To read my review of this concert, click here
Tag Archives: Singin’ the Blues
The piano wizard spent last weekend co-directing The Statesman of Jazz band at the annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Weekend in Davenport, Iowa. Not surprising, really, since Dick has been a fan of Bix for most of his life – and has celebrated it in numerous ways, most recently on the CDs If Bix Played Gershwin (Arbors Records) and Thinking About Bix (Reference Recordings). He’s also a wonderful ambassador for Bix’s piano compositions.
He says: “Bix’s music had a powerful effect on me from the first records of his which my big brother brought home from college. They were ’78 reissues of Somebody Stole My Gal, Rhythm King, I’m Coming Virginia and Singin’ the Blues. Those titles remain precious to me among the 200 or so recordings which Bix played on.
“It is not only the notes, which are Mozartian in their mixture of the perfect melodic sequence and then the astonishing unexpected turns of phrase, but the way the notes are played: at times boldly and fortissimo, then tender and imploring, dead center on pitch or with a blues-inflected quaver. It is difficult and finally impossible to describe music in words, but these are some of the things I hear in his playing …”
The Scottish-born, Toronto-based soprano saxophonist has always loved the legendary Bix Beiderbecke‘s “beautiful tone and great melodic and harmonic sense” – and first heard his music as a youngster listening to BBC radio.
He was lucky enough to get to know older musicians, such as the clarinettist Pee Wee Russell, who were colleagues of Bix during his heyday. Indeed, Jim paid tribute to both during this year’s Norwich Jazz Party when he played I’d Climb the Highest Mountain, a beautiful ballad which Russell told Jim he liked to play “because it was a favourite of Bix’s”.
Typically, Jim has a funny Bix-related story: “A few years ago I was in LA, and Betty O’Hara, a very good horn player and singer was also on the gig. One morning, I came out of the elevator just as Betty came out of another one just opposite. We said our hellos, and then Betty said: ‘Did I tell you that I bought a parrot?’ I said that she hadn’t mentioned it so then she said: ‘Guess what his name is?’ I had no idea, and then she hit me with it … ‘Beaks Bite or Peck!’
“Two of my favourite tracks are Singin’ the Blues (it was Eddie Higgins’s favourite too) and, for great hot ensemble playing, the first chorus of San, recorded in 1928 with Paul Whiteman. And we must not forget his remarkably modern piano compositions – In a Mist, In the Dark, Flashes, Cloudy and Candlelights.”
Tomorrow: Jon-Erik Kellso.
The great US cornettist shares his feelings about Bix:
“Bix Beiderbecke expressed such profound emotion in such a natural way, it still speaks to us 80 years after his death.
“He was a unique stylist, one whose playing continues to influence me and almost all players to the current day – either directly or indirectly. His recordings – like those of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis and others – have become an integral part of the lexicon of the trumpet. Those of us who listen carefully can only do so in awe and wonder.
“Bix made music that rewards careful attention in a world that constantly looks away – and he paid a fearful price for his courage. For me, it would be a much bleaker world without Bix’s inspiration.
“My choice of Bix track? Singin’ the Blues. I’m not interested in telling people what to think about it – listen to it and let it take you where it may.. I think music that profound should be listened to – not talked about. The value in the experience is deciding what it means to you personally…”
Warren Vache’s new CD, Ballads and Other Cautionary Tales (Arbors Records), is out now. Tomorrow: Alain Bouchet.