has never neglected its homework. The Florida label prepared more than a year in advance for Bix Beiderbecke's centennial. April of 2002 found a group of twenty instrumentalists and vocalists tuning up in a Brooklyn studio. The results of the Brooklyn sessions are nothing short of fabulous.
Born in Davenport, Iowa on March 10, 1903 the cornetist was to become on of the most influential players in jazz history. Within a short recording period of less than seven years, Bix became a legend. If he were alive today, he wouldn't understand why there are thousands of fans that fondly memorized every note of his solos. It's written that Bix died thinking his music would die with him. It's been 72 years since Bix left this world but it's a more exciting place because of him. His idol, Louis Armstong, is quoted "Every note he blew was so beautiful. He was a born genius."
The Centennial Session is perfect in that it covers material from every point in Bix's recording career. More important is the band's creative approach to the project. The arrangements don't attempt to echo Beiderbecke's music note for note
but purely celebrate
his being. It's like having a birthday party in honor of a friend who has passed on. They set an extra place at the table and placed a golden cornet on the platter. Happy Birthday Bix!
Three outstanding cornetists share the solo spots or, at times, play a Bixian chorus in unison. Other cornet solos are carried perfectly by a saxophone section. Some passages are from original scores by Bill Challis penned more than 70 years ago. Being a fan of the bass sax, I was delighted that Vince Giordano plays the revered instrument on several tracks. Dick Hyman appears as a guest soloist on Clementine
. Hyman's work is always perfect!
There isn't sufficient space here to credit each musician. The Bix Centennial All Stars
are exactly as advertised - "All-Stars." For those who may be unfamiliar with Bix Beiderbecke, Arbors Jazz includes a fine booklet with notes by Chip Deffaa and Randy Sandke. Each track is fully documented as to the instrumentation and order of soloists.
Five bright and shiny stars to this CD!