contemporary perspective on Muggsy Spanier

by Phil Schaap

Dear Bixographers,

Anointing Muggsy Spanier to a trinity "of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s" is, of course, ridiculous.

What might be of interest to Bixographers is an instance of influence that Spanier has today and in fairly recent years.

I deal with a large number of young - college age - students and work with a significant number of young (teens to early forties) Jazz professional musicians.

It might hurt Bixographers to their hearts to know how few have heard Bix or even to have heard of him. Indeed, Jazz knowledge is at a nadir and pre-Hard Bop Jazz is largely unknown to recent generations.

In this malaise, I have been surprised by a young person mentioning Muggsy Spanier to me. They dig his soulful playing and embrace him as authentic and primary by any standard. Often, they are young trumpeters. Regardless to musicianship, they rarely can even suggest how they came to know of him. They certainly know nothing of the legendary Chicagoans, much less the Bucktown Five. Still, they whip out their phones, put an earbud into one of my ears and we listen to "Relaxin' At The Touro" together - master take, of course, and I never fail to mention that the their copies are inferior sonically. Yet it is miraculous that they have and like the recording at all.

This phenomenon is not widespread. But for every 5000 students who have not heard of or heard any of the following: Red Allen; Bunny Berigan; Doc Cheatham; ... Jabbo Smith; Lu Watters, and Snooky Young, 15 to thirty dig Muggsy Spanier and at the very least know "Relaxin' At The Touro".

Phil Schaap

Posted on Jan 17, 2018, 1:20 PM

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