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August 05, 2011


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Beiderbecke and Winehouse were both alcoholic musicians; the comparison ends there.
Marc has done a good job of describing the qualities that make Bix special. One should also add his harmonic sense, and his tone and attack. Those last qualities were mostly a matter of legend for many years, but modern restoration technology has given us a hint of what his contemporaries were trying to describe. (Most succinctly, Eddie Condon.)
Bix played on dozens of recordings, but on the vast majority of these the brief cornet solos are the only part one can comfortably listen to, due to lame material and awful vocals. There were no hardcore jazz labels in those days, like Blue Note or Prestige, and any jazz that made it on to records was largely a matter of what the musicians could get away with.
Nevertheless some excellent sides were recorded with Tram, with Bix's "gang," and on a few other sessions. "Singing the Blues" and "I'm Coming Virginia" are immortal classics (not to mention his solo piano recording of "In a Mist.")

Allen Lowe

don't wanna be a killjoy, but ALL of those French black and White CDs, as converted from LPS, are in horrendously bad sound, clipped and distorted (probably put through some bad digital de-hiss program). Get the LPs when you can find 'em, as many were produced from masters seized before RCA was about to discard them - even when the sources aren't great, the LPs sound so much better than that particular crop of CDs as to put whomever did the work on them to shame.

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  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of California Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner.
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