The Bix Centennial All Stars: Celebrating Bix!

Reissued 2002 session with Randy Sandke, Dick Hyman et al stands out among legion Bix tributes for its fresh arrangements and quality playing

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These recordings were originally issued on the Arbors label in March 2003, marking the centenary of Bix’s birth in 1903. The skilled reedsman and arranger Dan Levinson was MD for the project, and has been the prime mover and shaker in bringing about its current reissue on CD and vinyl, adding three previously unissued tracks.

A pool of talented musicians at home with the Beiderbecke legacy was recruited, the stable four-piece rhythm section backing a changing three- to seven-horn front line. As explained in the very full and informative notes, the project does not set out to recreate Bix’s original recordings per se, although the general style and spirit is preserved. New arrangements and innovative adaptations are featured, and soloists are free to bond with the inspired lyricism of Bix’s playing in their own way.

In the clever and detailed arrangements, the late Peter Ecklund (himself a fine cornetist) and Dan Levinson have scored Bix’s lead and several solos, sometimes mixed and matched from different takes in the originals, sometimes voiced in sectioned harmony. Bix is shared around between three equally impressive and compatible cornetists, Kellso, Reinhart and Sandke, all faultless in taste and execution. Indeed, all the musicians perform to a high standard with obvious enjoyment, relaxed drive and comfortable rapport. Levinson and Barrett are often outstanding individually, while Mark Shane’s perky stride piano and Giordino’s Rollini-style bass sax make enjoyable backing contributions.

The repertoire mixes famous classics with less familiar tunes, and a few vocals are added in appropriate style. CD1 closes with guest Dick Hyman’s remarkable encapsulation of  Clementine as a virtuoso piano solo. On CD2 There’ll Come A Time (excellent Kellso), Borneo, San and Trumbology are standout-tracks. Levinson’s clever arrangement of Trumbology is one of the three previously unissued tracks included, together with Just An Hour Of Love and China Boy, in which four cornetists, (including the versatile Barrett) are let off the leash for a spirited Condon-style jam.

Bix tributes are nothing new, but this has to be one of the finest – a must for Beiderbecke lovers.


Discography
CD1: At The Jazz Band Ball; Proud (Of A Baby Like You); Deep Harlem; Riverboat Shuffle; Davenport Blues; The Jazz Me Blues; Blue River; I Need Some Pettin’; I’m Coming Virginia; Lonely Melody; Clementine (From New Orleans) (44.22)
CD2: Trumbology; From Monday On; Singin’ The Blues (Till My Daddy Comes Home); There’ll Come A Time (Wait And See); China Boy; Just An Hour Of Love; Borneo; Clarinet Marmalade; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; San; Deep Down South (45.02)
Collectively: Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Randy Sandke (c); Dan Barrett (tb, c); Harvey Tibbs (tb); Dan Levinson, Pete Martinez, Scott Robinson, Jack Stuckey (cl, as, ts, cms); Dick Hyman (p, on Clementine only); Mark Shane (p); Howard Alden, Matt Munisteri (g); Greg Cohen (b); Vince Giordano (b, bss); Joe Ascione (d); James Langton, Barbara Rosene, Marc Kessler, Brian Nolepka, Hal Shane (v) NY, 7, 8, 9, 10 April and 11 July 2002.
Turtle Bay Records TBR-22-005-CD