Sponsored by the non-profit Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society and staffed by volunteers, the Festival attracts the cream of dixieland, swing and other jazz-style bands from all over the world. The 2008 bands include Davy Jones and His Dixieland All Stars, Florida; High Sierra Jazz Band, California; Jean Kittrell & the St. Louis Rivermen, Missouri; New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra, Australia; Randy Sandke's New York All Stars, New York; Spats Langham & His Rhythm Boys, United Kingdom; Statesmen of Jazz with Warren Vaché, leader, New York; Wally's Warehouse Waifs, Michigan, and West End Jazz Band, Illinois. Performances by the Bix Youth Band are another highlight of the Bix Bash. This talented group of teenagers is selected by teacher recommendations and auditions from Quad Cities area middle and high schools. Scholarships are awarded out of this group annually. (The Quad Cities are Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, Ill.) Davenport venues include LeClaire Park, the Col Ballroom, the Clarion Hotel, and the Danceland Ballroom. Fans can also visit some of the places where Bix played, his boyhood home, his church and his burial place in Oakdale Memorial Gardens. Narrated trolley rides to these sites are scheduled throughout the weekend.
A new Bix Beiderbecke Hall, located at the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre in Davenport, Iowa, is being planned by the Bix Memorial Jazz Society. "Bix Beiderbecke Hall," the proposed $1.382 million, 1,300 square foot interactive space, will be constructed in the Grand Lobby of the Putnam Museum. It will house both Putnam-owned Bix artifacts, Bix Society archives, and rarely seen photographs and footage from collectors worldwide. Bix's cornet and the Beiderbecke family piano will also be on display. Construction is slated to begin January 2009, with the Bix Hall opening in time for Bix Festival 2009. For more info, contact the Bix Society at (563) 324-7170 or visit www.bixsociety.org.
Sharing the same turf (and to some extent, the same shakers and movers) is the Catfish Jazz Society whose latest newsletter reviews the Decatur, Ill. festival and previews some others in the Heartland, and the musings of William Perry on "pop tune apparitions", (309) 764-4935; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Chi Stomp! As I was watching TV coverage of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's historic concert Feb. 26 in Pyongyang, North Korea, it occurred to me that if the U.S really wants to melt the ice between the two nations, (and between the U.S. and others), why not export to them some of our best traditional jazz and ragtime artists? Wouldn't this be a great opportunity for IAJE, JJA and TJEN to jointly approach the U.S State Department and perhaps National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities with such a proposal? Remember the old "Ambassador Satch" album? We could make it happen again!
When St. Paul, Minn. native Dave Frishberg, now of Portland, Ore. came back to Minnesota for the Feb. 25 CD release party for his and Minnesota vocalist Connie Evingson's new CD (see February RAG™), he also did a member appreciation show Feb. 24 for the University of Minnesota Libraries at the time-honored meeting place for students, Coffman Memorial Union, Minneapolis. Not only Frishberg but Butch Thompson, Leslie Johnson and I are U of Minnesota alumni. (The U begs me not to disclose my affiliation in public for fear of discouraging potential donors and enrollees; we are in negotiation.)
Roots: No one should be surprised that many of today's modern jazz artists, especially those with New Orleans backgrounds, also are steeped in and proficient at playing traditional jazz. It is my understanding that Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. deserve much of the credit for this. In Minnesota, we were privileged to have heard several such musicians in Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which played Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Feb. 22, and we will be again in another Orchestra Hall concert June 26 with the appearance of "Downbeat's Rising Jazz All Stars." And don't forget vocalist Dianne Reeves at Orchestra Hall May 2. Then, there's "A Tribute to Louis Armstrong" April 17 with Delfeayo Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Victor Goines, Reginald Veal, Kermit Ruffins and host Phil Schaap doing Armstrong favorites such as "West End Blues," "What a Wonderful World" and "Mack, the Knife" among many others.
In an e-mail to the RAG, Delfeayo Marsalis said, "Having known and played with a number of older musicians, I know how important it is to them that their many years of study and seriousness not be in vain. The older musicians want to know that the youngsters are adding their own flavor, but more important, that they are familiar with the tradition and legacy of the music. New Orleans musicians feel a great responsibility to Armstrong because of the unimaginable sacrifices he made as a man and an American to express music on such a high and consistent level. So, there's an aspect of maintaining a certain level of technical performance, altering the material in a modern sense harmonically and rhythmically, but most important, keeping Armstrong's exciting, brilliant and extroverted vision of the music alive.'"