Bix: The Definitive Biography of a Jazz Legend

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9780826427540: Bix: The Definitive Biography of a Jazz Legend
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"You can tell the whole world: there'll never be another Bix Beiderbecke. Take that from Satchmo! He was a born genius..."—Louis Armstrong

Bix Beiderbecke is one of jazz music's most enigmatic figures, and he has captivated listeners since his career began in the 1920s. He died at just 28, leaving many loose ends and inspiring much speculation. This book, now available in paperback, aims to clarify many of the myths created by the musician's premature death and the fictionalizations of Bix's life (three novels and a film: Remembering Bix by Ralph Berton, 1929 by Fredericks W. Turner, and Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker, and the 1950 film of Baker's novel by Michael Curtiz), and to update his two prior biographies (Bix, Man and Legend being out of print for many years).

French jazz scholar Jean Pierre Lion traveled the trajectory of Bix's life, from birth to death, to boarding school, on tour and beyond, to find the true story of this pivotal figure. Considered a genius by his fans and fellow musicians, Bix Beiderbecke was a master cornet player, and one of the most inspiring white jazz musicians of his age. He drank heavily during Prohibition, and fell ill from the toxic swill he had been drinking. When he died he left behind a tremendous list of recordings (included here in a definitive discography) and several original compositions. This biography culls the entirety of Bix scholarship into one volume, painting a complete picture of the man, his music, and his times. Lion brings the true legend of Bix into historical context, underlining the importance of the jazz scene that Bix not only participated in, but also helped to establish. The originality of Bix's style has roots in New Orleans jazz and such classical composers as Debussy and Ravel, and this biography traces the evolution of these various inspirations alongside the tale of the white cornet player. Historical ambience is created by descriptions of the Chicago of the 1920s — ruled by Al Capone and peopled with fast cars, flappers and hot jazz musicians — and Bix's personality is fleshed out by excerpts from the few letters he wrote in his lifetime, and memories of friends and witnesses of the jazz-age. The story is lively and emotional, the testament of a true fan and a true scholar.

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About the Author:

Jean Pierre Lion is the president of a French paper and textilemanufacturer, SEF, and is also an avid music collector. He is very much involved in the artistic life in his hometown of Laval, France (west of Paris, in Brittany), where he has directed modern art festivals, assembled collections, and created exposition catalogs.Gabriella Page-Fort studied romance languages and creative writing at NYU, and she now translates French and Spanish literature and nonfiction into English.

Review:

Voted "Best Book of 2004" and awarded the Prix Charles Delaunay by the French "Académie du Jazz"

[Lion's] style is elegant and inventive; his point is clear and perfectly framed by his patient study of the colossal documentation of Bix's life....The book comes alive through its intimate connection with one of the most fascinating characters in jazz history.—-Frank Bergerot for Jazzman (French jazz magazine) (Franck Bergerot for Jazzman (French jazz mag))

The learned and loving book that Jean-Pierre Lion dedicates to Bix takes its place as the biography of reference.—-Michael Contat for Le Monde (French newspaper) (Michael Contat for Le Monde (French newspaper))

Teeming with anecdotes and historical records, this biography, enhanced by several appendices and a complete discography, reads like a captivating novel.—-Le Quotidien (French newspaper) (Le Quotidien (French newspaper))

Jean Pierre Lion's work goes beyond mere biography. It examines the birth of jazz from historical and contemporary perspectives....it will serve as the point of reference for those seeking to understand the genesis of this music.—-Olivier Kociubinska for Jazz Notes (French magazine) (Olivier Kociubinska for Jazz Notes (French mag))

I have received the English translation of your book, and I am enchanted ! You have done an incroyable job ( I lapse into French sometimes when excited !). Really, I had thought that after the Sudhalter-Evans book there would not need to be any further exploration of Bix's life, but I was wrong. I never have seen the late Phil Evans' last book but heard that it is not more than a "catch-up" work, including material that never got into the other book, almost like a scrapbook. Your book, of course, puts this material and more,including photos of so many locations we have not all seen, into a sensible order and fills in the gaps that remained unknown. Thank you. I feel grateful to be included in it. —Duncan Schiedt, author of Ain't Misbehavin (biography of Fats Waller)

“...the book delves deeply into the musician’s life.” –What’s Up, June 2005

Bix is an exemplary piece of work...[Lion] has exploded numerous myths that long ago crept into the Beiderbecke literature, replacing them with a factually trustworthy account of the cornetist's life."— Commentary, September, 2005 (Commentary)

'An engrossing book, organised around a succession of significant dates and complete with an excellent discopgraphy.' (Times Literary Supplement)

"As, for music, Jean Pierre Lion's Bix: The Definitive Biography of a JazzLegend is a superior piece of biography that tells the sad story of jazzpioneer Bix Beiderbecke skillfully and sensitively." —nationalreview.com, December 2005
(nationalreview.com)

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