How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, perhaps jazz's most mythic figure, continues to receive much deserved attention. This beautifully-documented CD set, full of rarities, shows how deeply Beiderbecke affected musicians in the United States and Europe before his death in 1931.
The first disc offers tributes by well-known players (Red Nichols, Manny Klein, Sterling Bose and Jimmy McPartland), as well as solos once thought to be Beiderbecke's. On every track, someone explodes out of the ensemble or creates wistful sound-castles in true fashion. The repertoire is wonderfully varied, including "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine" and "The Eyes of Texas," featuring trumpeters Tommy Gott and Bob Mayhew.
The second disc is even better. The best British, French and Danish jazz musicians went out of their way to study and cherish Beiderbecke's records. British dance orchestras, especially, took to Beiderbeckesurely because of the influx of American musicians, especially bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini. Even when the jazz content is low, these recordings are infectious hot dance music.
Then there's trumpeter Norman Payne, heard on a dozen selections. It's apparent from his first solo that Payne understood something that other players hadn't yet, the paradox of intensity and relaxation. Much like Beiderbecke, Lester Young and Teddy Wilson, Payne is intense yet cool, propulsive yet thoughtful.
And then there are the wonderful oddities: a trio featuring French trumpeter Phillipe Brun that resembles the Beiderbecke-Frank Trumbauer-Eddie Lang records; Sam Brown's dead-serious vocal rendition of "South Sea Rose," which contains these lyrics "They call me South Sea Rose/ I'm fickle, they suppose . . . dressed in my seaweed clothes" and the closing track, a 1930 "Whispering" that has the easy grace of a Swing Era combo.
These discs recall that brilliant improvising was being done by musicians less famous than those chronicled in jazz histories. But Beiderbecke's influence went beyond the brass players and well beyond copying recorded solos. Like his friend Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke made himself felt harmonically, melodically and rhythmically and the band arrangements reflect the pioneering work of Bill Challis. The rare recordings included here (several never before available) are expertly transferred and the nearly 60 pages of liner notes are full of new information and never-before seen photographs.
The set was originally meant to aid the ailing Richard M. Sudhalter, whose Beiderbecke biography was an inspiration, as were his subsequent books as well as his own jazz playing. Sadly, Sudhalter died before these CDs could help defray his medical expenses and his family has decided that profits from this set will go to the Jazz Foundation of America. These CDs are a moving tribute to Bix and the love his colleagues felt for him. His music crossed the ocean before this was commonplace and his spirit seems sweetly, vividly alive here.
Track Listing: CD1: You'll Never Get to Heaven With Those Eyes; Where's My Sweetie Hiding?; Doo Wacka Doo; Cataract Rag Blues; Riverboat Shuffle; Tiger Rag; The Co-Ed; Davenport Blues; A Good Man Is Hard to Find; Liza; Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down; Why Do I Love You?; Crazy Rhythm; Hula Girl; Out Where The Blues Begain; Wedding Bells; The Eyes of Texas; Broadway Rose; Alabammy Snow; When A Woman Loves A Man; Papa's Gone; No Trumps; Little Did I Know; Jazz Me Blues; The Blue Room. CD2: Tiger Rag; Riverboat Shuffle; Sugar; There's A Cradle in Caroline; Dance, Little Lady; Some Hauntin' Tune; I'm Glad; Nobody's Fault But Your Own; Louisiana; Oh! What A Night for Love; Forget Me Not; A Dicky Bird Told Me So; Gregorology; In the Moonlight; South Sea Rose; Every Day Away From You; The Song of the Dawn; I'm Singing My Way Round the World; A Miss Is As Good as a Mile; Minns Du?; A Ship Without A Sail; Kalua; Follow A Star - Selection; With My Guitar and You; Whispering.
Personnel: Various artists including Red Nichols: cornet; Perley Breed: reeds; Brad Gowans: reeds, trombone; Leroy Morris: cornet; Fred Rollinson: cornet; Rex "Curley" Preiss: cornet; Tommy Dorsey: trombone; Jimmy Dorsey: clarinet; Adrian Rollini: bass saxophone; Stan King: drums; Sterling Bose: cornet; Miff Mole: trombone; Arthur Schutt: piano; Dick McDonough: banjo, guitar; Ray Bauduc: drums; Jimmy McPartland: cornet; Frank Teschmacher: clarinet; Bud Freeman: tenor saxophone; Joe Sullivan: piano; Eddie Condon: banjo; Jim Lanigan: bass; Gene Krupa: drums; Paul Weirick: trumpet; Manny Klein: trumpet; Carl Kress: guitar; Jack Teagarden: trombone; Benny Goodman: clarinet; Tommy Gott: trumpet; Bob Mayhew: trumpet; Andy Secrest: cornet; Snoozer Quinn: guitar; Libby Holman: vocal; Phil Napoleon: trumpet; Joe Venuti: violin; Tom Smith: trumpet; Jack Jackson: trumpet; Norman Payne: trumpet; Sylvester Ahola: trumpet; Max Goldberg: trumpet; Phillipe Brun: cornet; Danny Polo: clarinet; Philip Buchel: alto saxophone, vocal; Buddy Featherstonhaugh: tenor saxophone; Spike Hughes: bass.