Saturday, February 6, 2010

Riverboat Shuffle

When listening to classic jazz from the 1920's, I am often amazed how a 20 minute cornet solo can speak to me more than a 5 minute hard bop solo. The ability to convey a warm, powerful melody in such a succinct period of time is a gift; few possessed this gift as Bix Beiderbecke did. Bix's solos conveyed such a warm tone and beauty; nowhere is that clearer than with his work with Frank Trumbauer and his Orchestra. In songs like "Singin' The Blues" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", Bix's cornet shines over his bandmates. "Riverboat Shuffle", written by Bix's friend Hoagy Carmichael, too is a wondeful, lively piece with Bix's solos the highlights (though Eddie Lang does some nice guitar work). Bix had recorded a solid rendition before with the Wolverines in 1924, but the 1927 remake with Traumbauer's group is even better. The two Columbia collections "Singin' the Blues" and "At The Jazz Band Ball" are still the essential discs to catch Bix's peak period. Sadly after a short stint in the Paul Whiteman band, Bix's alcoholism would catch up with him; he died in 1931 at age 28. Louis Armstrong said of Bix, "I've heard a lot of cats try to play like Bix, but ain't nobody play like him yet."

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