Hooray for Bix!
an album dedicated to Bix Beiderbecke by
MARTY GROSZ and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band featuring CARL HALEN
Carl Halen (cnt) Turk Santos (second cornet – on Side 1, #6, and Side 2, #6 only; guitar on Side 2, #3 only) Harry Budd (tb) Frank Chace (cl, brs) Bob Skiver (ts, cl) Tut Soper (p) Marty Grosz (g, vcl) Chuck Neilson (b) Pepper Boggs (drs) Yellow Springs, Ohio; December, 1957
1. Chages (2:38) vcl (Walter Donaldson)
2. Cryin’ all Day (4:12) (Trumbauer – Morehouse)
3. Lonely Melody (3:08) (Coslow – Meroff – Dyson)
4. I’m Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now (4:03) (Davis – Greer)
5. Sorry (3:42) (Quicksell – Klages)
6. My Pet (3:02) (Ager – Yellen)
1. The Love Nest (3:43) (Harbach – Hirsch)
2. Clementine (from New Orleans) (3:55) (Cramer – Warren)
3. Oh, Miss Hannah (4:13) (Hollingsworth – Deppen)
4. Wa-Da-Da (3:36) (Barris – Crosby)
5. For No Reason at All in C (4:20) ((Beiderbecke – Trumbauer – Lang)
6. Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now (3:34) vcl (Walter Donaldson)
“Hooray for Bix” might well have been the hoarse cry of a midwestern college senior of the 1920s, barely heard over the Wolverines’ final ride-out on Tiger Rag, following a fabulous cornet break by Bix. In its directness the cry reflects not only the enthusiasm for jazz of Beiderbecke’s own era, but also how guitarist-leader MARTY GROSZ and cornetist CARL HELEN – two of today’s top tradition-minded young jazzmen – feel towards this man and his music.
Bix and the romantic legends surrounding him have for many years been the almost exclusive property of authors, romantics, anecdote-collectors, legend-worshippers, and people who drop his name into conversations just to show that they do know something of jazz. When you consider that Beiderbecke has been dead for almost thirty years, it is truly remarkable that any figure in so fickle and ephemeral an area as jazz should be remembered by so many (including so many who never knew the man and never heard him play in person).
The original cause of the glory, of course, was this man’s great talent: his tone was golden, his approach new, his harmonic and rhythmic ideals novel, and his creativeness unlimited. These elements combined to produce one of the all-time greats of jazz. They also produced an individualist around whom many musicians of his day gathered. Benny Goodman, Jimmy McPartland, Frank Teschrmacher, Eddie Lang, the Dorsey brothers, and many others, especially of the Chicagoan crowd, played with Bix and to varying degrees patterned their playing after his. Yet none of them really played much like the master. Of those who are still alive, some play an occasional Bixian phrase or perhaps feature Singing the Blues or I’m Coming Virginia, but in truth it can be said that when Bix died his music went with him. Many musicians certainly were influenced by him; but, understandably enough, none could do more, or as much, with the musical material he had utilized.
Crosz and Halen belong to a third generation of jazz men who have idolized Bix. They have taken a very logical, yet long overdue step in creating this record. They have selected a group of more than just sympathetic musicians, picked some of the better and (for the most part) seldom-performed tunes that Bix played, and have used taste and a real feeling for this idiom to produce music that stands on its own two feet. They don’t imitate the original records; Bix’ choruses aren’t copied; yet between them, Carl and Marty capture the spirit of the man and his era. They, too, worship the legend; however, they have the musical ability to create a setting that not only pays its dues to Beiderbecke but is also good jazz in its own right.
The name of the group – the Honoris Causa Jazz Band – suggests the musically honorable cause of doing homage to Bix. But it refers also to “honorable” young musicians who choose to play what for want of a better name is called Dixieland. Marty and his associates don’t perform that kind of music you might think of when you hear that “Dixieland” tag. They don’t adhere to the youthful “mouldy fig” school of heavy-handed recreation of tired warhorses, nor do they sound like the modern Dixielanders who play formula music, with the emphasis again on standards, loud blowing and watered-down rhythm sections (you know the kind of band I mean: the clarinet or piano always takes the first solo after the opening ensemble).
This group, to quote Marty, “tries to play music, the best we can, and (we) hope it swings.” If you must liken the band, and its sound, to another, perhaps Bud Freeman’s historical Summa Cum Laude band of the late ‘30s is the best choice. Since that fine organization had recorded the tunes of the Wolverine days, Marty and Carl decided to avoid those, selecting their material from Bix’s Whiteman, Goldkette and Trumbauer periods.
The Honoris Causa Band likes collective improvisation, tunes with two or more parts, vocals, emphasis on dynamics and the various tonal colors possible with varied arrangements. They have used all of these elements to advantage on this record.
MARTY GOSZ is a young man of 28, loaded with talent and nervous energy, who has been living and playing in Chicago for the past few years. (He is the son of the world-famous artist, George Grosz.) Marty plays the four string guitar (as does Eddie Condon, one of his inspirations), and has been known to have a go at banjo. He drives, musically and emotionally, on this record and in any group in which he plays; and his single-string and rhythm work leave very little to be desired if your tastes run to hard-driving, middle of the road, mainstream jazz. His singing on Changes is a good example of his vocal talents.
CARL HALEN can produce exciting jazz on both cornet and trumpet, but this recording has stayed – logically – with cornet. Carl lives in Cincinnati, where he leads his own group: the Gin Bottle Seven. On this record his playing immediately brings Bix to mind, not because he’s imitating the master but because Carl’s roots are imbedded firmly in the same midwestern musical soil that produced Bix. (Halen and Grosz, by the way, are responsible for all the arrangements).
Frank Chace takes most of the clarinet parts, doubling on baritone sax, while Bob Skiver plays all the tenor sax, plus occasional clarinet. Pianist “Tut” Soper, one of the original Chicagoans, has been active in that city for many years. To quote Grosz: “He is one of the important Chicagoans, but unfortunately has never received much recognition.” Turk Santos, added on second cornet for two selections and on guitar for Oh, Miss Hannah, was a friend of Beiderbecke’s and of guitarist Dick McDonough, and Grosz credits him with much help in the preparation of this recording.
Halen can be heard with his own group on –
Gin Bottle Jazz: CARL HALEN’s Gin Bottle Seven (RLP 12-231)
Whoopee Makers’ Jazz: CARL HALEN’s Gin Bottle Seven (RLP 12-261)
Other youthful jazz bands in a traditional vein on Riverside LPs include –
Gene Mayl’s DIXIELAND RHYTHM KINGS: Dixieland in HI-FI (RKO 12-210) and At the HI-FI Jazz Band Ball
RED ONION JAZZ BAND: Dance Off Both Your Shoes in HI-FI (RLP 12-260)
Original records b Bix himself, superbly reprocessed, are re-issued on –
BIX BEIDERBECKE and the Wolverines (RLP 12-123)
Produced and recorded by DAVE JONES
Cover designed by PAUL BACON; cover photograph: WALLACE LITWIN.
(Center car in photo is a 1932 4 ½ litre Invicta, courtesy of John Stix.)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCITONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.