Unless I dimly passsed over some past posting regarding this album, I don't recollect it being mentioned -- it's a 1959 LP recorded and manufactured in Chicago (the Chess Prooducing Corp) and the label is Argo.
"The Legend of Bix: A Fantasy on Bix as Played by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet" is the full name of this album, which I stumbled upon in Jerry's Used Records this past Saturday, the cover that proto pre-60's artwork of modernist shafts of violet,black, red and orange, with a little medallion of Bix in the young man with a horn depiction. I had no idea what to expect -- I was digging around seeing if any Johnny Hodges work was floating about, but I always look in the Bix bin for any unusual LP's before heading into the 78's room, coming upon this record. If any of you already already happen to have this record, give a shout -- post on this forum what your opinion of it is, or dig up the past discussion thread if there was one -- because if there was, it blew right past me. Did I see a Legend of Bix mention recently on a thread, or am I imagining it? But to the album --
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of the album is the endeavor to "create a fantasy on the coming of age of a young man who was deeply involved in the beginning of a very new art form". Side One are Tom Hilliard compositions titled, in order of track: "Nick LaRocca" "Little Louis and the King" "Paul Mares" and "The Ballad of Emmett Hardy." I am no musicologist and really can't venture an opinion worthy of the sort of discussion on this forum; my immpression of it was late 1950's smooth cool jazz arrangements, although pleasing nothing particularly jumping out at me.
But Side Two, all of the Beiderbecke compositions, were rendered in such a way that one has to take notice -- an admirable departure from the over-blended jelly of a lot of the 50's era's jazz pop sounds of mainstream-effect white ensembles. It prefigured Patrick Artero's arrangements of Bix's work by years in its startling freshness--In A Mist made that usually missing "bridge" -- of course which Bix himself omitted from his own recording - stand out with compelling clarity. Flashes sounded so new and original I had a rekindled liking for it; Davenport Blues jumped with post-swing energy, and I can't find the words for In the Dark or Candlelights -- superlative and seductively beautiful just sound mawkish from me, but I had to play those last two tracks over and over again. It wasn't that the musicianship, the instrumentation, was particularly superior -- the horns sometimes squawked a little, for a fact; there was no Bix cornet or could've-been-Bix-himself playing -- but there was so much heart in this effort and the manner of arrangement that I felt the artists were truly reaching for an understanding of Bix's soul, without feigning it or slamming themselves into anything near to being trite or obvious. It was a way of proclaiming Bix in a mid-20th century arrangement which shows just what kind of an advanced and involved composer Bix Beiderbecke really was, and what the world missed by his early demise-- if indeed this is an obscure album, it has in its depiction of Bix's work transcended time because HE could. Here are the musicians:
Tom Hilliard, tenor sax
Ed Haley, trumpet
Ed Avis, valve trombone
Dave Edwards, alto sax
Ben Baileys, baritone sax
Angelo Principali, piano
Gerry Lofstrum, bass
Jim Gianas, drums
Uh, so where are these guys now, who knows what about them, who can shed light on this Chicago label and this bunch of musicians, and if anyone of you own a copy yourselves, whatcha think?