|The Facts||Report on 1999 Festival||Report on 2000 Festival||Report on 2001 Festival||Report on 2002 Festival||Report on 2003 Festival|
|The Beginning of the Society||Report
Program for the First Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festical
The Society, a non-profit organization located in Davenport, Iowa, Bix's hometown, has the goal of preserving and honoring the memory of Bix's musical genius.
The most important activity of the Society, The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, takes place every year during the last weekend of the month of July. The festivals began in 1972 and have taken place every year without interruption, even in 1995, the year of the big floods in the midwest. (LeClaire Park, one of the main venues of the festival, is located on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river and was under water). Several bands and fans from all over the world gather to keep the memory of Bix alive and to celebrate his musical contributions to jazz.
Bix Notes, the official publication of the society, is sent to all members three times a year. It contains detailed information about the festival - the bands, the schedule, application forms.
The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society office is located in the Kahl building, 311 N. Ripley St. Davenport, IA, 52802. Their web site is at http://www.bixsociety.org/
Report on the 1999 Festival.
The festival consisted of three distinct types of events: the jazz festival where ten bands played in four venues, the Saturday morning concert at Bix's graveside, and the Sunday morning liturgy at the First Presbyterian Church.
Cover of Church Program
Statue of Bix
The New Wolverine Orchestra at LeClaire Park
The Sons of Mary Louise Beiderbecke Shoemaker: Ted, Charles Bix and Julien
The Jean Goldkette "Daughters": Grace Bauchelle (daughter of Doc Ryker), Cynthia
Willcox (daughter of Spiegle Willcox) and Lee Burnett (daughter of Howdie Quicksell)
Close-up of Plaque Next to Bix Statue.
Statue of Bix with Albert Haim
Church Basement Exhibit: The Charles Burnett Beiderbecke (Bix's Brother) and
Mary Louise Beiderbecke Shoemaker (Bix's Sister) Families
The theme of this year's festival was "Bix and Spiegle, Together Again." The three usual classes of activities took place: concerts at LeClaire Park, at the Col Ballroom, at the Danceland Ballroom and at the Holiday Inn; the concert at Bix's graveside; the jazz lithurgy at the presbyterian Church. The weather was gorgeous, cool in the morning, warm during he day, crisp and dry.
The Concert at Graveside. The New Wolverine Orchestra, by far the best band in the Festival, was chosen to play at this venue: an excellent choice since the New Wolverines strive to preserve the exact sound of Bix's music. Trevor Rippingale mentioned that the New Wolverines are jazz musicians, and as such are improvisers. However, when it comes to playing music recorded by Bix, they try to play it note for note. I think that this is as it should be. Consider a classic composition. Every note for every instrument is written precisely. The performers bring the composition alive exactly as written. To me, Bix's records are like classic compositions and modern bands that recreate Bix's music should treat the recordings as "classic compositions" and bring them alive again by playing them note for note.The tunes played by the New Wolverines were: Singin' the Blues, I'm Coming Virginia, Davenport Blues, Waiting at the End of the Road, There Ain't No Land Like Dixieland To Me, I'll Be A Friend With Pleasure, Half Way Blues (a composition by an Australian musician), Just A Closer Walk With Thee, and The Wolverine Blues. The selections were interspaced by thougtful commentaries from Trevor. He honored the Beiderbecke and Shoemaker family members that were present by dedicating some of the songs to them, he expressed how honored he was that the New Wolverines had been selected to play at Bix's graveside, he thanked Bix and Spiegle. Trevor and the New Wolverines were a group of gracious and highly competent musicians who respect and bring back, in an authentic manner, Bix's musical legacy.
A New Statue of Bix. Ted McElhiney, who sculpted the Bix bust near the bandshell in LeClaire Park, has done it again with a full-sized statue of Bix. The statue is located on the property of the Quad-City Times. The plaque next to the statue reads:
Bix Beiderbecke, born and laid to rest
Davenport, was a legendary jazz pioneer who played
the cornet unlike anyone before or since.
He composed music on the spot, never performed a
song the same way twice, inspired
Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust"
and made 250 recordings before he died
at age 28 in 1931.
The Bix 7 road race was named in his honor
Quad City Times
RUN WITH THE BEST
This project was asssited with Grants
President Riverbaot Development Authority,
Mary Ellen Chamberlin, President
Bix's statue is located behind the statues of two runners, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers. I have a general view of the plaza with the three satues and a close up of Bix's sculpture. I was not impressed by the general layout of the plaza nor by the statue of Bix.
Jazz Lithurgy. This event, very
well attended, was similar to the one last year. The Blue Street Jazz Band
provided the music and did a very good job.
The theme of the sermon was the importance of music in the scripture and in churches. There were a number of interesting photographs displayed in the basement of the church. I took some photographs, and although I was not very successful, I am posting scans.
**Many members of the Beiderbecke and Shoemaker families were present. I met several of them and they are delightul and friendly people.
**Three Jean Goldkette "daughters" were present: Cynthia Willcox (the daughter of Spiegle; Cynthia has been going to Davenport for years), Grace "Rickey" Bauchelle (the daugther of Doc Ryker; this is her second visit to the Festival; her husband Don accompanied her) and Lee Burnett (the daughter of Howard Quicksell; this was her first visit). I felt privileged to have talked to all of them. Their common lineage back to musicians of the Jean Goldkette Orchestra gave these three very nice ladies a special glow and a unique sense of kinship.
**Alann Krivor, a grand nephew of Jean Goldkette was at the Festival for his second visit and presented the Second Jean Goldkette Award to Trevor Rippindale and The New Wolverine Orchestra. The award was a conductor's baton mounted on a picture frame. Alann runs the Goldkette Foundation.
**Bix's house at 1934 Grand Avenue has been restored.
I have been very busy for the last two weeks and will be for the next two weeks. I will scan the photographs I took later as soon as I find some time. I will also add a little bit of information that I obtained by talking to Leslie Swanson.
General Considerations. In view of the serious floods earlier this year, it is remarkable that LeClaire Park was as beautiful as ever. The arrangements were excellent. The eleven bands had to be taken, at the right time, to one of four venues and, thanks to the organizers and volunteers, the system ran like clockworks. The shuttle bus from the Holiday Inn to the various venues was on time and turned out to be a very convenient way to get around. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate: the temperature was in the 90s with humidity to match. But who cares when you are in Davenport, and everywhere you go reminds you of Bix?
The Bands. By and large the bands played good, traditional jazz from the 1920s. I will single out two bands. First, of course, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band. This was the band that started the whole Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, back in 1971, when they flew to Davenport and played at Bix's gravesite. It is remakable that after 30 years their dynamism and love for Bix has not diminished; if anything they are even more excited about playing in Bix's hometown. As they had done 30 years ago, the band played at Bix's gravesite. In my opinion, this is the highlight of the Festival: listening to the band playing Davenport Blues in front of the Beiderbecke Family Plot is a highly emotional experience. Ralph Norton and the Varsity Ramblers brought their authentic recreation of Bix's music and sound to a highly receptive audience.
The Church Liturgy. 2001 is the
third year that the First Presbyterian Church is hosting the Sunday morning service with a tribute to Bix. The Barbary Coast
Dixieland band was selected to play at the service. The choice was
excellent as the band regularly plays in churches. This event is another of
the highlights of the Festival. Sitting in the church that Bix once attended
regularly and listening to the music and the comments about Bix is, to repeat
what I said earlier, an emotional experience. The event included an
appearance by the Bix Sunday Young People's Octet, shown in the photograph on
the right. In addition, the basement of the Church had an exhibit of church
records, documents and photographs of Bix and family members. Tom Vaccaro,
church member and Elder was signing copies of of his portrait of Bix, shown
The Davenport Public
Library. The basement of the library has several items related to
Bix hanging on the walls: Posters from the Festival, photographs of Bix,
newspaper articles. I will post photos that I took as soon as I get them
developed. I would like to highlight one of the newspapers articles.
Under the title "Library Gets Tapes", there is a photograph followed by the
text, "Jim Grover, right, representing Miami University Radio presents Robert
Kellenberg, chairman of the Davenport Public Library Board of Trustees
original tapes of the 19 half-hour radio shows, including interviews with many
musical greats who knew and admired Bix Beiderbecke. Grover saays the program
will be aired on national radio network." I tried to obtain a copy of the
newspaper, but, in spite of enormous cooperation from the library staff, I was
unable to do so. I need the date the story was published, and I will pursue
this in the near future.
The library has an almost complete set of "Polk's Davenport City Directory". I look at all the volumes that were available and here is what I found.
1919. Leon B. Beiderbecke listed at 1934 Grand Avenue as brds (boards, lives at ).
1921 and 1922. L.B.B. listed as student, same address.
1923. L.B.B. not listed.
1924, 1925. L.B.B listed as musician, same address.
1927-1930. L.B.B not listed.
1931. L.B.B. listed as musician, same adress.
I made a copy of "Ode to Bix" by Earl A. Rohlfe and will post on this in the appropriate section in the near future.
A Cousin of Ben Pollack. I had the pleasure of meeting Millie and Milt Libman. Millie and Milt are the parents of Paul Libman, a talented pianist who was at the festival with Ralph Norton's Varsity Ramblers and contributed, with his excellent piano solos and accompaniment, to the band's authentic 1920s sound. Millie is Ben Pollack's cousin. I asked her if she and Ben had ever talked about Bix. It turns out that Millie is 14 years younger than Ben and she knew Ben when she was a little girl: there was no mention of Bix in their conversations. But Ben Pollack certainly knew Bix. The following is a quote from Richard Sudhalter's "Lost Chords". "Drummer Ben Pollack, then working casuals around town, had been an admirer of Brunies, Pettis, and Mares since jamming with them out at Fox Lake, Illinois, a popular resort area up near the Wisconsin state line. His soon became a familiar face around the Friar's cellar bandstand at Wabash and Van Buren. Other young whites were frequent visitors: nineteen-year old Bix Beiderbecke, then faring none too well at Lake Forest Academy, would bring his battered cornet and asked to sit in playing 'Angry'." Evidently, Bix and Ben must have known each other well. There is another connection between Bix and Ben.In 1965, Ben Pollack and Steve Loyacano donated a cornet to the Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection. According to Ben Pollack, this is a cornet that Bix gave to Ben in 1928.
Bill Donahoe and Doc Ryker's Saxophone. At last year's Festival, Grace "Rickey" Bauchelle, the daughter of Doc Ryker, met Trevor Rippingale, the leader of the New Wolverine Orchestra of Australia. Trevor had asked Rickey if she had her father's alto saxophone. Rickey told Trevor that she did not have it and did not know what had happened to it. The mystery of the whereabouts of Doc Ryker's saxophone has been solved. Rickey was present at this year's Festival, as was the legendary Bill Donahoe.
Bill, of course, is the originator of the Bix Festival. [See the article just below this one]. I have corresponded with Bill since 1998. He sent me loads of precious information (including irreplaceable original photographs) about the pilgrimage of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band of New Jersey to Davenport in 1971. I knew him, through our correspondence, as a generous and considerate individual. It was a distinct pleasure and privilege to meet him, and his charming wife Chickie, in person at this year's Festival. Considering the enormous impact that Bill has had in the world of Bixology, he is a rather modest individual. Whenever he is praised for what he has accomplished, he deflects the compliments toward his friends in the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band and takes no credit for himself. A real gentleman!
After this digression, let us get back to Doc Ryker's saxophone. Since Doc and his family lived in the East Coast in the 1960s, I imagined that he would have been invited to the "Bix Lives" gatherings in Bill's house. When I asked Bill if Doc ever attended his tributes, a spark of special recognition lit his eyes and he said, "Of course. What a great guy he was." And he added, "You know that Doc gave me his saxophone." I did not know. Bill continued, "When I moved from New Jersey I gave Doc's saxophone to Vinnie [Vince] Giordano. I couldn't think of a better keeper of the flame than Vinnie. He in turn will pass it on to another deserving individual." I totally agreed with Bill and then called Rickey to meet Bill. It was like a family reunion of relatives who had not seen each other for a long time. Rickey was so pleased to find out what had happened to her father's saxophone and they went on talking about Doc and the old days... The scene practically repeated itself with Bill Barnes, the leader of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band. Bill B. also knew Doc and had a special affection for him. Bill B. was aware that Doc's saxophone had gone first to Bill D. and eventually to Vince Giordano. It was indeed a family reunion, a family of Bixophiles.
Closing Comments. I have been corresponding now for quite a while with a number of Bixophiles from across this country and around the world. I met many of them in person for the first time at the festival. They are too numerous to be mentioned individually, but to all of them I want to express the pleasure of meeting them and my gratitude for their support of the Bixography.
Finally I want to express publicly my thanks to Rich Johnson, not only for what he does for the Bix Festival, but for his help whenever I ask him for information. As an example, let me cite that I considered the possibility of visiting the Blue Lantern Inn in Lake Hudson, Indiana on my way to the Chicago Airport. In spite of the fact that Rich was extemely busy with the members of the various bands, the arrangements, and the crisis that develop, he took the time to make a copy of a detailed map to Lake Hudson and gave me instructions as to how to find the cabin where Bix had lived in the summer of 1926.
I look forward to the 2002 Festival and
the ones beyond.
the 2002 Festival.
The theme of the 2002 Festival was "Jazz, the Sound of America." The motto of the festival was "There are No Strangers at the Bix Festival." You can see the poster on the image at the right.
The 2002 edition was another great Festival in a series that began in 1972. The format was very similar to the one in 2001. There were eleven bands playing in four venues: the Col Ballroom, Danceland, Le Claire Park and the Holiday Inn. The program provided the following description of the various venues.
Le Claire Park. This green grassy setting has always
been our "home" venue. It's where many persons gathered from all over
the world to first celebrate the genius of Davenport-born Bix. Here one can
relaz in a most unusual park atmosphere and enjoy super bands performing the
music of Bix's era in a grand old, authentic "Roaring '20s band shell. Where
else could one savor top-of-the-line jazz while watching big riverboats, with
their huge strings of barges, pass by or see an array of ppleasure boats, form
yachts to moorboats, and, at night, bask in the glow of he lighted Centennial
Bridge, arching nearby over the Mississippi river?
Col Ballroom. The Col Ballroom, where Bix often played, is one of the oldest, and best-preserved ballrooms still in every day use in the Uniited States. It has served the Bix Society faithfully and well since the first Friends of Bix Cocktail Party was held 31 years ago, and has hosted the party and our jazz concerts eversince. The Bix Cocktail Party, open to everyone, inttroduces four ofr five of the Festival bands on the night before the regualr concerts begin. It's always a joyous occasion, with friends sitting together at tables in front of the bandstand, dancers, many in "Roaring '20s" dress, whirling around the floor, under the spinning globe spreading stardust light. The Col Ballroom seats about 700, and there are two bars and refreshement stands, as well as a souvenir section.
Danceland Ballroom. Just a few jazz beats, a skip and a jumpfrom the Col Ballroom and Le Claire Park is another lovingly and authentically restored ballroom from out of the past, Danceland. Here Bix's golden cornet once bounced perfect notes off the assive overhead beams. Though the bandshell is of midest size, it was big enough for the huge Paul Whiteman Orchestra to squeeze onto when the "King of Jazz," with whom Bix was a featured player, visited Davenport in the "Roaring '20s." This lovely old period ballroom's owners went to great trouble and exponse to recreate it much as it was in Bix's day.
Davenport Holiday Inn. Though much younger than the Col and Danceland, the Holiay Inn has been at the center as Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival history has been made. There might not have been a Bixfest had not the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band of New Jersey, with leader Bill Donahoe, elected that electrifying jam session at the Davenport Holiday Inn way back 32 years ago, 31 years ago, in 1971. They'd come to visit Bix, their idol's odl Davenport haunts, playing on a riverboat and over Bix's grave, but the jam session was so great that hundreds squeezed into the Holiday Inn to take part. It is THE place to be for those far-into-the-wee-hours jam session, following the regularly scheduled evening concerts. It's also the site for our popular "Bix AfterGlow Party," on Sunday nights, after the regular Le Claire Park Sunday afternoon concert, officially ending the Festival.
Concert at Bix's Gravesite. In my opinion, the highlight of the Festival is the
traditional concert at Bix's gravesite, in Oakdale Memorial Park. The Bix
Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band of New Jersey started the tradition in 1971,
and it has been followed each year eversince. This year, the honor
of being the band at Bix's gravesite fell upon the New Wolverine
Orchestra. This is a first-class group of Australian musicians led by Trevor
Rippingale who describes their music as follows, "Our central focus is to
celebrate the music of Bix Beiderbecke and the musicians and bands with whom
he played. " Trevor plays mostly alto sax and clarinet. Geoff Power is on
cornet, Robert Smith on piano, Harry Harman on bass, Strewart Binstead on
guitar and banjo, Jim Elliott on trombone and Neil (Chauncey) Macbeth on
drums. They play music from the Wolverines, the Trumbauer, the Goldkette and
the Whiteman bands, arranged for seven instruments. Of course, the New
Wolverines do a great job with the music from the smaller bands. But it is
remarkable how this small group of musicians recreate very well the music of
the huge Whiteman band. The New Wolverines were in Davenport for the 2000
Festival and had played at Bix's gravesite. Most of the people that I talked
to who had seen the New Wolverines in their previous appearance agreed with me
that the band sounds even better than they did two years ago! They played the
following numbers: Davenport Blues, I'm Coming Virginia, West End Blues, I'll
Be A Friend With Pleasure, Black and Tan Fantasy, There Ain't No Land Like
Dixieland To Me, Blue River, Riverboat Shuffle, At the Jazz Band Ball and Jazz
Me Blues. Trevor prefaced every song with some comments and historical
remarks. Since the New Wolverines were doing a tribute to Bix, he included two
numbers from Bix's contemporaries, Louis and Duke, as tributes that they would
have like to make on behalf of Bix. It was a memorable presentation and we
should all thank Trevor and the New Wolverines for their extraordinary efforts
to keep Bix's music alive. Those who have never attended the tribute to Bix at
gravesite cannot understand what it represents. Being near the place where Bix
is buried, seeing the Beiderbecke family stones -in particular Bix's stone
with floral offerings (one, a lone red rose deposited on the stone every year
by Bix fan Ruediger Machwirth)- and listening to Bix's music played by
an excellent group of musicians is an irreplaceable experience.
[As an aside, I would like to point out that Trevor referred to the clarinet solo in I'll Be A Friend With Pleasure as a Benny Goodman solo. Of course this is a controversial subject. I, and perhaps a few others, believe that Goodman played the solo. On the other hand, many Forum participants and experts believe that Jimmy Dorsey played that solo.]
AfterGlow. After three days of hectic schedules, on Sunday evening, a few hundred die-hard fans remain in Davenport and get together at the Holiday Inn for the final concert. This year, we had a special treat. Josh Duffee and His Orchestra gave us a recreation of the legendary Jean Goldkette Orchestra. I had heard Josh and his band throughout the week. They play music -as Josh tells us- from the '10s, '20s and '30s. Josh thrives to bring in an authentic sound to the numbers he plays -and succeeds admirably. The 15-piece orchestra consists of three trumpets, four reeds, two trombones, banjo/guitar, flute, violin, xylophone, bass and drums. For the special Afterglow concert, Josh was joined by the members of the New Wolverine Orchestra. With the addition of four vocalists (three playing the role of the Keller Sisters) Josh was leading a 26-piece orchestra! The orchestra played, with one exception, an all-Goldkette program. They started with a rendition in slow march tempo of "Valencia." It turns out that in the legendary battle of the bands between the Jean Goldkette and Fletcher Henderson orchestras at Roseland in October 1926, the Goldkette band started -at the astonishment of the patrons- with Valencia. Following "Valencia," Josh and his orchestra went on with a dynamic rendition of "My Pretty Girl Stomp." That was an exact replica of the 1927 version by the Goldkette orchestra. Each musician reproduced exactly the notes played by the original musicians in the recording. But that is not enough. One of the key features of the Goldkette sound was the enormous drive brought in by every musician. Well, I tell you, the Josh Duffy orchestra had that drive. Those of you who know me realize I am highly demanding when it comes to have the sound of the 20s replicated by modern musicians. I was extremely astonished -and gratified- to find that authentic 20s sound in the performance by Josh and his orchestra. The evening went on with great Goldkette numbers: "I'm Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now," "Proud of A Baby Like You" (with three delightful young ladies doing a great reproduction of the Keller Sisters and Lynch vocal in the original recording), "Sunday" (by request from the audience, with the "Keller Sisters" again), "In My Merry Oldsmobile" (the fox-trot version), "Blue River" and "Clementine." The band closed with a composition by David Basden -"Halfway Blue" with magnificent solos by Geoff Power on cornet and Trevor Rippingale on alto sax. It was an amazing tour de force with a fantastic emulation of the Goldkette sound. At the end of the performance, Alann Krivor, the grandnephew of Jean Goldkette, presented Josh "The Jean Goldkette Award for Excellence" in the form of a framed baton. The audience -many, local residents from the Quad City area- was ecstatic. Josh is to be commended not only for the quality of the music he recreated but also by his approach and attitude. Throughout the festival, Josh emphasized the contribution of Frank van Nus to the music. The arrangements were transcribed by Frank from the original Goldkette recordings. [I wish Frank had been at the Festival. He would have been so pleased to see and hear the results of his travails]. Josh also repeatedly acknowledged his gratefulness to Rich Johnson for his encouragement and for hiring the band for the Festival. Josh is concerned about historical accuracy and provided a little background to each song the orchestra played. It is refreshing to see a nice, 22-year old young man who gives credit where credit belongs and who admires and appreciates the musical contributions from musicians who made their marks in the '20s and '30s. The task of finding 14 musicians, obtaining charts, rehearsing and coming up -in a relatively short time- with an accomplished orchestra and a high-quality emulation of the Jean Goldkette sound is daunting, to say the least. Josh, through hard work and determination succeeded beyond any expectations. Josh joins a series of distinguished Goldkette awardees -The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, Spiegle Willcox, and Trevor Rippingale and The New Wolverines. The Goldkette Foundation Award to Josh was highly deserved.
Final Comments. Bixophiles from around the world owe a great debt of gratitude to all the officials in the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society. I regret that I do not know most of them, and therefore I will name only Ray Voss, the new president of the Society, Rich Johnson, the musical director for the Festival, and Annie Pert, the treasurer for the Society. They and their fellow officials and volunteers- under very tight and difficult financial constraints- manage every year to bring to completion a great Festival to keep the memory of Bix alive. We are looking forward to next year's festival. I am confident that, 2003 being the one hundredth anniversary of Bix's birth, the 2003 Festival will be very special.
Photographs of Josh Duffee.
1. The Josh Duffee Orchestra at Danceland, July 2002.
2. Josh Duffee receiving the Goldkette Award from Jean Goldkette's grandnephew, Alann Krivor.
3. Trevor Rippingale (leader of the New Wolverine Jazz orchestra), Crystal Snow (flute player in the orchestra), Josh Duffee, Ray Voss (president of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society) and Alann Krivor.
I am grateful to Alann Krivor for kindly sending me copies of the photos from the Festival.
This was the very special festival: the one to celebrate Bix’s 100th birthday. And indeed, it was special. The theme was "Preserving A National Treasure." Attendance was very high, great bands played excellent music –several in the style of Bix- and a large contingent of members of the Beiderbecke family were present. The weatherman cooperated with temperatures in the 80s and not too much humidity. As far as I could tell, everything worked like a well-regulated clock. The officials of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society did a great job of organizing the various events, the volunteers were friendly and helpful.
I urge all Bixophiles to join the society, even if they do
not plan on coming to the festivals. Here is the page on membership from the
society’s website http://www.bixsociety.org/
Join The Bix Jazz Club Today
Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society Jazz Club Members become part of a very unique organization.
Not only do members help the non-profit Society meet the heavy financial goals of presenting the annual festival, but they also receive benefits themselves. One important benefit of the $l5 annual membership fee is the big, acclaimed Bix Notes Newsletter, published three times a year to keep members up-to-date on upcoming Festival events, Bix Society information of interest, special events, ticket and motel information, maps and much more.
There are members from all over the world! Members also receive certain discounts. In the early days of the Bix Society, the newsletter was a single mimeographed sheet, with information on both sides. But for more than 20 years, it has been a slick, professionally-edited and printed publication of from 8 to 10 pages, complete with photographs and graphics. There are Spring, Summer and Fall editions.
If you're interested in Bix Beiderbecke, the musician and his legend, and what is being done by admirers like you to perpetuate his accomplishments - Bix Jazz Club membership, and Bix Notes is for you.
Just fill out the membership form and make checks available to Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society, P.O. Box 3688, Davenport, Iowa 52808. Questions: (563) 324-7170.
I will mention only five of the bands (in strict alphabetical order). These were the bands that brought back the sound and spirit of Bix’s music.
The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band. This band started the whole nine yards back in 1971. The two Bills, Bill Donahoe (on washboard) and Bill Barnes (on cornet) displayed the same enthusiasm about Bix that they have had for several decades. Other members of the band (also highly enthusiastic about the music they were playing) were Les Deutsch (piano), Kirk Prebyl (drums), Noel Kaletsky (sax), Rick Kittel (trombone), Bill Lezotte (banjo), Bruce McNichols (clarinet) and Sam Notto (tuba). They played in a dynamic manner and although they did not copy the arrangements in Bix’s records, they played with a highly Bixian “feeling.” This was the band, appropriately, that played on Saturday morning at Bix’s gravesite. More about that below.
Josh Duffee’s Orchesta. I became acquainted with Josh and his band in last year’s festival. Since then, I heard them play in Racine, WI, earlier this year at Phil Pospychala’s Tribute to Bix and in Davenport in March 2003 in connection with the celebration of Bix’s 100th birthday. The band consists of Josh Duffee (leader and drums), David Abdo (string bass), Scott Morschauser (xylophone), Julie Craighead (sax and clarinet, Matt Craighead (sax and clarinet), Kelly McNichols (sax and clarinet), Kent Rockow (trumpet), Greg Kitzpatrick (trumpet), Alan Napper (trumpet), Bruce Bogen (trombone), Chuck Conella (trombone), Greg Schwaegler (violin), Crystal Snow (flute), Scott Silver (banjo/guitar), John O’Meara, Daphne Biddal, Holly Free, Venessa Free (vocals). The band was augmented by Frank van Nus (on trumpet), a contributor to the Bixography forum and music teacher in the Netherlands who transcribed the Jean Goldkette records for Josh. The band has expanded its repertoire beyond what Goldkette recorded in the 1920s. I found that the band sounds a lot tighter this year than last year. I also enjoyed Frank leaving his chair and assuming the role of bandleader on a couple of occasions (one of them, My Pretty Girl). Frank received the 2003 Jean Goldkette Foundation award during the “Afterglow” event. The award, quite appropriately, was a framed baton. Overall, the band has an excellent sound and comes close to emulating the sound of the “real” Goldkette band from the 1920s.
The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra. This band comes very close to emulating the sound of the 1920s. Although, the band consists of only seven musicians (Trevor Rippingale, leader and reeds; Geoff Power, cornet; Peter Locke, piano; David Basden, sousaphone; Stewart Binstead, banjo/guitar; Jim Elliott, trombone; Neil “Chauncey” Macbeth, drums), they are able to perform and emulate the sound of much bigger bands (Goldkette or Whiteman). The band was one of three who participated in the “Afterglow” event. The New Wolverines are an excellent group of talented musicians. My favorite session by this group was on Thursday afternoon at the Putnam Museum. The Wolverines played an all-Bix tunes concert, several tunes going back to the 1924 Wolverine Orchestra recordings. The excellent musical proficiency of all the musicians in the orchestra and their deep feeling and understanding of Bix's music is to be commended.
Ralph Norton’s Varsity Ramblers. I have seen the Varsity Ramblers several times in Davenport. Ralph (leader and cornet) strives and succeeds in producing an authentic 1920s sound. His fellow musicians were Armin J. Jack Meilhan (banjo/guitar0, Tom Bartlett (trombone), John Gill (drums), Mike Montgomery (piano), Glenn Meyer (reeds) and the muti-talented Vince Giordano (string bass, tuba, bass saxophone). Ralph may have an unusual (to put it mildly) sense of humor, but his band has an excellent sound.
West End Jazz Band. I have seen this band in the past, and they seem to get better and better. The musicians are Mike Bezin (leader and cornet), Leah Bezin (banjo/guitar/vocals), Frank Gualtieri (trombone), Mke Walbridge (tuba), Greg Dearth (reeds), Mike Albiniak (drums). The band specializes in hot dance band arrangements and sounds just like one of the hot dance bands fo the 1920s. The ensemble as well as solo work is excellent and Mike plays cornet with an unmistakable Bixian flavor.
The Gravesite Concert.
Traditionally, Saturday morning of the festival finds people gathering around the Beiderbecke family site in Oakdale cemetery and one of the bands at the Festival plays music associated with Bix. This year, the band was the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band. I am happy that this was the chosen band as we have so much to thank them for. The leader of the band, Bill Barnes, also acted as MC. He fulfilled his obligations with grace, humor and feeling. The band started the music by playing the traditional “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” and played nothing but hymns. Among the tunes, I cite Down by the Riverside, Take My Hands Precious Lord and When the Saints Go Marching In. I think it was an excellent choice of tunes for the special 100th Bix birthday celebration. The audience participated enthusiastically. The band received a highly deserved standing ovation at the end.
Bill also introduced Howard Braren, great-grand son of Henry Beiderbecke, brother of Bix’s grandfather Carl (also known as Charles and as “Opa.”). Howard in turn introduced other members of the family who in turn introduced other members… I may have missed some, but here are some of the family who were introduced. From the Carl Beiderbecke side (Carl was Bix’s grandfather): Richard Bix Beiderbecke and his children, Chris and Liz (Richard is the only surviving son of Charles “Burnie” Beiderbecke, Bix’s brother; Ted Shoemaker; Charles Bix Shoemaker and his son Charles Bix, Jr.; Julian Shoemaker and his daughters Linda and Laura. The three Shoemakers brothers are the sons of Mary-Louise, Bix’s sister. From the Henry Beiderbecke (Bix’s granduncle) side of the family, we had Howard Braren, Fred Beiderbecke, Henry “Hank” Beiderbecke and Sally Beiderbecke. So it was quite an interesting gathering of members of the Beiderbecke family.
The Festival Jazz Lithurgy At Historic First Presbyterian,
Bix’s Home Church.
Continuing a tradition begun five years ago. There were two services, one at 8:30 and one at 10:30. I attended the 8:30 service. The Blue Street Jazz band provided the music. Reverend Sue Howes, Associate Pastor Emerita, gave the sermon “Beyond the Melody.” As usual, the service was of the highest calibre in terms of music, sermon, singing and dancing by the Bix Sunday Jazz Ensemble. In the basement, church goers enjoyed an excellent exhibit of photographs of Bix and his family.
I must also mention that I enjoyed very much meeting several of the members of the Beiderbecke family. They are invariably friendly and nice people.
All in all, a great chapter in the history of Bix Festivals in Davenport. Thanks to Ray Voss, Rich Johnson and all the officials of the Bix society for their selfless dedication to the preservation of Bix’s musical legacy.
1. Bill Donahoe and his washboard.
2. Albert and Danish Bixophile Flemming in front of Bix's bust in LeClaire Park.
3. Close-up of image in Flemming's T-shirt. (Designed and created by Flemming).
4. Concert at gravesite.
5. People and cars in front of Col ballroom.
6. The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra in the Holiday Inn.
7. The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band in the Beiderbecke family cemetery plot.
8. The West End Jazz Band at LeClaire Park.
9. The First Presbyterian Church in Davenport.
10. Announcement of Jazz Church Liturgy.
11. Bill Barnes addressing the audience at gravesite concert.
12. Ralph Norton's Varsity Ramblers at LeClaire Park.
13. People gathering outside Holiday Inn to go to the gravesite concert.
Images 1-8 were kindly sent to me by Bixophile Flemming
1. The Music.
In my opinion the three best bands were, in alphabetical order, Josh Duffee and His Orchestra, Spats Langham and His Rhythm Boys, and the West End Jazz Band.
The "boys" in Spats band are Mike Durham (cornet and spokesman, great sense of humor); Norman Field, reeds; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Nick Ward, drums; Paul Munnery, trombone; Jeff Barnhardt, piano. Spats plays guitar, banjo, ukelele, and sings. I have often said that it is very difficult to find a drummer who plays in an authentic 1920s style. In fact, it seems to me that it is the most difficult instrument use in the emulation of the sound of the 1920s. Nick plays drums in a completely authentic manner -and with flair. All the musicians were first-class. I have a weakness for the bass sax, and Frans is one of the foremost exponents. The rhythm he provides and his improvisations are superb. Norman is a terrific reed player. I did not know Spats. I was so favorably impressed by this multi-talented musician! Vocal is another difficult part of 1920s music. Modern singers just don't have it. Spats does. You should have heard him in his emulations of Cliff Edwards and many other vocal renditions. Great personality.
Josh Duffee's orchestra is improving year by year. They add new tunes to their repertoire, thanks, in part, to some great transcriptions by Frank van Nus (who was a guest trumpet player with Josh throughout the festival). On opening night on Thursday evening, Josh and His Orchestra played at the Col Ballroom and were joined by Randy Sandke playing Bix's Bach 620 cornet. Randy soloed on "In My Merry Oldsmobile" and "Jazz Me Blues." What an outstanding musician he is.
The West End Jazz band also keeps on improving yera by year. They have an authentic 1920s sound, whether they play jazz or hot dance band tunes.
2. The People.
There were several forumites present at the festival. It was good to meet those I had not met before, and re-encounter those I knew.
I spent quite a bit of time with Randy on Thursday morning at the Beiderbecke Inn. Considering his remarkable standing as one of the best New York jazz musicians, I found him to be a straighforward, no-nonsense, and very friendly individual. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with him. I played for Randy the three takes of Miller's "Cradle of Love" and the three takes of "When A Woman Loves A Man" by Roger Wolfe Kahn. I asked his opinions about the identities of the Bixian soloists in the two tunes. His reply was unequivocal, competent emulators, but certainly not Bix. The characteristic Bix vibrato and his articulation were missing, Randy told me. In addition, he did not think that the soloist in any of the takes of the two tunes exhibited any signs of weakness.
I also asked him about the two takes of "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" by Roger Wolfe Kahn, and the single take of "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" by Annette Hanshaw. His firm reply: the soloist in the two takes of "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" was not a jazz musician. Since Muggsy was a jazz musician, the soloist in "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" by Roger Wolfe Kahn is not Muggsy, Randy tells me.
3. The Saturday Morning and Sunday
The band at Bix's graveside was the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Band. As usual, they did a very good job of playing a mixture of Bix's tunes and some hymns. Bill Barnes, the leader of the band, has an engaging personality and told some amusing anecdotes.
The Sunday morning liturgy at First Presbyterian Church, Bix's chidlhood church, is always a worthwhile event. There was a good sermon about Bix's mother by Rev. Richard Wereley.
4. The Beiderbecke Family
This is the piano that the Beiderbecke family bought in 1925. It was taken to Colorado by Charles Beiderbecke (Bix's uncle) and donated to the Putnam Museum in the 1990s, I believe. It was rolled out from its usual location for two excellent pianists to play, James Harding and Rod Biensen.
5. The Goldkettte
The recipient of the 2005 Goldkette Award is none other than Rich Johnson, music director for the Bix Festival, member of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society Board, guitarist, Bix researcher/historian, who is the world expert on anything related to Bix in Davenport and Bix's family. Congratulations to Rich! A highly deserved honor for all his contributions to Bixology and to keeping Bix's music alive.
5. The River Music Experience Collection. Under
Go to http://bixbeiderbecke.com/photos2005fest.html
Additional information can be found in an article by Jim Arpy in
"Bix, The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story", by Phil and Linda Evans, in
"Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey: The Dorsey Years", by Herb Sanford, in an
article by Jerry Verbel for the Leisure West News in January 1998 (the article
was reprinted in the March 1998 issue of the Jersey Jazz Magazine and in the
July/August issue of Jazz Me News), in an article by John S. Wilson for the
Sunday, October 28, 1973 edition of he New York Times and in an article by
Kathleen McCarthy in http://www.revealed.net/bixbeiderbecke/hist_bob.htm
This section could not have been written without the invaluable help of Bill Donahoe and Jim (Hugh) Donahoe. I acknowledge with appreciation their advice and support. I am greatly indebted to Bill Donahoe for the loan of precious material from his personal collection. I thank Bill Barnes for providing additional information about the members of the band who played in Davenport in 1971.
Through His Music, Bix Is
BRIEF TABLE OF CONTENTS
|A Brief Biography||Articles in Magazines||The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society|
|Bix's Musical Genius||Video Tapes||Items of Special Interest|
|Biographies||Audio Tapes||Information of Related Interest|
|Chapters in Books||Museums||A Stamp for Bix in 2003|
|Scholarly Dissertations||Miscellaneous||Links to Related Sites|
|Obituaries||Readers' Queries and Remarks||Celebration of Bix's Musical Legacy|
The Original 78's
Analysis of Some Recordings: Is It Bix or Not ?
Complete Compilations of Bix's Recordings
Tributes to Bix
Miscellaneous Recordings Related to Bix
In A Mist