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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BIX BEIDERBECKE

Young Man with a Horn

Retrospective by Nimbus
RTS 4154

 

 


CD1
1. Singin' The Blues Till My Daddy Comes Home
2. Fidgety Feet
3. Oh, Baby! Don't Say No, Say Maybe
4. Copenhagen
5. Tiger Rag
6. Sensation Rag
7. Flock O' Blues
8. Davenport Blues
9. My Pretty Girl
10. Clarinet Marmalade
11. Ostrich Walk
12. Riverboat Shuffle
13. I'm Coming, Virginia
14. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
15. For No Reason At All In C
16. Three Blind Mice
17. In A Mist
18. Clementine From New Orleans
19. Wringin' An' Twistin'
20. Humpty Dumpty
21. Krazy Kat
22. Baltimore
23. There Ain't No Land Like Dixieland To Me
24. At The Jazz Band Ball
25. Royal Garden Blues
26. The Jazz Me Blues
27. Sorry

CD2
1. Goose Pimples
2. Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down
3. Cryin' All Day
4. A Good Man Is Hard To Find
5. Changes
6. Lonely Melody
7. There'll Come A Time, Wait And See
8. San
9. Mississippi Mud
10. Dardanella
11. From Monday On
12. Borneo
13. Somebody Stole My Gal
14. Thou Swell
15. Louisiana
16. 'T'ain't So, Honey, 'T'ain't So
17. Ol' Man River
18. Wa-Da-Da, Everybody's Doin' It Now
19. Rhythm King
20. Margie
21. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?
22. Loved One
23. Deep Harlem
24. Deep Down South
25. Georgia On My Mind

 

Bix Beiderbecke had a recording career of less than seven years, yet in that time he established himself as a major figure in jazz history. Digby Fairweather's affectionate sleeve-note to this double CD compares Bix with Louis Armstrong, who made his historic records with the Hot Five and Hot Seven between 1925 and 1927, while Bix made his first recording in 1924 and his last in 1930. Where Louis could be extremely extrovert and seemed to enjoy hitting the highest notes possible, Bix was more introverted. Where Louis often lifted his cornet or trumpet up to the sky, Hoagy Carmichael noted that Bix "never handled his horn like others do; put it way up in the air".

This compilation provides a good selection of Beiderbecke's recordings with his own groups and those led by his close associate, the gifted saxist Frankie Trumbauer, as well as the Wolverines and the orchestras led by Jean Goldkette, Paul Whiteman, Irving Mills and Hoagy Carmichael. All these bandleaders recognised and appreciated the unique Beiderbecke style: cool and controlled, yet lyrical and often hot.

The double album begins with Singin' The Blues, which dates from 1927. Undoubtedly this track has been put first because many people consider it to be Bix's "greatest hit", with a perfectly balanced cornet solo. Yet putting it first upsets the chronological order, which then runs from 1924 to 1930. There is a danger of elevating Singin' The Blues to Bix's greatest achievement while overlooking the gorgeous work he contributed to such tracks as I'm Coming, Virginia and Krazy Kat. Other tracks specially worth mentioning include Tiger Rag, which is almost understated, and From Monday On, a sadly neglected number which benefits from Bing Crosby's relaxed vocal.

The chronological order helps us hear how Bix developed over the years - and how the style of the groups he played with also developed. For instance, the early tracks mostly depend on the traditional New Orleans line-up of cornet (or trumpet), clarinet and trombone, and they stick to the old-fashioned two-in-a-bar rhythm. A later recording like I'm Coming, Virginia has an easy lope which approaches four-in-a-bar. Since My Best Girl Turned Me Down has the dynamic feel of common time, with highly effective bass sax from Adrian Rollini.

One might also suggest that Bix influenced the groups he played with, perhaps helping them to emulate his tranquillity, creating an early form of "cool jazz". Bix's understatement is matched by the gentle acoustic guitar of Eddie Lang and the rhapsodizing violin of Joe Venuti. Beiderbecke's romantic side is well illustrated by his classic piano solo In A Mist

The recordings by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra may sound ponderous nowadays but they are still lifted by inventive solos from Bix and other members of the ensemble, and they look forward to the big-band swing of the 1930s. Changes (from 1927) has an early example of scat singing.

This compilation ends with Georgia On My Mind from Bix's last recording session - with Hoagy Carmichael's Orchestra on 15 September 1930. Bix's solo sounds quavery and uncertain but this gives it all the more pathos. He died less than a year later, at the tragically early age of 28.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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