Bickford Theatre Hosts Annual Bix Beiderbecke Birthday Bash

Bickford Theatre Hosts Annual Bix Beiderbecke Birthday Bash

The legendary jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke will be celebrated by cornetist Mike Davis and a phenomenal ensemble at the Bickford Theatre's popular Bix Beiderbecke's Birthday Bash - a jazz concert, on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.

Cornetist Mike Davis, one of the foremost Bixian players in the country, returns to lead this tribute to the man who singlehandedly altered the way improvised jazz solos are played. The Bickford Theatre has been saluting Bix for about twice as long as his tragically short recording career which was cut short by his untimely death at age 28. Joining Davis are six skilled musicians who share his enthusiasm for the Bix material. Reedmen Dan Levinson and Jay Rattman will split the clarinet and tenor sax roles. Dalton Ridenhour will be at the piano while Bob Sacchi will handle the tuba. Jared Engel plays banjo and Jay Lepley will be at the period drum set. This year's program will concentrate on Bix's most productive period, leading The Wolverines, a group he joined in 1923, named after one of their most frequent numbers, Jelly Roll Morton's Wolverine Blues.

Beiderbecke, born in Davenport, Iowa, on March 10, 1903, taught himself to play the cornet largely by ear. He died tragically in 1931, but during his brief life he became one of the earliest great jazz improvisers along with Louis Armstrong. Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke was, as a gradeschooler, known as "the boy wonder" who could duplicate anything on the piano after hearing it played just once. Later, taken with jazz but observing that the pianist was never the leader, he taught himself cornet with an unusual dry embouchure and non-standard use of the valves. His friend Hoagy Carmichael said the resulting sound was like chimes being struck with a mallet. He is in the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame, the International Jazz Hall of Fame, the American Jazz Hall of Fame, the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, and on the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame. His records have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and are in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Mike Davis is in the vanguard of young musicians bringing traditional jazz to prominence in the New York music scene. He began learning the trumpet at the age of nine in Seattle, moving to NYC to explore his interest in early jazz styles, which lead to performing professionally while still in college. He now appears regularly around New York City as the leader of the New Wonders and with many other traditional jazz and swing bands. The Wall Street Journal called him an "eloquent trumpet prodigy," and he is much in demand for his ability to capture the sounds of those great musicians of the Jazz Age. Downbeat Magazine wrote: "Mike Davis... appeared to have emerged from a time portal from the year 1927".

"The Wolverines recorded a new and unique approach to jazz, featuring both complex ensemble sections and individual improvised solos, one of the first bands to explore this concept to such a degree," states Mike Davis. "They also played with a distinctive loping, relaxed rhythmic feel that thrilled dancers of the day and was a hit at parties and college functions. Beiderbecke's departure for bigger and better work left the band without a star soloist, but his contribution to their records constitutes an important milestone in recorded jazz history."


Museum Members: $18
Non-Members: $20
Seniors: $18

Tickets may be purchased online at by phone at 973. 971.3706, or in person at the Museum during normal operating hours.

Photo by Jane Kratochvil

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