Bix Beiderbecke

The most imitated cornetist of his generation first played in Richmond in immortal recordings that are the stuff of jazz legend.

Bix Beiderbecke’s career was short but the recordings made here confirmed the lasting impact he was to have on the world.

His first recording session at Gennett was on February 18, 1924. This music disc has been scrutinized and analyzed by jazz scholars since.

Months later, after a drunken early morning discussion at a Bloomington Fraternity House with young Hoagy Carmichael, Beiderbecke prepared for another recording Gennett date that also made jazz history.

In this session his solo foray into blues phrasing broke into a long-sustained pitch without accompaniment and became the model for jazz musicians thereafter.

His swan song for Gennett, “Davenport Blues,” was on January 26, 1925. Musicologists have dissected the improvised exploratory solo, which “dabbled in improvisatory mastery, both in rhythm and harmony,” and stretched the established boundaries of jazz. [An important incentive to Beiderbecke’s “freed inhibitions” was three quarts of booze.]

Bix Beiderbecke was the first white jazz musician to be widely admired by both black and white jazz performers. He died in 1931 at the age of 27, an alcoholic virtually unknown, before the world could fully recognize his command of this new art form. His jazz recordings at Gennett have made him immortal.



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June 19, 2012