Finding Bix: The Life and
Afterlife of a Jazz Legend.
Univ. of Iowa.
May 2017. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN
9781609385064. pap. $24.95
; ebk. ISBN
Hailing from Bix Beiderbecke’s (1903–31)hometown of Davenport, IA, the author charts his personal quest to understand the somewhat elusive history and character of the jazz cornetist. Wolfe begins with a brief history of the town and its role in nurturing Beiderbecke. He continues
with the now familiar story: Beiderbecke as a child prodigy on piano; his first infatuation with jazz and supposed meeting with Louis Armstrong; his dedication to jazz in Chicago; his heyday with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; his precipitous decline after only six years; and his death from alcoholism. Throughout, he weighs the sometimes contradictory evidence in previous works about
Beiderbecke, such as Richard Sudhalter and Philip Evans’s meticulous Bix: Man and Legend, and
Ralph Berton’s more chatty Remembering Bix.
Breezy, engaging, and entertaining, this new entry in the Beiderbecke bibliography will be a fascinating starting point for those unfamiliar with the musician but will be of less interest to jazz fans who already know the basic story.
David P. Szatmary, formerly Univ. of Washington
I still did not get my copy of "Finding Bix" from amazon. To include in the same sentence Sudhalter and Evans and Berton (the former meticulous, the latter more chatty) gives an impression of equivalence between these two works. Nothing could be farther from reality. Sudhalter and Evans is a scholarly work, with detailed documentation; Berton is full of fabrications and false information.