Nice collection

by Mark Gabrish Conlan

A nice collection of various versions of "Candlelights," even though some of them leave something to be desired. Red Nichols' 1953 version was obviously inspired by (and largely copied from) the Joe Lippman arrangement recorded by Bunny Berigan and His Boys in 1937, and it's good but I'd have liked to hear Nichols featured more.

The Beau Hunks are a saxophone ensemble and they're good, though I think the Euregio Saxophone Quartet did this type of arrangement on "Candlelights" better.

Geoff Muldaur's version is from what sounds like a really bizarre Bix tribute album called "Personal Astronomy" (the record cover is a drawing of Bix based on one of the most famous photos and a night sky with some of the stars forming a constellation of a cornet) and it seems to have been strongly influenced by Gil Evans, particularly the arrangements he wrote for Miles Davis. (Gil Evans did a really beautiful recording of "Davenport Blues," though with Johnny Coles instead of Davis as the trumpet soloist.)

Randy Sandke's is from a live concert video and is prefaced by an introduction featuring his pianist, Mark Shane, playing "In a Mist" in a version quite closely patterned on Bix's own. It's credited on YouTube to bass saxophonist Scott Robinson, and he's quite good, as is clarinetist Ken Peplowski. This one's a keeper.

Bucky Pizzarelli's is actually from an album he did with four other guitarists -- Artie Ayerson, Barry Galbraith, Allen Hanlon and Tony Mottola -- with arrangements by Bill Challis. Obviously Challis' participation gives an air of authenticity to this project since it was he who actually wrote down the piece originally as Bix performed it, but the five guitarists sound awfully "busy" together and I much prefer the versions of "In the Dark" and "Flashes" Pizzarelli recorded on solo guitar.

While I had the YouTube page up I also rooted around for other items and found a Jimmy McPartland version of "In a Mist" from 1950 or so on the Prestige label's "Dixieland Series." I hadn't realized Prestige had a Dixieland series; I'd thought they were a modern jazz label exclusively. It's pitched uncertainly between Dixieland and modern, and the best part is the piano work by Jimmy's wife Marian McPartland (credited under her maiden name, Marian Page). The link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXQBTTFOKEc

And in the middle of all this I went back to first principles and listened to "Candlelights" come scritto, as a piano solo piece exquisitely played by the great Dick Hyman on HIS Bix tribute album, "Thinking About Bix": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a4_m3QPKGE. As good as all the ensemble versions are, THIS is the one that most beautifully brings the piece to life.

Posted on Apr 2, 2017, 5:05 PM

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