Listening Log – [Pt. IV]- Bix Beiderbecke- In a Mist (1927)


Bix Beiderbecke- In a Mist (1927)

Listening Log – [Pt. IV]- Bix Beiderbecke- In a Mist (1927). Throughout March- April 2020 Listened to audio CD : The Golden Age Of Bix Beiderbecke (1983) On: MFP. Performer:  Bix Beiderbecke.

Bix Beiderbecke is one of my favourite musicians and songwriters. Along Thelonious Monk I took a liking to Bix’s music way before I had listened to any other jazz. The same is true for me when it comes to Debussy and Western Art Music. I liked Debussy before I had come to like any other classical music. It is not until now, during the research for this ‘Stylistic Technique’ course that I have come to realise how much these musicians have in common. I never knew that both Bix Beiderbecke and Thelonious Monk were heavily influenced by Debussy and that Bix in fact went as far as extensively studying Debussy and incorporating his compositional techniques in terms of using the whole-tone scale and extended chords. Debussy’s interest in the whole-tone scale seems to in turn have been influenced by one of the Javanese Gamelan scales which uses whole-tones. This is another music tradition which I am also particularly fond of. I have had a predilection for traditional East Asian music since I was a child (to the point of my parents teasingly nicknaming me ‘The Japanese’), revelling in Indonesian music as well as Japanese Okinawan, Vietnamese and Chinese music (based on a variety of different scales). Clearly, I heard some of these tonalities in Debussy and then later on in Bix and Monk. I think the reason I never consciously noticed the similarities in the scales used is perhaps down to the rhythmical aspects of jazz being very different to Debussy’s use of rhythm. This obscured the similarity in tonality for me.

For instance, Bix Beiderbecke’s ‘In a Mist’ uses the barrel house piano style, with its boogie woogie type rhythm. In other places both Bix and Monk play a ragtime stride type of piano style.

In a Mist opens with this swung ragtime rhythm, which is then repeatedly interrupted by Debussy-esq figures playing glissandos, extended harmonies and the whole-tone scale (for instance on beat 2-4 of bars, 2,4,6 or the entire whole-tone scale at bar 18).  In a Mist also uses a lot of parallel 5ths, added 6ths, pentachords, chords stacked on top of each other and he foregoes the leading tone at cadences with many non-functional harmony chord progressions whilst adding plenty of ‘blue’ notes. All this results in a very Impressionistic Jazz.

Bix Beiderbecke – In A Mist Recorded In NY, 1928
Album: All that Jazz, Vol. 25: The Bands That Featured Bix Beiderbecke (2014 Digital Remaster)
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