Mar 10, 2010
Tune in to 89.9 FM NY on March Wednesday 10th as they dedicate a full day of programming to the celebration of ’s birthday.
Cornetist, pianist, and composer Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke, born March 10th of 1903 in Davenport, Iowa, was one of the great musical innovators to emerge in the 1920s. One of jazz’s earliest soloists, he is of enduring importance to the dynamic history of jazz. Young Bix taught himself to play cornet, listening to his brother’s Victrola phonograph and records of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. When his parents sent him to Lake Forest Academy with the hope that he would focus on academics rather than music, they unwittingly sent him nearest jazz capitol: Chicago. When he broke curfew so many times to hear jazz that he was expelled, he began an illustrious career as a professional musician. He joined a seven-man group called the Wolverines in 1923, leaving the group in a year later to play with the orchestra. In 1927, he joined the most popular band of the time, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, the band of the self-proclaimed “King of Jazz.” Cornetist recalled, “All of a sudden, comes this white boy from out west, playin’ stuff all his own. Didn’t sound like Louis or anybody else. But just so pretty, and that tone he got. Knocked us all out.”
But in 1931, when Beiderbecke was twenty-eight, his alcoholism led to his death. He became “Jazz’s Keats” as Dorothy Baker’s novel, A Man With a Horn, and subsequent Hollywood films mythologized him as jazz’s fallen hero. Beyond the legend, we all remember him for his curious, extraordinary style and pure, cool tone. Bix lives!
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