I think it is possible that the underlying reason why Nichols stated "only a person who is musically ignorant finds any similarity between my work and Bix's" was his annoyance at the comparisons that were often made between his own playing and that of Bix by jazz writers, rather than the statement being a strong denial of any influence. In making such comparisons, Nichols' playing was invariably belittled while Bix's was consistently praised (I think Edgar Jackson of the Melody Maker might be the earliest such critic, in comparing Bix with the warmth of the sun and Nichols with ice).
Bix's death occurred at around the same time as jazz itself was starting to be recognised and regarded as an art form separate from dance music. Before his death, Bix was rightly hailed by fellow jazz musicians as a leading protagonist in the jazz world; a few years after it, his status had risen to the point where he had become the epitome of an iconic jazz artist amongst far wider audiences. As Bix's status rose phoenix-like in the 1930s, so the commercially successful Nichols slowly but surely became a useful scapegoat to deride in comparison. In reviewing his earlier recordings, the new post-war breed of highly ideological jazz writers at best seemed to damn him with faint praise and at worst dismissed his work out-of-hand....and more often than not there would be the comparison with Bix.
The application of the pejorative "commercial" label to Nichols' recordings by such writers was as deliberate as the insinuation of plagiarism through comparison with Bix. This was especially unfair given that such disparaging remarks were rarely applied by writers to Nichols' contemporaries or at least they were not singled out for derision. Manny Klein and Sylvester Ahola are two examples of Nichols' contemporaries who were also influenced by Bix and who were, like Nichols, financially astute. Ahola often stated that he was a "business trumpet player" and Klein was one of the studio "elite" for years, a position he closely guarded. Yet Nichols was also regarded by both musicians as one of the best - Ahola told me himself that Nichols was a key early influence. Indeed, most of Nichols' contemporaries respected him as a musician, and many paid due deference to his pioneering body of work from the early Red Heads to the later Five Pennies.
This message has been edited by ahaim on Dec 7, 2009 8:00 AM This message has been edited by ahaim on Dec 7, 2009 7:03 AM