Very interesting

by Alberta

So it is the case that the crowd at Carnegie Hall really was enthusiastic, as various Whiteman band members have claimed. It makes me happy that what Bix seemed to think was his principal contribution, the piano works, received acclaim and he saw it.

As for the myth of 2 mentions in print, I don't think I ever heard that one. I do recall someone writing, I think it was Sudhalter, perhaps in the intro to Bix Man and Legend, who mentioned that Bix was "praised" perhaps twice in print in his lifetime, though I can't find it now. No time to read the entire intro. The comment by Abel Green isn't praise. But I am sure Bix was praised more than twice in print. I mean, he played innumerable small towns and college dances and proms and it's hard to believe that college newspapers didn't go wild.

As for the piano compositions, my fave is Flashes, though I love them all and share the opinion Bix implied at least once, that his recorded jazz work is not in the same league as his piano compositions. To me it's clear that there's huge and somewhat wasted musical intelligence in the horn work. Wasted because when you're dealing with the constraints of chords the whole band is playing, AND when you're limited to 8 bars, there are limits to what you can do. But to my ear Bix pushed at those limits in nearly every solo, and in that way blazed a trail in dance music that most musicians were not equipped to trek with him. And to my ear, very few players indeed in the 1920s blazed similar trails.

I am finally reading Neil Gabler's book "Life: The Movie", in which, among many other ideas, he stresses the differences between entertainment and art. One is, entertainment (i.e., jazz dance music) appeals strictly to the emotions, while art (i.e., the piano compositions) appeals to the intellect as well. To me, what makes Bix's horn work great is that nearly all of it appeals to the intellect as well (as much as you can in 4 or 8 bars, that is), as do all the piano compositions. I really can't say that about most 20s dance music I've heard, though I'm willing to be educated if anyone has advice.

Posted on Feb 9, 2011, 5:50 AM

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