Friday, March 27, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter 1: The Charlatan

Here is Chapter 1 of a 1929 Universal feature. There is a Bix connection here. One of the leading performers is Mrs. Paul Whiteman.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great video from Flemming Thorbye

It has been a busy week, so I haven't had a chance to post anything, but here is an excellent video that captures in pictures the highlights of the Tribute.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More highlights from Day Two: Scott Black

Day Two featured the first seminar of the weekend, delivered by cornetist and Bix enthusiast Scott Black. Black has been working on a biography of Bix. He has at his disposal hundreds of hours of tape recorded by Bix biographer Phil Evans. The tapes preserve the voices and memories of Bix's musical associates, ranging from Bill Challis and Bill Rank to Frank Signorelli and Chauncey Morehouse.

Black played a number of interviews, which were striking because you actually get to hear the distinctive voices of these musicians, including Signorelli's thick Brooklyn accent. There was also an unintentionally hilarious interview with Lou Black, New Orleans Rhythm Kings banjoist, whose dreary monotone recited the various dead and alcoholic former members of the band.

Scott's site, has some fascinating information.

Here is a YouTube video of Scott's cornet playing.

Archeophone: Bert Williams

I listened to the Archeophone Bert Williams CD, and it is excellent. Here is a song from the third volume, Williams' last recording, "Not Lately."

This clip is taken from the Internet Archive, not the CD itself.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day Two: The dealers

Day Two of the tribute began with a visit to the dealers' area. Dealers included mainstay Bob Koester of the Jazz Record Mart. It was Koester, actually, who turned me onto traditional jazz at his old store on Lincoln Avenue near Montrose. This was, um, 30-some years ago. I remember the first albums he sold me: the Jazz Treasury LP featuring Freddie Keppard and the two volume set of Jabbo Smith and his Rhythm Aces. From that point on I was a regular visitor (I also attended his Friday night screenings of vintage films).

I bought a couple things from Bob: a Frank Melrose CD and a collection of Jimmy Blythe piano rolls. Melrose, known as Kansas City Frank, was a great barrelhouse piano player who died young. Blythe also died young, but not before recording with all of Chicago's jazz giants and making his mark as one of the pioneers of boogie woogie.

I already had the Blythe piano rolls on LP, but Koester said the LP issue had the rolls played at a tempo that was much too fast. I later listened to the Blythe CD and was mildly disappointed, feeling the CD captured the rolls at a tempo that was slowed down way too much.

One vendor I discovered was a couple, Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey from Champaign, home of my alma mater. The pair run the Archeophone label, which is doing some splendid reissues of rare material, including a 3-cd Bert Williams set that I bought.

According to the Web site, Archeophone "was founded in 1998 with the aim of preserving public-domain recordings of the acoustic era of the recording industry on digitally remastered media, together with extensive annotations, discographies, and rare graphics in attractive, modestly priced packages."

One jewel was a new set of King Oliver recordings that is reputed to contain the best sound yet obtained from those classic recordings. I haven't listened yet, but I'm sure they live up to their billing.

One of the buyers in the dealer's area was my friend Jamaica, who actually brought her bird along with her (and her husband).

We both looked at sheet music (I wound up buying a booklet of Fats Waller compositions. One of the dealers also sold vintage jazz books, including the notorious "Really the Blues," the "autobiography" of clarinetist/marijuana peddler Milton "Mezz Mezzrow" Mesirow.

Here was a short video where I display my treasure trove in my room in Racine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bus tour video: the Grand Ballroom

One of the stops on the bus tour was the Grand Ballroom on Cottage Grove in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. Here is video from the visit.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tribute to Bix jam session

Here is "Some of These Days," performed at the jam session at the bar where we stopped at the end of the bus tour.

Day One: The bus trip to Hell

If this is Hell, you can have Heaven. The annual Tribute kicked off with another great bus tour. Among the highlights was a visit to the Grand Ballroom on Cottage Grove near 60th Street in Chicago. It's one of the last of its kind. The area around the University of Chicago used to have a lot of great ballrooms, including the Midway Gardens (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) and the Trianon Ballroom, the sister to the still standing Aragon Ballroom on Chicago's North Side. The latter two are long gone, but the Grand, an impressive yet modest ballroom remains.

A lot of great people were on the bus, including my seat mate, Leah LeBrea of the West End Jazz Band, and my buddy Yves Francois. Those two later hooked up at the jam session at a Racine bar, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Yves played wonderful trumpet with a plunger mute, while Leah was her usual solid self on banjo.

Several videos were played on the bus as we made our way to the appointed stops. They included Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, both examples of all-black musicals of the 1940s. Stormy Weather was the better of the two, less abounding in stereotypes and filled with wonderful entertainment from such great cast members as Bill Robinson, Lena Horne, Fats Waller and Cab Calloway.

Other stops on the tour were the gravesite of bandleader Charley Straight, who once employed Bix, and the Elmhurst historical museum, which has an exhibit on Chicago jazz that boasted such artifacts as Benny Goodman's clarinet and music book and an award given to Louis Armstrong by Down Beat magazine, which was published in Elmhurst. The Elmhurst exhibit was good, but a lot of names were misspelled.

Earlier, we visited the Oriental Theater, which I had never seen before. An excessively ornate interior designed by Rapp & Rapp included a combination elephant and sea horse meant to symbolize Chaos (it succeeded). There were restrictions imposed by the tour guide: no pictures in the theater itself and apparently no mention of the Iroquois Theater, on the ruins of which the Oriental stands.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bix Tribute Jam Session: 2008

This video was shot by "victorcornet" at the Bixfest in Davenport. Several of the musicians in attendance every year, as well as some of the "young Turks," appear in this montage.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Paul Specht, The Things That Were Made for Love

I thought I would start my music posts with this sweet little tune by Paul Specht and his Orchestra, one of the underrated bands of the 1920s.

Welcome to Tribute to Bix

Hi, my name is Steve Zalusky. This is my blog for the Tribute to Bix in Racine, Wisconsin. Every year, I attend this special tribute to jazz great Bix Beiderbecke, held by Phil Pospychala in Racine. This year, I plan to post video from past tributes, as well as video from this year. I also plan to create posts related to the 1920s.