Bix Beiderbecke was born Leon Bismark Beiderbecke on March 10, 1903 in Davenport, Iowa and began playing piano at age two standing on the floor and playing with his hands over his head. At seven he was lauded in the Davenport Daily Democrat tas being able to play any selection he hears. At age ten he slipping aboard one or another of the excursion boats to play the Calliope or at home trying to duplicate the silent matinee melodies.
His love of jazz came from listening to records by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band his brother brought him and from the excursion boats that stopped on the Mississippi. Bix taught himself to play cornet largely by ear listening to Nick LaRocca’s horn lines, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering creating his original sound.
While attending Davenport High School from 1919 to 1921 he played professionally with various bands, including those of Wilbur Hatch, Floyd Bean and Carlisle Evans, and in 1920 Beiderbecke performed for the school’s Vaudeville Night, singing in a vocal quintet called the Black Jazz Babies and playing his horn. However, due to his inability to read music he never got his union card.
Enrolled at the exclusive Lake Forest Academy, north of Chicago, Bix would often jump a train into Chicago, Illinois to catch the hot jazz bands at clubs and speakeasies, sometimes sit in with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and go to the Southside to listen to Black musicians who he referred to as real jazz musicians. Soon after, Beiderbecke began pursuing a career in music, moved to Chicago, joined the Cascades Band and gigged around the city until the fall of 1923.
He first recorded with Midwestern jazz ensembles, The Wolverines and The Bucktown Five in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Detroit-based Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer for an extended gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis. In 1926 Beiderbecke and Trumbauer joined Goldkette, touring widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. He made his greatest recordings Singin’ the Blues and I’m Coming, Virginia in 1927 and the following year the pair left Detroit for New York City and the best-known dance orchestra in the country: the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
During the Whiteman period Bix suffered a precipitous decline in his health, brought on by the demand of the bandleader’s relentless touring and recording schedule in combination with his persistent alcoholism. Support from family and Whiteman along with rehabilitation centers did not help to stem his drinking or decline.
Cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer Bix Beiderbecke, one of the most influential jazz soloists of the Twenties, along with Louis Armstrong and Muggsy Spanier, passed away of lobar pneumonia in his apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, New York on August 6, 1931 at the age of 28.
Ronald Maxwell Jones was born on February 28, 1917 in London, England and together with his brother Cliff, taught himself to play the saxophone, before the two of them founded the semi-professional Campus Club Dance Band in 1930. Dissolved in 1935 he tried to establish himself as a professional musician, becoming a member of a combo led by trumpeter Johnny Claes, with musicians who played in the style of Coleman Hawkins.
In 1942 and 1943, Max worked for the BBC radio program Radio Rhythm Club; and in 1942, together with authors Albert McCarthy and Charles Fox, founded the magazine Jazz Music, which became meritorious as it set out to reassert the pioneering role of the African-American, to emphasize the music’s social dimensions, and to attack the glossy commercialism of big-band swing.
Since 1944, Jones had a full-time job writing features for the Melody Maker in the column Collectors’ Corner. In the following years he gained more and more high recognition as a proven expert of New Orleans Jazz, swing, and mainstream jazz.
In 1971 Jones published a Louis Armstrong biography, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, together with John Chilton. He also wrote a number of liner notes, such as for the CD edition of the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, the Spirits of Rhythm, and wrote the preface for the Lee Collins, Mary Spriggs Collins, Frank Gillis, John W. Miner book Oh, Didn’t He Ramble: The Life Story of Lee Collins. A collection of his articles on musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, and Mary Lou Williams was published as a book entitled Talking Jazz in 1987.
Jones was the first jazz musician to become a professional journalist and exclusively dealt with jazz in his publications. He was a model and a mentor for a younger generation of rock music critics and authors. Author, radio host, and journalist Max Jones passed away on August 1, 1993 in Chichester, England.
More Posts: saxophone
Hugues Panassié was born on February 27, 1912 in Paris, France and when he was fourteen, he was stricken with polio, limiting extracurricular physical activities. So he took-up the saxophone and fell in love with jazz in the late Twenties. In 1932 he was the founding president of the Hot Club de France.
During the Germans occupation of northern France the Nazi’sbanned American jazz because they regarded jazz as low music from an inferior people. However Hugues got past the censors by submitting alternate and obscure French titles and continue to broadcast. One example was La Tristesse de Saint Louis, which translates to Sadness of Saint Louis, but in reality it was Louis Armstrong’s The Saint Louis Blues.
Panassié would go on to produce several jazz records by artists that include Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier, author thirteen books about jazz, was an ardent exponent of Dixieland and Black players and a controversial critic of bad musicians such as Benny Goodman’s clarinet being inferior to the likes of Jimmy Noone and Omer Simeon. He dismissed bebop as a form of music distinct from jazz and held in esteem a lone example of a white musician who played jazz authentically in Mezz Mezzrow.
But he was not without his critics and historians who saw him creating a wedge between Black and Caucasian musicians by insisting that Black jazz was superior. He penned the liner notes for a 1956 RCA Victor compilation Guide to Jazz that included 16 recording by prominent jazz artists. After spending five months in New York City, critic, record producer and impresario Hugues Panassié met his assistant Madeleine Gautier, married, returned and settled in Montauban, France until his passing away on December 8, 1974.
More Posts: saxophone
George Clarence Brunies, a.k.a. Georg Brunis was born into a musical family on February 6, 1902 in New Orleans, Louisiana.. His father led a family band with his brothers Henry, Merritt, Richard, and Albert who all became noted professional musicians. By the age of 8 he was already playing alto saxophone professionally in Papa Jack Laine’s band, but a few years later he switched to trombone.
Though Brunies never learned to read music, he played with many jazz, dance, and parade bands in New Orleans, quickly picking up tunes and inventing a part for his instrument. He first went to Chicago, Illinois in 1919 with a band led by Ragbaby Stevens, then worked the riverboats up and down the Mississippi River.
By 1921 he returned to Chicago and joined a band of his New Orleans friends playing at the Friar’s Inn, and this band eventually became famous as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. His trombone style was influential to the young Chicago players, and his records were much copied. In this era Brunies was never bested as he could play anything any other trombonist could play as well or better. He would often end battles of the bands or cutting contests by outplaying other trombonists while operating the slide with his foot.
In 1924 after the Rhythm Kings broke up in Chicago, George joined the Ted Lewis band, which he played with through 1934. He spent some time with Louis Prima’s band, then landed a steady gig at the New York City jazz club Nick’s through 1938. In 1939 he joined Muggsy Spanier, with whom he made some of his most famous recordings. The following year he returned to Nick’s, where he remained through 1946 and then worked with Eddie Condon.
In 1949 Brunies returned to Chicago and landed at the 1111 Club leading his own band. Often showing off his unusual technical abilities and bizarre sense of humor at the same time, for example, he would lie on the floor and invite the largest person in the audience to sit on his chest while he played trombone. Believing that this name change would increase his good luck, on the advice of a numerologist, he changed his name to Georg Brunis in the late 1940s. While in residence every now and then other well-known jazz musicians would sit in and play until the wee hours.
Trombonist George Brunies, known as the King of the Tailgate Trombone, passed away in Chicago on November 19, 1974.
More Posts: trombone
Edward Bertram Garland was born January 9, 1895 in New Orleans, Louisiana. By 1910 he was playing bass drum with brass bands including Frankie Duson’s Eagle Band. He then took up tuba and string bass, doubling on the two instruments which filled similar roles in different types of bands.
He played with the Excelsior Brass Band, Manuel Perez’s Imperial Orchestra and then joined other early New Orleans bands playing in Chicago, Illinois and California, such as Lawrence Duhé and Freddie Keppard. In 1916 Garland joined King Oliver and went to California and during the Depression he led his own One-Eleven Jazz Band.
1944 saw Ed gaining notoriety as a member of a traditional New Orleans band that was a leader of the West Coast revival, put together for the CBS Radio series The Orson Welles Almanac. The all-star band also included Mutt Carey, Jimmie Noone (succeeded by Barney Bigard), Kid Ory, Bud Scott, Zutty Singleton and Buster Wilson. Renamed Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band, the group then made a significant series of recordings on the Crescent Records label.
Garland appeared in the 1959 film Imitation of Life, performing with Andrew Blakeney, Teddy Buckner, George Orendorf and Joe Darensbourg in the funeral sequence Trouble of the World featuring Mahalia Jackson.
String bassist Ed Garland, sometimes known as Montudie Garland, a nickname he much disliked, passed away in London, England on January 22, 1980.
More Posts: bass