Bix Beiderbecke (German)
La Vita e la Leggenda di Bix Beiderbecke
The Bix Bands
Beiderbecke: Jazz Age Genius
Bix: Man and
Bix: The Leon
Bix. Bix Beiderbecke, une biographie
for Beiderbecke" by
Charles Wareing and George Garlick. Sidgwick and Jackson Limited,
1958. Description: 333 p.; one photograph; one poem (Trumpeter,
Herbert Corby). The book is divided in three parts: the man, the
and his music (a discography). This is the first of all biographical
about Bix. The book is a detailed account of the facts in Bix's
as well as a thoughtful evaluation of Bix as a jazz musician. The
are clearly great admirers of Bix.
Burnett James. Cassell and Co. Limited, London, 1959. Description: 90
four photographs. Contains a brief discography. This book is similar,
than, "Bugles for Beiderbecke" . It provides a factual description of
life in chapter 1, and an analysis of Bix' cornet playing and of his
on his fellow jazz musicians in chapters 2 and 3. This book was
again in 1961 by A. S. Barnes and Company, Inc., New York, as
of the Kings of Jazz series. Other titles in the series include Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Bessie
Smith, and Fats Waller.
Bix Bands: A Bix Beiderbecke Disco-biography" by
Vittorio Castelli, Evert (Ted) Kaleveld, and Liborio Pusateri.
Milan, 1972. Description: 223 p.; 25 photographs; index of songs;
index of musicians; index of 78 rpm original issues; index of
issues. This book contains very little text. It is mostly a
The authors do a lot of speculation (or is it wishful thinking?) in the
main body of the discography about recordings where Bix might have been
present. In addition, they devote four pages to a number of
Bix records". Unfortunately, although this book is clearly a labor of
the discography contains some errors.
Man and Legend" by
Richard M. Sudhalter and Philip R. Evans with William Dean-Myatt.
House, New Rochelle, NewYork,
1974. Published also by Quartet Books, London, 1974. A paper back
was published in 1975 by Schirmer Books, a division of Macmillan
Co., Inc., New York. Description: 512 p.; more than 100 photographs and
illustrations; index; a Bix Beiderbecke diary; a comprehensive
In spite of embellishments and some factual errors, this is probably
definitive biography of Bix for the non-specialist. The authors provide
an excellent and detailed account of Bix's life and of his impact in
world of jazz. There are perceptive analyses of his cornet technique
of his solos. This work was nominated for a National Book Award.
Bix: A Memoir of the Jazz Age" by
Ralph Berton, Harper and Row, New York, 1974. Also published by W.H.
Allen, London, 1974. Description: 478 p.; 21 photographs; index; source
notes; bibliography; discography. This memoir was written fifty years
the author, who was at the time a thirteen year old boy, met Bix. The
is a personal account which contains highly speculative psychological
and some dubious factual information. I must admit that the writer, the
brother of the highly talented jazz drummer Vic Berton, is a fairly
writer and is able to spin a decent piece of docu-fiction. The
bibliography is quite useful.
vita e la leggenda di Bix Beiderbecke" by
Aldo Lastella, Nuovi Equilibri S.R.L., Roma, 1991. Description: 62 p.;
discography and bibliography. This book is part of the series Jazz
This tiny, cute book (6.5x4.5in) comes in a cardboard envelope with the
1921 photograph of Bix on the front cover. The remaining 12 photographs
are in the form of postcards and include in addition to photographs of
Bix, one of Brian Weeks (who played Bix in the film "Bix: An
of a Legend) and one of Kirk Douglas (the star of the film "Young Man
a Horn). There is a two-page introduction by Pupi Avati. The book
a brief, chronological account of Bix's life according to the following
sections: Il ragazzo di Davenport, Chicago, Wolverines,
Louis, New York, Con Paul Whiteman, Il declino, La fine.
Beiderbecke: Sein Leben, Seine Musik, Seine Schallplatten"by
Klaus Scheuer, Waakirken-Schaftlach, Oreos Verlag,
Germany, 1995. Description: 163 p.; numerous illustrations and
bibliography; discography. This book appears to be a serious work, well
documented, and appears to contain good analyses of Bix's music, his
his influence upon musicians, and his impact in jazz. I say "appears"
my knowledge of German is extremely rudimentary.
Beiderbecke: Jazz Age Genius" by
David R. Collins, Morgan Reynolds, Inc., Greensboro, North Carolina,
112 p.; seventeen photographs; index; bibliography; timeline. This book
is part of the Notable American Series for young readers. Other titles
in the series include Smart Money: The Story of Bill
More Perfect Union: The Story of Alexander Hamilton; Richard Nixon,
Politician. This is a nice little book, easy to read,
for the intended audience. The author presents an honest picture of
and I am happy to say, without being condescending to his young readers.
"Bix" Beiderbecke, une biographie" by Jean Pierre Lion.
The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story"by
Philip R. Evans and Linda K. Evans. Prelike Press, Bakersfield,
602 p. plus xxxii; more than two hundred fifty photographs; index
of song titles; index of names. Phil Evans' interest in Bix began in
and has continued, unabated, for nearly the last fifty years. Over
hundred people were interviewed, by letter, tape, or in person. All
letters written by Bix are included in the book. It is not easy to
through the book in search of specific information, but it is all
As stated in the back cover of the book: "The story unfolds through his
(Bix's) words by way of his many letters and through the words of such
jazz greats as: Louis Armstrong, Nick LaRocca, Benny Goodman, Jack
Red Nichols, Frank Trumbauer, Hoagy Carmichael, Eddie Condon, Spiegle
Paul Whiteman, and many, many more, too numerous to list here."
massive and well-documented work is undoubtedly the definitive Bix
biography for the serious Bixophile.
Mesure, Paris, France.
Number of Pages: 351.
Number of Photographs: 140
Table of Contents
PREFACE DELFEIL DE TON
DAVENPORT, samedi 21
II 1921: A L'ECOLE DE
III 1922: DE LA MUSIQUE
IV 1923: NAISSANCE DES
V 1924: EN STUDIO ... ET
A NEW YORK
VI 1925: FRANK TRUMBAUER
VII 1926: L'ANNEE HEUREUSE
VIII 1927: SINGING THE
BLUES, LA CONSECRATION
IX 1928: LA FELURE
X 1929: VERS LA CHUTE
XI 1930: DERNIERS DISQUES
XII 1931: UN ETE POURRI
1 TEXTES ET DOCUMENTS
2 SOLO DE BIX SUR SINGIN' THE BLUES
(Most of the French words
should be easily understood; an exception is felure which means crack.)
The book is produced as
what we call in the US a trade paperback. It is
printed with large margins. Bibliographic notes and comments are on the
margins. The photographs are interspersed throughout the text (on the
average, one every other page). The format reminds me very much of
modern introductory chemistry textbooks where notes, references, and
images are given throughout the book on large margins. It makes for a
handsome and readable presentation. All photographs are in black and
white with the exception of the photo on the cover. It is the famous
1924 photo of Bix in the colorized version from Indiana University (not
University of Indiana as referred to in the credits for the cover.) See
the photo in http://www.dlib.indiana.edu:8080/collections/hoagy/jsp/HoagyView.jsp?id=ATM-MC2-3-2-136
Bix with rosy cheeks and
pink lips? I have always objected -strongly-
to colorizing films. I feel it is a desecration. I feel the same way
about photos. The quality of the black and white photos is quite good,
certainly, a lot better than the photos in Evans and Evans.
The bibliographic section
is quite comprehensive and, in addition to
the well-known biographies, jazz history books, and articles, it
includes references to several books and articles in French.
The discography is
As to the main text, Jean
Pierre takes a chronological approach. He
provides information about Bix as well as about topics related to Bix
and the times of his life -the jazz age, other artists, the
prohibition, the depression, etc.
When I first saw early drafts
of “Bix: Bix Beiderbecke, une biographie”
by Jean Pierre Lion, I told him that the book was inappropriate for a
broad audience. Jean Pierre responded that my assessment was correct,
that “une biographie” was a book written by a Bixophile for other
Bixophiles. There is an extensive literature on Bix -biographies,
comprehensive chapters in books, articles in magazines, memoirs, a
10-hour radio program, etc. Therefore, any assessment of the
significance and value of the new biography for Bixophiles must be
first placed in the context of books that preceded the book by Jean
There is no question in my
mind that the two most significant books
written about Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz genius form Davenport, Iowa,
are “Bix, Man and Legend” by Richard Sudhalter and Philip Evans with
William Dean Myatt (Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York, 1974) and
“Bix, The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story” by Philip Evans and Linda Evans
(Prelike Press, Bakersfield, California, 1998).
“Man and Legend” is a book
directed to a general audience as well as to
the countless Bixophiles around the world. An educated individual who
wants to learn more about Bix than what is usually found in capsule
biographies in encyclopedias and reference books, would be wise to read
this book: he/she will get a faithful and accurate picture of the
essence of Bix’s life, of the special characteristics of Bix’s music
that made him into a legend shortly after he died –if he was not
already one during his lifetime. A Bixophile will be entranced by the
in-depth view of the music and life of Bix Beiderbecke written in the
excellent style we are accustomed to see in Sudhalter’s writings. For
the Bixophile interested in the daily activities of Bix during his
short (28 years) life, there is an appendix entitled “Who, What, Where
& When, A Bix Beiderbecke Diary.” The book also includes an almost
definitive discography. The book has been harshly criticized because of
some errors of fact and because of the “recreated dialogues.” Errors of
fact are almost inevitable in a comprehensive biography of any major
artist, scientist or historical figure. Recreated dialogues were a
literary license often utilized in biographies at the time Sudhalter
and Evans book was published. In my estimation, it remains –even after
30 years- as the single, most important biography of Bix Beiderbecke.
“The Leon Bix Beiderbecke
Story” is not a biography to be read. It is a
reference book which contains a lot of the information gathered by
Philip Evans during 50 years of Bix research. The book is written in
the form of a chronological diary. We find all extent letters written
by Bix, quotes of musicians and people who knew Bix personally and were
interviewed by Phil Evans in person, by telephone or by letter, a
comprehensive discography, 250 photos including most of the known
photos of Bix. I often refer to “The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story” as the
Bible of the Bixophile or the required bed table companion of any
self-professed, serious Bixophile.
“Bix Beiderbecke, une
biographie” falls somewhere between “Man and
Legend” and “The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story, ” but it is closer to the
latter than to the former. The book is also written as a chronological
account of Bix’s activities during his lifetime and, like Evans and
Evans book (to which Jean Pierre acknowledges his debt) provides as
closely a daily account of Bix’s life as it is possible. But unlike
Evans and Evans, there is text linking the daily events and continuity
in the writing.
The Book. Vital Statistics.
Trade paper back.
Publisher, Outre Mesure,
Preface by Delfeil de Ton, 2
Text, 294 pages.
Epilogue, 3 pages.
Acknowledgments, 1 page.
Documents, 10 pages.
Bibliography, 5 pages.
Discography, 19 pages.
Index, 13 pages.
120 photos interspersed in the
Positive aspects. Good presentation, wide margins
references and comments, decent image quality (mostly known, except
those taken by the author).
Negative aspects. Low quality binding. In spite of
care, the book is falling apart and several pages have come lose. Font
in margins very small, difficult to read. Note: the binding has been
corrected in a new run.
The Book. Content.
Jean Pierre's biography of Bix
includes a lot –if not most- of what is
known about Bix’s life and recordings. The book could be briefly
described as a gathering in one place of most of the information about
Bix found in “The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story,” in “Man and Legend,” in
“Tram, The Frank Trumbauer Story” by Philip Evans and Larry Kiner with
William Trumbauer (The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Metuchen, N.J., 1994), in
“Observing a Genius At Work” by Randy Sandke, in Hoagy Carmichael’s
autobiographies, in Miami’s University radio program, in liners for Bix
records, and several other sources listed at the end of the book. There
is some new information in the book not available in previous
biographies or writings. The author provides useful and interesting –in
particular to a French reader- information about related topics
regarding the 1920’s historical context and the jazz scene. There are
several references to writings about Bix in the French literature
(books, articles), and there is some new material about Lake Forest and
the Keeley Institute. There are lots of references and the
documentation is comprehensive.
Since the content of the book
is a synthesis –with some additions and
commentaries by Jean Pierre- of what is presented in other books,
Bixophiles will be pleased to find all this information –with
references- in one place. Sometimes, there is too much detail provided,
which makes it for heavy reading; but specialists will be satisfied
with the considerable amount of facts and data.
Jean Pierre told me that he
made an extraordinary effort to be
accurate. That is indeed the case: the book is remarkably free of
errors, but, inevitably, knowledgeable readers will find them. I will
list a few later.
Although this section is
longer than the section on positive aspects,
readers should not get the impression that there are more negative
aspects than positive aspects to the book. On the contrary, the book is
quite a useful summary of a lot of information scattered in various
sources. It turns out that the negative aspects are in areas which
bother me particularly and therefore I feel obligated to discuss these
in detail and at length.
What disturbs me in Jean
Pierre's Bix biography is the psychological
rationalization, some of the author’s opinions presented as facts, and
some assumptions again presented as facts. Let me cite examples. These
seem to be more abundant at the beginning of the book. [The text quoted
is my translation of the original.]
“The strong attraction that
Bix had toward music was accompanied by as vigorous a repulsion for all
forms of education.”
How does the author know that?
All known facts could be equally well
understood if Bix simply ignored all forms of education. This may seem
nitpicking, but there is a major difference between repulsion and
neglect. Repulsion implies an active aversion. Neglect simply means a
passive disregard. This affects the image of Bix that the reader
creates in his/her mind as he/she reads along.
“Upon return to school in
September 1912, the long absence of the
pupil [Bix was absent from school for a long period in the 1911-1912
school year because of illness] forces him to stay back in third grade.
This cherished child, publicly designated as a prodigy, accepted very
badly the humiliation that repeating the grade represented in his eyes.
And he made a decision heavy with consequences: that of declaring
himself, from then on, as being outside a school system that denied him
the special attention that he thought he deserved.”
Again, assumptions on the part
of the author. The author does not have
any basis to ascribe to Bix such thoughts. “Humiliation … in his eyes…”
“He made a decision…” Where are the facts that corroborate how Bix felt
and what he decided? The author does not know if repeating a grade
represented for Bix a humiliation. It may be so for some or even most
children, but not necessarily for Bix. Again, an equally plausible
interpretation is that Bix did not care one way or the other. I am not
talking about a factual error. This is a matter of interpretation. But
the author presents it as a fact, and is building up in the reader’s
mind an image of Bix that may well be totally misleading. Speculation
may be acceptable when it is based on some evidence, but inventing what
goes on inside Bix’s mind is, in my opinion, at least as egregious as
reconstructing dialogue. How does the author know that Bix declared
himself “outside a school system…” How does he know that Bix “thought”
he deserved “special attention”?
“This humiliating incident
[the arrest] will leave deep traces
[scars?] in a young man already destabilized by school failure. The
relationships with his family will be modified in an irreversible
manner. The young prodigy, the exceptional child that his parents
showed proudly, felt a sense of abandonment and shame: he was in his
own eyes a failure, and he thought he was suspected of being a pervert.
How could his mother still love him, when he no longer liked himself?”
Again, Jean Pierre speculates
as to what went on inside Bix’s mind,
what he thought! If, as it is possible –or perhaps likely- the charges
were baseless, why would Bix feel that he was “in his own eyes a
failure”? Does Jean Pierre believe that Bix indeed was guilty of the
alleged offense? Details of the incident are left for a footnote.
However, even in the footnote, the author fails to tell the reader that
the house of the 5-year old girl was more than a mile away from Bix’s
home and does not give an evaluation of the fact that the so-called
identification of Bix is based on the sole testimony of two youngsters.
Jean Pierre goes off into the realm of fiction, in my opinion, when he
asserts that, because of the incident, Bix “no longer liked himself.”
Speculation may be acceptable when it is based on some evidence, but
inventing what goes on inside Bix’s mind is, in my opinion, and I
repeat, egregious. Jean Pierre asks “how could his mother love him?” In
asking that question he throws out the considerable body of evidence
that demonstrates that Agatha loved Bix throughout his life.
‘This brutal separation
[referring to the fact that Bix leaves
home to attend to Lake Forest Academy] from his family environment …”
Why brutal? This creates an
image of a Bix who does not want to leave
his family and is forced to do so. Perhaps, the author, not being
familiar with American habits, does not realize that it was (and is)
customary for youngsters of the upper middle class to go away to
college when they reached the age of 18. There is nothing brutal. In
fact, most youngsters are very eager to leave home and go away to
college. Of course, Bix could be an exception and going away to school
could have been for him a “brutal separation,” but the fact is that we
don’t know. Jean Pierre presents all his speculation in a
matter-of-fact manner. This is particularly serious as the majority of
the book presents a lot of factual information. Thus, the unaware
reader may tend to accept all the inventions as incontrovertible facts.
“Bix is a rebel. He realizes
that he refuses the model of his family –but being marginalized is
I don’t think so. The author
hints –by prefacing the second sentence
with the assertion that Bix is a rebel- that Bix is someone who
purposely leads a life that goes against the values of his family, but
suffers because of his decision. The image I have of Bix, from what
people who knew him tell us, is that he was a relatively easy going
individual whose life was devoted to his music, not “a rebel” with an
agenda to abandon society’s and his family’s beliefs and principles.
“The young musician does not
feel any esteem for his “art”
[quotes in original], still so far away from an ideal that he does not
perceive it could be within his reach. He smokes a lot, and the
alcohol, which circulates in abundance in the places where his music
brings him frequently, seems to provide an appeasement of his
unhappiness, a dissipation of his permanent unrest. The bottle brought
to his lips restores the beneficial maternal imagoes … [three dots in
the original] thus he ‘feeds from the baby bottle.’ [in French
“biberonne” with quotation marks].”
I looked up the meaning of
imagoes. Here is the pertinent definition,
“Psychology. An often idealized image of a person, usually a parent,
formed in childhood and persisting unconsciously into adulthood.”
According to Jean Pierre, Bix drinks because he is unhappy, he is in
permanent unrest, and thus returns to the maternal arms –now with a
bottle filled with gin rather than milk- for comfort. We are now moving
from the realm of speculation into ridiculous rationalizations and
psychological nonsense. Is it possible that Bix started drinking so
early in his life (and there is evidence that he did), and he did so
with such frequency and such excess that he became physically addicted
“Psychologically fragile, Bix
had the need of being reassured,
and he could provide the extent of his talent only in the bosom of an
environment where he knew he was appreciated, in a protective cocoon.”
This pronouncement applies to
the short engagement of Bix with the
Goldkette band at the end of 1924. Again, Bix is depicted as a weak
individual in need of support and this is presented as fact, not as the
author’s speculation. There is another –and simpler- interpretation of
the short tenure of Bix with Goldkette. Bix was a poor reader and there
was little room in the Goldkette band for an individual who could not
sight read. Thus, Goldkette terminated his contract with Bix. There is
no need to invoke “psychological fragility” and “protective cocoons.”
But the author does not leave room for dissent: he presents the image
of Bix forcefully. Note the word “only” when he refers to the quality
of the music he produced. I don’t agree that Bix could display all his
talent “only” in a "protective cocoon." Bix was a musician’s musician,
a consummated professional, a relentless perfectionist who gave the
best he was capable of, regardless of circumstances.
The reason I dwell in such
length on what Jean Pierre has written on
the young Bix is that most of this appears in the first 46 pages of
this 351-page book. Thus, Jean Pierre builds up –very early- the image
of an individual with internal and external conflicts, mainly with his
family, a frustrated, weak individual, with a strong need for maternal
comfort. Perhaps that is an accurate picture of Bix, but I do not find
in this book –or in the Bix literature- the evidence that leads to that
speculation. On the contrary, from all I read, I see Bix as a man of
few words, with a passion for his music, unencumbered by the needs of
everyday life, friendly to his fellow musicians, with an unusual sense
of humor, who enjoyed –and was good at- sports for the first twenty
some years of his life. Towards the end of his life, when the ravages
of excessive alcohol consumption had profoundly affected his physical
and mental well-being, when his economic situation was dismal, he
probably was unhappy, frustrated, even bitter. But is it a given that
Bix’s addiction to alcohol is to be ascribed to his childhood
experiences and alienation from his family?
Much has been made in the
Bixology literature about the so-called
strained relationships between Bix and his family. What is the origin
of this? It comes from baseless speculation in Ralph Berton’s
“Remembering Bix.” First, we have no reports of Bix having discussed
his family with anyone. In fact, even Berton admits that Bix never told
Berton anything about this aspect of Bix’s life. Moreover, we have
Bix’s own words (letter of Bix to his father dated Nov 1, 1922 ), “It’s
kind of hard to write a letter of this kind home because in our happy
home I have nothing to write but stories of good times that I’ve had
and those I’m going to have… of all the troubles I can imagine and that
are bound to come in time the trouble I dread worse is the time come
when mother and you & all of course must go and sometimes I feel
I’d soon not live to see the time.” Do these words give the image of a
son alienated from his parents from childhood? Wasn’t Bix’s family
always helping Bix whenever he was in need? He went home when in need
of recuperation and he was welcome with open arms. He borrowed money
when he was broke. His mother understood Bix’s special playing (see the
article in the Davenport newspaper about the Whiteman broadcasts and
Bix’s mother) and listened to the Whiteman broadcasts. I see a
supportive family when Bix was in need, I see a family with close ties.
Of course, they were concerned by Bix’s inability to graduate from high
school, of course they were worried about Bix’s excessive drinking. I
imagine they were unhappy about Bix’s choice of a professional career
as a dance band/jazz musician. But there is a huge difference between
concern, and worry on the one hand and alienation and conflict on the
other. Is Bix lying in 1922 - the ravages of alcohol had not yet
destroyed him- when he writes of “our happy home’ and the “good times
that I’ve had”?
The alleged homosexual encounter
of Bix with Eugene Berton.
I have written at length about
the errors, misrepresentations, and
falsehoods in Ralph Berton’s “Remembering Bix.” Jean Pierre presents,
briefly, an account of Ralph Berton’s report of a homosexual encounter
between Bix and Gene Berton, Ralph’s older brother. The Jean Pierre
does not explicitly tell the reader if this is just a report of
Berton’s account or if this is to be viewed as fact. The implication is
that Jean Pierre views it as a fact. In a long footnote, Jean Pierre
first states that Berton’s recollection “was evidently not included in
Evans last publication.” He then goes on to state, “two witnesses
indicate that Berton confirmed at a later date the accuracy of his
brother’s recollection.” This is worded in a clever manner. Jean Pierre
does not say that the event was confirmed, only that the recollection
was. There is nothing wrong with reporting Ralph Berton’s account. But
if the author bothers to discuss in the extensive footnote confirmation
of Gene Berton’s recollection, why didn’t he included in the footnote
the considerable body of evidence that demonstrates that “Remembering
Bix” is full of errors, misrepresentations and falsehoods? The reader
who reads Berton’s book but does not have a detailed knowledge of Bix’s
life will not be able to assess the accuracy of Berton’s account. It
was incumbent upon Jean Pierre to at least provide a warning to the
reader about the fact that Berton’s book is full of inaccuracies. If
Jean Pierre took the space to include an excerpt form David Logue’s
post in the forum, why didn’t he at least mention that the forum also
includes a considerable number of postings demonstrating various
serious inaccuracies in the book?
Most of my criticisms apply to
early sections in the book. But
statements about what Bix “thinks” or “does” appear, occasionally, late
in the book. In p. 247, Jean Pierre writes, “Bix
limited his conversation (with the reporter of the Davenport Democrat)
to general considerations, and avoided –smiling- any personal or
How does the author know that Bix-and not
the reporter-is the one who circumscribed the interview to general
questions? (I cannot suppress my annoyance at the reference to
“smiling”, a total fabrication.) In p. 248, “this medical advice
(from the Beiderbeckes’ family doctor, that Bix had to stop drinking)
just added a definitive word on a reality that Bix’s parents could only
approach with great repugnance: their 26-year old son was a drunk.”
Why repugnance? How does Jean Pierre know what Bix’s parents felt?
Could the parents have approached the doctor’s advice with sadness,
unhappiness, compassion? We do not know. Why does Jean Pierre, when
confronted with two alternate explanations, chooses the one that will
put Bix in the worse light?
Jean Pierre deviates from what
Evans and Evans tell us about Bix in
late 1928-early 1929. There is no discussion –except for a remark in
passing- of the alleged beating of Bix with his fellow musicians
finding him in his hotel room when they returned to New York in
February 1929. Evans and Evans tell us of two breakdowns in Cleveland,
one in November 1928, another in January 1929. Sudhalter and Evans
discuss only one breakdown in January 1929. Jean Pierre discusses only
one breakdown in November 1928. Perhaps some explanation should have
been given as to the reasons why Jean Pierre chose not to discuss the
alleged beating and why he discussed only one breakdown in November
Chapters 8 and 9 are rather
tedious. The reader is presented with a
series of dates and descriptions of travels and of recordings. Maybe
not much can be done: Bix in 1927 and 1928 did a lot of travelling and
made a lot of recordings, but somehow, I believe (at least I hope so)
that there must be a way to enliven the accounts.
As I said, errors are
inevitable. Here are the only ones I picked up.
Indiana University is referred throughout the book as University of
Indiana. Chicago is not the capital of Illinois (p. 93). The “Bill” in
the dedication by Bix of the sheet music of “In A Mist” is, according
to Evans and to Deffaa, Bill Priestley, not Bill Challis. (p.184)
Conclusions.The harsh criticism presented above
should not deter
people from purchasing the book. My objections pertain to a few pages
of the book. The remaining is very useful. Jean Pierre has managed to
pack a lot of the available information about Bix within the covers of
his book. He consulted a large number of books and articles, and took
pains to check the accuracy of almost every fact associated with Bix.
However, I wonder if in addition to emphasizing the daily activities of
Bix, he could have included a couple of chapters, one on Bix as a man,
the other on Bix's music. In a chapter on Bix as a man, Jean Pierre
could have tried to provide an image of Bix's relationships with his
fellow musicians and friends, for example. I grant that Jean Pierre
provides quotes from people who knew Bix. But these are dispersed
throughout. I wonder if a chapter where all this was put together with
an attempt to delineate an image of Bix could have been a useful
contribution. The same consideration applies to Bix's music. Jean
Pierre provides commentaries about specific recordings, but a chapter
devoted to an analysis of what made Bix's music so unique and so
appealing could have been a valuable enterprise.
Last Thought. Finally, I must confess my extreme
puzzlement at the last line in the book. At the end of the “Epilogue”,
Jean Pierre writes “Davenport, le 10 mars 2003.” I can understand that
Jean Pierre wishes to have that place and date in his book. But a place
and date given at the end of a book or an epilogue are a specification
of when and where the book, or at least that section of the book, was
written. I am afraid that Jean Pierre was not in Davenport on March 10,
2003. Why end his book on a false note when he took extraordinary
efforts to ascertain the accuracy of the information he provided? See note 1.
Note 1. In a personal message, Jean Pierre
explanation as to why he used the Davenport site and the March 10 date.
It turns out that at the end of the book "L’écume des jours",
author, Boris Vian, writes,
Memphis, 8 mars 1946 –Davenport, 10 mars 1946.
This is explained in note 11 of p. 17 of Jean Pierre's book. [my
Boris Vian and Bix Beiderbecke shared the same birthday; both were
born on March 10, seventeen years apart (Bix in 1903, Boris in 1920.)
The false dates at the end of "L’écume des jours" -Memphis, 8
–Davenport, 10 mars 1946- celebrate two high jazz sites.
Jean Pierre emulated what Boris Vian had done.
book received the 2004 Academie du Jazz Award, the “Prix
Addendum 2. 08/30/2005. The
book has been translated. Here are the details.
|| Lion, Jean Pierre.
|| Bix : the definitive biography of a jazz legend : Leon "Bix"
Beiderbecke (1903-1931) / Jean Pierre Lion ; translated from the French
by Gabriella Page-Fort with the assistance of Michael B. Heckman and
|| English ed.
|| xix, 348 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
|| New York : Continuum, 2005.
|| 0826416993 (hardcover : alk. paper)
|| Translation of: Bix : Bix Beiderbecke, une biographie. Paris
: Outre Mesure, 2004.
| Includes bibliographical references (p. -307),
discography (p. -339), and index.
Many of these
books are out of print.
There are five exceptions.
- La vita e la
leggenda di Bix Beiderbecke, by Aldo Lastella. This is available from
Libreria Rinascita in Italy.
Sein Leben, Seine Musik, Seine Schallplatten, by Klaus Scheuer. This is
available from amazon.com in Germany.
Jazz Age Genius, by David R. Collins. This is available from commercial
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- The Leon
Beiderbecke Story, by Philip and Linda Evans. This is available on the
internet at http://members.tripod.com/~leonbix/
or by writing to Linda Evans, P. O. Box 10507, Bakersfield CA
BRIEF TABLE OF CONTENTS
of Some Recordings: Is It Bix or Not ?
Compilations of Bix's Recordings
Recordings Related to Bix