ray Lodwig (t); Boyce Cillen (tb); Goodman, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Dorsey (cl, as); Freeman (ts}; Brodsky (p); Lang (g); Venuti (vn); Leibrook (b); Krupa (d); Wes Vaughan (v). NYC, 8 September 1930.
(16-17) Whiteman Orch; 14 players plus Crosby and Rhythm Boys. [These are further takes of (8)]. NYC, 28 February 1928.
(21) Beiderbecke (p, c); Trumbauer (c-mel); Lang (g). NYC, 17 September 1927.
(22) Beiderbeke (p). NYC, 9 September 1927.
(23-24) Jess Stacy (p). NYC, 16 November 1935.
(25) as above NYC, 18 January 1939.
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