The Syncopated Soul of Bix


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In the 1920s, syncopation was the iPhone and social media of its day. Invented by New Orleans musicians and popularized in gangland Chicago, the infectious sound of off-beat rhythms enhanced by wailing jazz trumpets and cornets became a national rage. Whether you were rich or poor, black or white, it made no difference. The music transcended class and race. It could be heard on 78 records and in ballrooms and bars. The music's earthy, care-free personality also permeated fashion, ushering in loud suits and risque dresses, and altered architectural design and even the language. When historians refer to the Jazz Age, they're really talking about the surging popularity of syncopation in the years after World War I and before the bank failures of the early '30s and the Great Depression.

Among those whose sound one identifies with syncopation and this decade is Bix Beiderbecke. March 10 will mark the 115th anniversary of the cornetist's birth. What made Beiderbecke special was the clarity of his tone and the conversational coolness of his melodic articulation. An alcoholic at a time when liquor and beer were illegal and what was brewed could destroy internal organs, Beiderbecke died in 1931 at age 29.

Here's a short bio...

Here's singer-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael on Beiderbecke...

And here's more than 90 minutes of Beiderbecke. Just listen and let Bix enter your soul. You'll kow it's in there when your feet start moving...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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