Happy (108th) Birthday, Bix!
God the poet, the master of metaphor, wanting to comment on what a big, open, unruly country this is, put the birthdays of Ornette Coleman, born in 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas, and Bix Beiderbecke, born in 1903 in Davenport, Iowa, back to back.
Bix Beiderbecke, cornet, with Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra
“I’m Coming, Virginia,” “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans,” 1927
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Speaking of Bix’s playing, Louis Armstrong said:
Those pretty notes went right through me.
. . . “I’m Coming, Virginia” became the most beautiful thing in my life . . . The coherence of its long Bix solo still provides me with a measure of what popular art should be like: a generosity of effects on a simple frame. The melodic line is particularly ravishing at its points of transition: there are moments when even a silent pause is a perfect note, and always there is a piercing sadness to it, as if the natural tone of the cornet, the instrument of reveille, were the first sob before weeping.
—Clive James, London Times, 5/16/07
Yesterday, at WKCR-FM (broadcasting from Columbia University), it was all Ornette all day; today it’s Bix. (Listening to so much Ornette seems to have rearranged my brain cells—permanently, I hope.)
(Some of this was previously posted on Bix’s last birthday.)