Vocalion 3150 – Bix Beiderbecke – 1927


Bix Beiderbecke, circa mid-1920s. From Jazzmen, 1939.

March 10th marks the 113th birthday of the Patron Saint of Jazz, one of the greatest musical geniuses of the twentieth century, the one and only Bix Beiderbecke.

Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (some sources claim his full middle name was Bismark, others say it was properly Bix) was born March 10, 1903 in Davenport, Iowa.  Hearing the jazz music on the riverboats that ran from New Orleans to Chicago, Bix had an affinity for music from an early age, and played with a number of bands as early as high school.  Bix was inspired to take up the cornet after his brother Burnie returned from his service in the Great War, bringing home a phonograph and some records by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, at which point Bix was hooked.  He started recording with Dick Voynow’s territory band, the Wolverine Orchestra for Gennett, and later with the Bucktown Five and his own band, the Rhythm Jugglers.  In 1926, Bix was hired by Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra in Chicago, but was fired shortly thereafter due to his inability to read music.  He was rehired soon after, having brushed up on music reading, and played with many other jazz greats in Goldkette’s band, including Frankie Trumbauer (his frequent collaborator), Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, and the Dorsey Brothers. As Goldkette’s orchestra fell on hard times, Paul Whiteman hired away many of his top men, including Bix, to play in his orchestra, the most popular dance band of the day.  All the while, Bix recorded hot (and sometimes cool) jazz tunes with Frankie Trumbauer’s and his own band for Okeh.  Bix had only two loves in his life, music and booze, and unfortunately, the latter was taking his life away.

In 1928, Bix suffered a nervous breakdown, brought on by an attempt to lessen his alcohol intake, and was forced to take leave of Whiteman’s band to recover at his home in Davenport.  He returned to Whiteman’s orchestra in 1929, and traveled to Hollywood to appear with the band in King of Jazz, though he instead took the opportunity to drink with Bing Crosby, and did not appear in the picture.  He once again returned to his home, and spent some time in a sanatarium, hoping to recover from his sickness. Paul Whiteman kept his chair in the band open, hoping for Bix’s return.  After that, Bix made only a handful more recordings with an assortment of different groups.  In his final recording session, on September 15, 1930, Bix played in Hoagy Carmichael’s band for the first recording of “Georgia On My Mind”.  On a hot summer night in his apartment in Queens, Death came a-rapping for Bix Beiderbecke.  On August 6, 1931, Bix practiced his piano into the night, around 9:30, he had a fit of delirium, believing that a gang of Mexicans under his bead was trying to kill him.  His screams alerted a neighbor, who hurried across the hall to see what was wrong.  Bix told him of what he saw, and dropped dead in his arms.

Vocalion 3150 was recorded September 9 and 17, 1927 in New York City by Bix Beiderbecke.  It was originally issued on Okeh 40916, with the Vocalion 3150 reissue released around 1935, though this pressing dates to around 1938 or ’39.  If anything, this late pressing, in exquisite condition, might well offer better playback than the original 1927 issue, as those pressings tend to develop lamination cracks around the edges, often causing a background rumble in playback.

On this disc, Bix plays “In a Mist”, also sometimes known (on the British issue, for instance) as “Bixology”, the only recorded piece of his Modern Piano Suite, which also included “In the Dark”, “Candlelights”, and “Flashes” (all of which can be found on Rivermont Records’ special edition 78 RPM release played by Bryan Wright.)

In a Mist

In a Mist, recorded September 9, 1927 by Bix Beiderbecke.

On the reverse, Beiderbecke is joined by Frankie Trumbauer and Eddie Lang to play “Wringin’ an’ Twistin'” in their three piece band, with Bix doubling on cornet and piano.

Wringin' an' Twistin'

Wringin’ an’ Twistin’, recorded September 17, 1927 by Tram – Bix and Lang.

Victor 25494 – Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra – 1930

This record, one I’ve been on the lookout for for quite a while, arrived just in time for Hoagy Carmichael’s 116th birthday, and I know of no better occasion to feature it here than that.

Howard Hoagland Carmichael was born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  One of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, he is remembered for many enduring compositions including “Washboard Blues”, “Riverboat Shuffle”, “Star Dust”, “Rockin’ Chair”, “Georgia (On My Mind)”, “Lazy River”, and so many more.  Carmichael graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1926, but after playing with a student band, he soon turned to music instead. Hoagy made his first recordings for the Indiana-based Gennett Records with Curtis Hitch’s Happy Harmonists in 1925.  Over his long career, Carmichael became one of America’s foremost songwriters, and worked with such personalities as Paul Whiteman and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.  Hoagy Carmichel died in 1981 at the age of 82.

Victor 25494 is a 1936 master pressed reissue made up of sides originally from two different discs, recorded on May 21, 1930 and September 15, 1930 in New York.  Both sides feature different, but equally star studded personnel in the band.  Hoagy does the vocal on both sides, and both feature the cornet of Bix Beiderbecke, in two of his last recording sessions.

“Rockin’ Chair” was originally issued on Victor V-38139 and features the musical talent of Bix on cornet, plus Bubber Miley on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Arnold Brilhart on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Hoagy on organ, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Gene Krupa on drums.

Rockin' Chair, recorded

Rockin’ Chair, recorded May 21, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

On the original recording of Carmichael’s famous “Georgia (On My Mind)”, originally issued on Victor 23013, the musicians present are Bix on cornet once again, with Ray Lodwig on trumpet, Jack Teagarden and Boyce Cullen on trombone, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax, Bud Freeman on tenor sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Eddie Lang on guitar, Irving Brodsky on piano, Min Leibrook on bass saxophone (though I honestly don’t hear a bass sax here), and Chauncey Morehouse on drums.  This was Bix’s final recording session.

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded

Georgia (On My Mind), recorded September 15, 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra.

Brunswick 6847 – The Boswell Sisters – 1932/1931

This website needs more Boswell Sisters.  It’s going into its sixth month of existence and still only has one article featuring the Boswells.  That simply won’t do.  After all, it was the Boswell Sisters that dragged the center of my interests back from the 1940s and 1950s into the 1920s and 1930s, and they’ll always have a special place in my heart.  To remedy this unacceptable omission, here are two of the Boswells’ finest sides, one of my favorite records.

Brunswick 6847 was recorded on two separate occasions, the first side was recorded December 7, 1932, and the second was recorded a year and a half earlier, April 23, 1931, both sides in New York City.  The first side, “Crazy People”, features only a rhythm backing by Dick McDonough on guitar and Artie Bernstein on string bass, along with Martha Boswell on piano.  The flip side, “Shout, Sister, Shout” features a truly all-star accompaniment directed by Victor Young, including either Mannie Klein or Jack Purvis on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Joe Venuti on violin, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, and Chauncey Morehouse on drums and vibraphone.

Although the Boswells’ rendition of Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco’s “Crazy People” was recorded in 1932, a few months after the sisters filmed their performance of the song for The Big Broadcast, it was not given a record issue until this one in 1934.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

Crazy People, recorded December 7, 1932 by The Boswell Sisters.

The Boswells’ classic performance of Clarence Williams’ “Shout, Sister, Shout” on the other hand was issued originally on Brunswick 6109 in 1931, and again issued on Brunswick 6783, before this issue in 1934.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.

Shout, Sister, Shout, recorded April 23, 1931 by The Boswell Sisters.

Okeh 8696 – Ed. Lang and his Orchestra – 1929

October 25 marks the birthday of jazz guitar great Eddie Lang, who was born on that day in 1902.  Eddie Lang was born as Salvatore Massaro in Philedelphia, Pennsylvania.  He initially took up violin, playing with his close school friend Joe Venuti, and later switched to guitar.  In the 1920s, Lang played in various bands and with such luminaries as Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Adrian Rollini, and Lonnie Johnson, the latter of whom he recorded with under the name “Blind Willie Dunn”.  Tragically, Eddie Lang died in 1933 at the age of 30 as the result of a botched tonsillectomy.

Okeh 8696 was recorded on May 22, 1929 in New York City, and issued in their race series for some reason.  The band includes the talent of Tommy Dorsey on trumpet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet and alto sax, Arthur Schutt on piano, Eddie Lang on guitar, Joe Tarto on string bass, and Stan King on drums.  This record isn’t in the greatest condition, but I think it’s a great choice to celebrate Eddie’s birthday.

First, the band plays “Freeze an’ Melt”, a Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh composition.

"Freeze an' Melt", recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Freeze an’ Melt, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Eddie Lang takes a nice long solo on “Hot Heels”, composed by Jack Pettis and Al Goering.

Hot Heels, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.

Hot Heels, recorded May 22, 1929 by Ed. Lang and his Orchestra.