Bix Beiderbecke: In a Mist

Bix Beiderbecke was not a professional pianist, and this track is our only record of his keyboard work. Yet this is much more than dabbling by a gifted amateur. Beiderbecke completely dispenses with the oom-pah stride bass that dominated the solo jazz piano work of the era, and substitutes a holistic approach integrating left and right hands in a manner of his own invention. One might think this was a piece of classical music, if it weren't for a few telltale jazz devices. This early example of cool jazz gets positively chilly at certain points, with an emotional content as rarefied as the atmosphere 8,000 meters up Mt. Everest. There is no sentimentality here, rather a glittery crystalline quality, shiny and alluring even in its remoteness. This music is maddeningly difficult to "place" since there is hardly any "place" to place it in the annals of jazz history. In short, "In a Mist" is a one-of-a-kind work by a one-of-a-kind artist. Even so, I can't help thinking that, under slightly different circumstances, Bix Beiderbecke and his disciples might have built a whole different style of jazz playing on this foundation.

May 09, 2009 · 0 comments

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Red Norvo: In a Mist

Few jazz musicians have mastered a wider range of the music's history than the now unfairly forgotten Red Norvo. His resume reveals him working with Paul Whiteman in the 1920s, Benny Goodman in the 1930s, Charles Mingus in the 1940s and Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. But the recordings Norvo made under his own name in the 1930s are the best place to begin in coming to grips with this multi-faceted musician. Bix Beiderbecke had passed away only two years before this session, but the force of his personality continued to exert an influence over a generation of jazz players, with artists as diverse as Bing Crosby and Norvo learning from the cornetist's example. Here Norvo resurrects Bix's "In a Mist" in an ethereal performance that rivals Beiderbecke's own memorable piano rendition. "In a Mist" is a stellar example of chamber jazz, with an experimental flavor that has hardly been diminished with the passing years.

December 08, 2007 · 0 comments

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Bix Beiderbecke: In a Mist

The timing of “In a Mist” is off. Bix played the first take and it was too short; the second take ran long. It was not until Take 4 – when Tram, ever the housemother, helpfully tapped him on the shoulder – that he wrapped up in the allotted time. Unlike Goldilocks, however, he never got it just right. It still seems rushed. Bix had been working on these chords forever, combining the herky-jerky syncopations of jazz with flourishes reminiscent of Monet’s Giverny. Still, as progressive as “In a Mist” was, it comes off nowadays as a bit clunky. Bix’s true aspirations may not have been Satchmo-hood but a post at the New York Philharmonic; if so, he had a ways to go.

November 13, 2007 · 0 comments

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