Bix Beiderbeck
bix beiderbecke

Leon Bismark ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke was born March 10, 1903 in Davenport, Iowa.

“All them cats is trying to sound like Bix and none of them is even coming close,” Louis Armstrong. Bix was truly gifted at improvisation with a noticeable purity in his playing. The extant recordings display an unequaled tonal quality on the cornet and an execution and phrasing of great elegance. In his playing through the 1920s, the first seeds of cool jazz which became popular in the 1950s can be heard in his jazz ballad style.

Leon Beiderbeck was a tragic figure and quite brilliant at the same time. Tormented by the peaks and troughs of bipolar disorder, he died at just 28 years of age, August 6, 1931.

Technically, Bix was self taught and his fingering was not standard, which in part explains the originality of the sounds he achieved. He began playing piano almost as soon as he could walk and took early inspiration from tunes heard on riverboats and those playing at silent movies by the pianist interpreting the on-screen drama. His introduction to jazz cornet came through records played on his brother’s Victriola machine, notably Nick La Rocca and the Dixieland Jass band recording in 1917, which he copied to learn his first tunes on cornet.

Bix first recorded with Mid-West band the Wolverines but came to prominence in St Louis playing with the Trumbauer band before he joined the great Jean Goldkette band based in Detroit together with Trumbauer. They left Detroit to join the New York based Paul Whiteman dance orchestra in 1928, then rated the best in the country. Bix made his best recordings during this period.

The rigors of constant touring and Bix’s self medication with alcohol wore on his health. Rehabilitation, family support and help from Whiteman could not turn the tide and Bix was found dead in his apartment in Queens, New York City in August 1931.

Singin the Blues

I’m comin Virginia