Cloudy: An Authentic or Apocryphal Bix Composition?


From the bixography website at Compositions by Bix: Authentic or   Apocryphal?

In the documentary "Bix: Ain't None of Them Play Like Him Yet", Charlie Davis, band leader and composer of "Copenhagen", states that he heard Bix play a composition that he called "Cloudy". Davis claims that he recorded that tune in his mind and played it in the documentary. A transcription of the tune (music and lyrics) was published as the last page of the book "That Band from Indiana" by Charlie Davies, Mathom Publishing Company, Oswego, NY, 1982. The tune was recorded by Randy Sandke and is available in the CD Awakening (Concord CD 42049-2). Randy Sandke made an arrangement for trumpet and orchestra and gives it the subtitle "Homage to Bix". According to Randy Sandke (Bix Beiderbecke: Observing a Genius at Work, 1996), this may be the same tune called "Clouds" and described by Chip Deffaa in his book "Voices of the Jazz Age", University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1990. "Stacy, who adored Beiderbecke's work, remembered him playing a piece called "Clouds" in a jam session once."
    In the documentary, Davis states that Bix was a "black key man". This is incorrect. I take the expression "black key man" to describe a musician who prefers to play predominantly in keys, that, on the piano, include numerous black keys in the scale. All of Bix's piano music was written in the key of C. As a matter of fact, Bill Challis and Paul Mertz were quite upset when they heard Davis' comment about the black keys. Bill Challis, who worked with Bix and transcribed all of Bix's piano compositions, knew well that Bix was not a "black key man".

Here is a scan of the pertinent page in Davis' book.

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Cloudy is also included in Randy's album "The Re-discovered Louis and Bix." Here is an mp3 file.

Randy's trumpet sound is so brilliant and accurate!

Tom Pletcher comments on "Cloudy" in his series "In A Myth."


In the filmed interview, Davis, while reminiscing about his brief encounters in 1924 with Bix and the Wolverines, remembers the following: I remember Bix played (piano) a tune I had never heard, before or since, but I recorded it in my own mind. I remember he was a great man to play on the black keys. He was a black key man

    Sorry Charlie but Bix was anything BUT a black key man. That fact was clearly established while Bix was alive. He played piano in C and F, as other self-taught players prefer or are most familiar. All of Bixs piano pieces are in concert C. He recorded For No Reason At All In C with Trumbauer and Lang. There was a very good reason: Bixs limitation at the piano.

    Cloudy a nostalgic piece made up of a simple melody and block chords has no typical Bixian runs or extended or impressionistic chords so associated with Bix. Nor did anyone with whom I knew and consulted ever heard this piece until Daviss on camera rendition.

    That Charlie Davis should have been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance does have merit, in my opinion. During the years 1973-92, I was in failry close company with the following men who were associated with Bix during his brief life. They were Bill Challis, Paul Mertz, Bill Priestley, Esten Spurrier, Bill Rank. Other fellow contemporary Bixians were Edwin Squirrel Ashcraft, James Rosy McHargue, Joe Rushton, with whom I shared the passion. Researcher friends have included Philip Evans and Norman Gentieu. Not one of the guys who viewed and heard Davis perform, thought Cloudy was Bixs composition nor did anyone hear Bix play a piece resembling Daviss rendition for the documentary. That Charlie wanted to be remembered as a Bix sympathizer is obvious and the film gave him his last moment in the sun and opportunity for immortality along with Bix. Sorry again Charlie.

    Regarding Davis's claim about Bix having several tones and that the girls liked his dirty tone, give me a break! Listen to anything Bix recorded and tell me when you hear anything except that clear sound that only Bix got, even when he had to play into a mute. Incidentally, the above film rendition of Cloudy is played in concert Db, a key which Bix and most other self taught and limited pianists would stay away from at all costs.

    My concerns are that Charlie Davis's claims have already been accepted as fact and recorded by sincere and wonderful musicians as a further tribute to dear Bix.

    The late biographer/author Philip Evans devoted many early years of his fact-finding research into disproving and dispelling the many absurd rumors that had surfaced since Bixs death. Now, I feel a duty and a need to speak out on suspect matters of conjecture and claims related to the legend of Bix.


This message has been edited by ahaim on Dec 2, 2011 5:26 PM

Posted on Dec 2, 2011, 6:47 AM

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