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Bix Beiderbecke

Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, pianist, and composer.

Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s, a cornet player noted for an inventive lyrical approach and purity of tone. His solos on seminal recordings such as "Singin' the Blues" and "I'm Coming, Virginia" (both 1927) demonstrate a gift for extended improvisation that heralded the jazz ballad style, in which jazz solos are an integral part of the composition. Moreover, his use of extended chords and an ability to improvise freely along harmonic as well as melodic lines are echoed in post-WWII developments in jazz. "In a Mist" (1927) is the best known of Beiderbecke's published piano compositions, and the only one that he recorded. His piano style reflects both jazz and classical (mainly impressionist) influences. All five of his piano compositions were published by Robbins Music during his lifetime.

A native of Davenport, Iowa, Beiderbecke taught himself to play the cornet largely by ear, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering technique that informed his unique style. He first recorded with Midwestern jazz ensemble The Wolverines in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Detroit-based Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie "Tram" Trumbauer for an extended engagement at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis, also under the auspices of Goldkette's organisation. Beiderbecke and Trumbauer joined Goldkette's main band at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit in 1926. The band toured widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in October 1926. He made his greatest recordings in 1927. The Goldkette band folded in September 1927 and, after briefly joining bass saxophone player Adrian Rollini's band in New York, Trumbauer and Beiderbecke joined America's most popular dance band: Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra.

Beiderbecke's most influential recordings date from his time with Goldkette and Whiteman, although he also recorded under his own name and that of Trumbauer's. The Whiteman period marked a precipitous decline in his health due to his increasing use of alcohol. Treatment for alcoholism in rehabilitation centers, with the support of Whiteman and the Beiderbecke family, failed to stop his decline. He left the Whiteman band in 1929 and in the summer of 1931 he died in his Sunnyside, Queens, New York apartment at the age of 28.

His death, in turn, gave rise to one of the original legends of jazz. In magazine articles, musicians' memoirs, novels, and Hollywood films, Beiderbecke has been envisaged as a Romantic hero, the "Young Man with a Horn" (a novel, later made into a movie starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, and Hoagy Carmichael). His life has often been portrayed as that of a jazz musician who had to compromise his art for the sake of commercialism. Beiderbecke remains the subject of scholarly controversy regarding his full name, the cause of his death and the importance of his contributions to jazz.

He composed or played on recordings that are jazz classics and standards such as "Davenport Blues", "In a Mist", "Copenhagen", "Riverboat Shuffle", "Singin' the Blues", and "Georgia On My Mind".

Birth and Death Data: Born March 10th, 1903 (Davenport), Died August 6th, 1931 (Long Island)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1924 - 1938

Roles Represented in DAHR: cornet, leader, composer, piano

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 113 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-27268 10-in. 1/11/1928 Parade of the wooden soldiers Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-30172 10-in. 1/12/1928 San Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor B-31206 10-in. 11/24/1924 I didn't know Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor B-31212 10-in. 11/25/1924 Adoration Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36813 10-in. 10/12/1926 Idolizing Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36814 10-in. 10/12/1926 I'd rather be the girl in your arms (Than the girl in your dreams) Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo (takes 5-8); with male vocal trio (takes 1-4) instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36815 10-in. 10/12/1926 Hush-a-bye Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36829 10-in. 10/15/1926 Sunday Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with mixed vocal chorus instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36830 10-in. 10/15/1926 Cover me up with sunshine (And feather my nest with love) Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-36831 10-in. 10/15/1926 Just one more kiss Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37579 10-in. 1/28/1927 Proud of a baby like you Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with mixed vocal trio instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37580 10-in. 1/28/1927 I'm looking over a four leaf clover Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37583 10-in. 1/31/1927 I'm gonna meet my sweetie now Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37584 10-in. 1/31/1927 Hoosier sweetheart Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37586 10-in. 2/1/1927 Look at the world and smile Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37587 10-in. 2/1/1927 My pretty girl Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37588 10-in. 2/1/1927 Stampede Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37599 10-in. 2/3/1927 Sunny disposish Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal quartet instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-37738 10-in. 2/3/1927 A lane in Spain Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal quartet instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-38135 10-in. 3/3/1927 I'm coming, Virginia Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal chorus instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-38264 10-in. 5/16/1927 In my merry Oldsmobile Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-38267 10-in. 5/23/1927 Play it, Red Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-38268 10-in. 5/23/1927 In my merry Oldsmobile Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal chorus instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-38607 10-in. 5/6/1927 Slow river Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, cornet  
Victor BVE-40211 10-in. 9/15/1927 Blue river Jean Goldkette Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, cornet  
(Results 1-25 of 113 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Beiderbecke, Bix," accessed August 5, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101889.

Beiderbecke, Bix. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved August 5, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101889.

"Beiderbecke, Bix." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 5 August 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/101889

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