In the summer of 1971, a group of musicians made a pilgrimage to Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport, Iowa. They planned to play a simple concert in homage to one of the pioneers of jazz, on the fortieth anniversary of his death.
Almost two thousand people showed up at the gravesite to listen.
The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival has only grown from there.
This will come as no surprise to those of us who know Bix and have heard recordings of his compositions. The man had a phenomenal musical memory and he used it to weave the unconventional patterns of modern classical composers—Debussy, Ravel, Holst, and Stravinsky—with his own free syncopational style.
And how was he as a coronet player? At a time when music was just starting to favor the soloist, Bix shone:*
The celebration kicks off tomorrow, with the 23rd annual Bix Porch Party at the Davenport Public Library on Main Street. We’ll have hot dogs and hot music. Bring your lawn chairs and your dancing shoes.
While you’re here, come on down to our Special Collections Center and say hello. We’ll show you our collection of Bix Beiderbecke photographs—including one of Bix on a pony—and Memorial Jazz Festival posters.
*The singer isn’t half bad, either.