Bix Beiderbecke – This Month’s Featured Musician

From Bix: Man & Legend by Richard M. Sudhalter & Philip R. Evans

It seemed a good, lasting existence, one of hammocks under shady trees and long summer evenings on the veranda, the clip-clop of the family buggy giving slowly way to the cough and sputter of the gasoline engine.  Change, certainly, was in the air; Bix and Aggie [Bix’s father and mother] were aware of it, accepted its inevitability secure and confident they could watch it come, live with it and adpt to it, all the while able to retain what they found good and warm in the ast.  What they could never have suspected was that one of their own children would become the embodiment of another sort of change – one so dramatic and abrupt as to shatter the very coherence of so well-ordered a universe.


Dave Douglas: Soul on Soul

One of my favorite finds during the month I’ve been studying Mary Lou Williams has been this album, Soul on Soul: A Celebration of Mary Lou Williams.


Dave Douglas is another one of my favorite artists.  I really love the sound collages he creates with his compositions.  The sum is so much greater than it’s parts.  His music, to me, is so much more than “good jazz”.  His music leaves me with a feeling, much more than a tune I can hum.

He says in the liner notes, “Mary Lou’s being so consistently modern was what first attracted me to her music.  There were so many obstacles in her path, yet here was a person who was continually renovating and doing new things.  To me this seems absolutely courageous.”

In relation to the Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country Staircase Blog, it’s fitting that Douglas, a trumpet player, created this tribute album.  The next artist on the staircase is Bix Beiderbecke, who is one of history’s most innovative jazz trumpet players.

Not only at the Old Town School of Folk Music, but in real life, too.

One of the many great things about the Old Town School is that the classes are so diverse.  Every day of the week you can take classes in guitar styles of the Rolling Stones, taiko drumming from Japan, ancient hula, cajun fiddle, breakdancing, or join the mandolin orchestra.

So many times I have experiences with cultures coming together and I think, “Well, that can only happen at the Old Town School.”

I used to think of that a lot as I led the Thursday Night Jam in the lobby of the East Building, right underneath the staircase. As you can see in this picture, the Mary Lou Williams portrait is on the left and a screen printed Woody Guthrie poster is on the right.  Two of my biggest musical influences sharing the space at the Old Town School.

Lobby and Jam Space at the Old Town School of Folk Music's East Building

Lobby and Jam Space at the Old Town School of Folk Music’s East Building.  Mary Lou is on the left.  Woody is on the right.

And again, I would think to myself, “Only at the Old Town School are these two musicians, one a hero of the jazz age, and the other a hero of the dust bowl refugees, able to be celebrated in the same room.”

Then, my good friend, Chris Walz, Program Manager: Bluegrass, Old Time & Americana at the Old Town School of Folk Music, told me about this picture.

Mary Lou Williams second from the left in the back row, and Woody is on the right with his guitar.

This is taken from the FDR Bandwagon, a group of musicians and dancers in support Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.  The group, which was organized by Moe Asch, founder of Folkways Records, never really took off.  But, there they are.  Mary Lou Williams on the left and Woody Guthrie in the right with the guitar.

Not only at the Old Town School of Folk Music, but in real life, too.