Saturday, August 6, 2011

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) on Bix Beiderbecke

Corey Kilgannon, who seems to have an ongoing fascination with jazz musicians' final residences, writes about the apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where Bix Beiderbecke died, eighty years ago today.  Amiri Baraka's thoughts on Beiderbecke, published in Blues People (1963), are worth reflecting on:
Afro-American music did not become a completely American expression until the white man could play it!  Bix Beiderbecke, more than any of the early white jazzmen, signified this development because he was the first white jazz musician, the first white musician who brought to the jazz he created any of the ultimate concern Negro musicians brought to it as a casual attitude of their culture.  This development signified also that jazz would someday have to contend with the idea of its being an art (since that was the white man's only way into it).  The emergence of the white player meant that Afro-American culture had already become the expression of a particular kind of American experience, and what is most important, that this experience was available intellectually, that it could be learned.
Here's Cindy Marvel juggling to Beiderbecke's "Ostrich Walk":

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