View Full Version : Off Topic: HTOTW#6, Bix Beiderbecke, jazz genius.

Terry Porritt
24-01-2004, 05:27 PM
(HTOTW = Hot Tune(s) Of The Week), note the 's', with only one tune a week I dont have 200 years left to get through them.

Note: Most if not all of the websites that the links connect to use streaming Real Audio. If you dont have Real Player or one of its versions installed, then there are several solutions. The first is to either install Real One player here (http://www.real.com/freeplayer/?rppr=rnwk), or you may prefer an earlier Real Player version from here (http://www.oldversion.com/program.php?n=real), thanks Murray.p

Bix Beiderbecke, cornet player and composer, jazz genius from Davenport, Iowa, born in March 1903, and died in August 1931 from pneumonia and alcoholic delerium tremens. Yet in those few short years his influence on the jazz scene right across the world was immeasurable. From America across to Europe, England, France, Sweden, trumpet and cornet players were trying to play in a Bix style, but really you can't, it is too difficult to match the tone and sheer inventiveness.

As with many who have died young, myths and legends have sprung up around him, but amid all, he was universally loved by all who knew and played with him.

The most definitive and informative website is that hosted by Albert Haim, at http://www.bixbeiderbecke.com (what else could it be?). There you will find a wealth of information, hundreds of hours of Real Audio listening related to Bix, photos, biographies, discographies, and an active Forum.

As an excellent introduction to Bix we will visit Alberts' site and listen to a 13 minute short radio program I recorded in 1961. This was from a Steve Race weekly jazz program broadcast on BBC.

The quality is not that clever, but considering I used a second hand reel to reel recorder with 1/4" tape re-used many times, played many times, then 30 years later transcribed to cassette, dubbed from that and then encoded to .rm, it is listenable :)
So go here (http://ms.cc.sunysb.edu/%7Ealhaim/audiotapes.htm#Peter%20Lesley's%20Close-up%20on%20Bix) scroll down to Peter Lesley's Closeup on Bix Beiderbecke and click on the .ram link

There you will have heard that Bix joined and recorded with the Wolverines in 1924, but without any doubt he was at the peak of creativeness and technique during 1927, when he was with the Jean Goldkette orchestra, one of the best around at that time, and teamed up with Frankie Trumbauer, C-Melody sax player extraordinaire.

Let's listen to four or five of his most influential recordings from that time, recordings which changed the face of jazz, and had Louis Armstrong gasping with admiration.

"Singin' the Blues", with Bix, cornet; Trumbauer, C-melody sax; Jimmy Dorsey, Clarinet/Alto sax; Bill Rank, trombone; Paul Mertz, piano; Eddie Lang, guitar; Chauncey Morehouse, drums; recorded February 4, 1927.
listen (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/tram/singintheblues.ram)

"I'm Coming Virginia", with Bix, cornet; Trumbauer, c-melody sax; Bill Rank, trombone; Don Murray, clarinet/tenor sax; Doc Ryker, alto sax; Irving Riskin piano; Eddie Lang, guitar; Chauncey Morehouse, drums, recorded May 13 1927.
listen (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/tram/imcoming.ram)

"Sorry", Bix, cornet; Frankie Trumbauer, c-melody sax; Bill Rank, trombone; Don Murray, clarinet; Adrian Rollini bass saxFrank Signorelli, piano; Eddie Lang, banjo; Chauncey Morehouse, drums; recorded October 20 1927.
You will have this on the Peter Lesley program, but it is worth repeating with a slightly better quality.
listen (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/bix/sorry.ram)

"Since My Best Gal turned Me Down", same personnel as above.
listen (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/bix/sincemy.ram)

To finish this week, "In a Mist". Bix was not just a cornetist, he used to spend hours at the piano, making things up as he went along.
In fact he was one of the very few real improvisers in jazz. He never ever played a solo the same way twice. Listening to different takes of the same tune shows his inventiveness.

Here he is with the only piano recording he made, gosh, just think what generations have missed. This is in old Real Audio format and Real Audio 2 codec is required to play it. Older versions Of Real Player most probably have an out of date "update" web address built in, so the latest version of Real Player may well be needed to play it.
listen (http://www.redhotjazz.com/songs/bix/inamist.ram)

Next week we will listen to some recordings made with the Wolverines in 1924, and then the same tune as recorded later in 1927.

Terry Porritt
28-01-2004, 03:28 PM
As many young PF1'ers have been brought up on audio CDs, not many will know much even about vinyl records, let alone 78rpm shellac records, so a few words about 78rpm records, how they were made and the sound quality, may be in order.

Electrical recording started in about 1924, but wasn't widespread until about 1926. In fact it is fairly safe to say almost all records made before 1926 will be acoustic.

By acoustic we mean that the sound energy was collected by a cone shaped horn, and at the small end was a diaphragm connected directly to a steel cutting stylus. This stylus cut the wavy side to side grooves in the soft "wax" surface of a disc about 25mm thick on the recording turntable. Next a coating of very fine graphite powder was rubbed in with a brush, and then a copper negative master was made by electroplating onto the disc. Next, a nickel positive was made from the copper master, and from this any number of nickel negatives were made backed onto thick copper which were the dies used to stamp out the records from hot shellac mixture.

To play the record an acoustic gramaphone was used, and in it's ultimate form could give a frequency response from about 150Hz to 4000Hz, falling off at either end. There was no electrical amplification anywhere between the sounds in the recording studios and the sounds coming out of the horn on the gramaphone. (Mechanics is a wonderful thing :) )

Control of the cutting stylus amplitude was entirely by mechanical tuning, damping and control of resonances, you could imagine a big bass drum making such a loud sound that the stylus could easily cut into side grooves and make the record useless. So loud instruments were placed further away from the horn.

When electrical recording came along with microphones, valve amplifiers, and electromagnetic recording heads, it was possible to control the recording characteristics to give a much more faithfully reproduced sound.

However because of the inherent characteristics of an elecromagnetic cutter, it was necessary to record low frequencies at constant amplitude, and high frequencies at constant velocity, the transition between these was called the cross over frequency. Without this sytem, the amplitude of the grooves at low frequency would be too great, and grooves would overlap.

When the record was played back, an electrical equalisation network was required to give a level frequency response.

The big problem with early 78rpm records is that there was no standardisation between the different recording companies. So lots of different equalisation networks are needed, and even more of a problem, groove radii varied considerably between manufacturers.

Frequency response for an electrical 78 rpm could be of the order of 50Hz to 8KHz-10KHz with luck, but playback hardware would affect this considerably, and the recording was still limited by electronic distortion in the recording amplifiers, speed variation of the turntable, tracking errors of the pickup arm, wear of needles and so on.

Over the years these old 78s have been copied onto LPs and usually 78rpm surface noise was removed by top cut filters which doesn't do much for the high frequency music sounds on the record.

During the 1980s and subsequently there was a revolution in digital re-recording devised by an Australian audio engineer named Bob Parker. In my humble opinion his reproduction of 78s in digital stereo has not been surpassed even to this day.

The point is that on 78rpm records, there is a lot of musical 'data' that is never normally heard because it is beneath the inherent noise levels. Bob Parker was able to bring this out, even out the sound levels, and remove the noise at the same time.
So we begin to hear sounds of the old days much nearer to what it would have been like actually being there.

However most if not all the recordings referenced in HTOTW have not been through this process, either they are encoded directly from a 78rpm player, or will have had a form of digital re-processing by one of the proprietary PC softwares.

To get just a little idea of what Bob Parker can do, visit this site and click on one of the programs in the series Jazz Classics In digital Stereo (http://www.neworleansradio.com/Parker.asp#)
Remember these are all from 78rpm records. Even the acoustically recorded sides sound great.
However dont forget the quality in streaming audio is nowhere near as good as from the LP or CD in this this series.

28-01-2004, 07:12 PM
Thankyou Terry for this nostalgic reminder of the 78 rpm records. I sure remember their quality, or lack of. It seemed the 33 LP records were a giant leap forward, and then the CD's even more so.

But I really want to thank you for the link to Bob Parker's 'Jazz Classics in stereo'.. Realising the limitations of 78's, I was blown away with the quality he has achieved from the 1920/30s 78 rpm recordings. Some even almost CD quality on my stereo surround sound/woofer system. Amazing.

I would recommend PF1'ers with an interest in jazz music, be sure to check out the Bob Parker site that Terry has listed.

Thanks Terry.

Murray P
30-01-2004, 09:31 PM
I'm late, almost missed this HTOTW Terry. is there any other/recommended way to play the Bob Parker Jazz Classics. I'm using RealPlayer 8 basic but, get a "click here to get the plugin" in the pop up that should take me to the file. the plugin ends out to be an updated version of RealPlayer that I don't want. Any help would be appreciated. No prize for guessing which one I tried first.

Mention of tapes reminds me that we have three old reel to reels sitting downstairs that belonged to my wife's uncle. A bunch of 78's went in a garage sale but nobody seemed to know what to do with the tape machines and all the cables and bits and pieces that seem to go with them. Nothing flash I expect but, do you know where they could be off loaded?

Cheers Murray P

Murray P
30-01-2004, 09:39 PM
Problem solved, for now. I've bitten the bullet and tried it in IE, gasp!, and it works fine. Would still like to know how to get there using Mozilla Firebird, It's never failed me like this before playing streaming audio ?:|

Sonds great BTW, even through my limited system.

Cheers Murray P

Terry Porritt
31-01-2004, 08:04 AM
Hi Murray, glad you got Bob Parker to work, in IE a separate play window just pops up, nothing to do with Real, I'm not sure what the format is.

As far as the reel to reel recorders go, maybe try Trade and Exchange, but there isnt any demand these days except for top of the line 'studio' models.

I had about 60 7" tapes, ex-DSIR, saved from going to the tip, only used about once, which I used with my old Sony. When the Sony finally expired, I tried advertising the tapes at $1 each on and off for months with only 1 buyer who had 6. The rest had to go the the tip :(

The next HTOTW will be late!!