Blind Pig, 0; Acorn, 1

Jan 23, 2020
I've been trying for two days now to write something witty, enlightening and succinct about Bix Beiderbecke, and all I've come up with is a bit of satisfying but slight trivia about the origins of his given name. One of my lesser hobbies consists of wondering why some musicians score a cool handle for life while others don't, with a subsidiary curiosity about how even the most workaday of names (Bill Evans? Herb Ellis?) manage to take on some pizzazz through association with the talent demonstrated by the person within. Bix, it turns out, was most likely named Leon Bismark, after his father Bismark Beiderbecke. Both father and son voluntarily abbreviated this bit of Prussian invocation to Bix, and hey, presto, the original Young Man With A Horn was born, narrowly averting a fate as a traveling purveyor of Teutonic meat products in the bargain.

Bix Beiderbecke is one of those musicians I've long read about but never really listened to – until recently, that is. I don't have the whole order of events clear yet as far as when and why he recorded with whom, and how, but a few things stand out already. For starters, Beiderbecke's recordings with saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer often include Eddie Lang on guitar, and when the majority of the rhythm is left to Lang, the results are positively grooving. And the thing about Trumbauer is, anyone who ever talks about Lester Young mentions Trumbauer as the major influence on Young's tenor saxophone sound. (Because Trumbauer was white and Young was one of the most influential African-American musicians of the 20th century, this inevitably comes up when the discussion turns to matters of jazz and race.) I have to say, hearing Trumbauer out of left field made me think, on an nearly unconscious level, of Young, and once I began listening with that firmly in mind, the connection seemed beyond obvious. Score one for actually hearing music instead of just reading about it. Then again, score one for having a context in which to listen to things when you do.

My Bix Beiderbecke playlist includes not only a handful of Beiderbecke/Trumbauer tunes but also an Eddie Lang/Carl Cress duet, something with Lang and violinist Joe Venuti, an early Lester Young blues and, for comparison's sake, both the Beiderbecke/Trumbauer and Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian versions of "Royal Garden Blues." And yes, that's Beiderbecke playing solo piano on "In A Mist."

All of which has nearly nothing to do with this week's lesson on how to use ii-V chord voicings over a steady-bass blues groove in E. That said, you can find the new lesson here:

E Blues ii-V Voicings

And download the tab here (no need to re-enter your email address):

Get the Tab

The playlist is posted on Fretboard Confidential; you can find it here:


More soon,