I am sitting in my apartment in Haifa Israel listening to my beloved jazz recordings from the early era of America’s great gift to the world of music. I think a lot of the past at the age of sixty four. I would like to share my wonderful memories of Davenport Iowa with the readers.
From time to time I have heard jokes in poor taste about the wonderful state of Iowa. I worked for a meat company while in high school and college that was based in Chicago and operated in the neighboring “Hawkeye” state. There have been many times that I visited Davenport and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and genuine hospitality of that great community.
Davenport is a city located along the Mississippi River in Scott County, Iowa, United States. It is the county seat of and largest city in Scott County; it is also the largest of the Quad Cities, a metropolitan area with a population estimate of 381,342. Davenport was founded on May 14, 1836 by Antoine LeClaire and was named for his friend, George Davenport, a colonel during the Black Hawk War stationed at nearby Fort Armstrong. According to the 2010 census, the city had a population of one hundred thousand residents.
Located approximately half way between Chicago and Des Moines, Davenport is on the border of Iowa and Illinois. The city is prone to frequent flooding due to its location on the Mississippi River. It can be very hot and humid in the summer and cold and windy in the winter. I shudder when thinking of my January visits to see friends and family. Palmer College of Chiropractic is there which is where the first chiropractic adjustment took place. Several annual music festivals take place in Davenport, including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, The Mississippi Valley Fair, and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. An internationally known 7-mile (11 km) foot race called the Bix 7 is running during this festival.Â
One of the most famous natives of Davenport was “Bix” Beiderbecke.Â
Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 â€“ August 6, 1931) was an AmericanÂ jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, composer and almost certainly the most famous citizen of Davenport. He is also my favorite jazz figure. I am listening to “Riverboat Shuffle” while I write this post.Â
With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. He not only played a great cornet, he also wrote jazz ballads for both cornet and piano. Beiderbecke also has been credited for his influence, directly, on Bing Crosby and, indirectly, via saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, on jazz saxophone legend Lester Young. Lester Young played with Count Basie and is often credited with discovering jazz legend Billie Holiday.
Beiderbecke taught himself to play cornet largely by ear, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering that some critics have connected to his original sound. His parents disapproved of his playing music and sent him to a military school outside of Chicago in 1921. He was soon expelled for skipping class and became a full-time musician. Bix was also an accomplished pianist and composer. He first recorded with a Midwestern jazz ensemble – The Wolverines in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Detroit-based Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer for an extended gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis, Missouri. Beiderbecke and Trumbauer both joined Goldkette in 1926. The band toured widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in October 1926. The following year, Trumbauer and Beiderbeck left Detroit to join the best-known and most prestigious dance orchestra in the country: the New York-based Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Paul Whiteman was like me – a former Coloradan. He was known as “The King of Jazz”.
Beiderbecke’s most influential recordings date from his time with Goldkette and Whiteman, although they were generally recorded under his own name or Trumbauer’s. The Whiteman period also marked a precipitous decline in Beiderbecke’s health, brought on by the demand of the bandleader’s relentless touring and recording schedule in combination with Beiderbecke’s persistent alcoholism. A few stints in rehabilitation centers, as well as the support of Whiteman and the Beiderbecke family in Davenport, did not check Beiderbecke’s decline in health. He left the Whiteman band in 1930 and the following summer died in his Queens apartment at the age of 28. He drank himself to an early grave with illegal Prohibition liquor.Â
His death, in turn, gave rise to one of the original legends of jazz. In magazine articles, musicians’ memoirs, novels, and Hollywood films, Beiderbecke has been reincarnated as a Romantic hero in the movie “Young Man with a Horn”. Kirk Douglas had the lead role in the film. His life has been portrayed as a battle against such common obstacles to art as family and commerce, while his death has been seen as a martyrdom for the sake of art. The historical Beiderbecke, meanwhile, is the subject of scholarly controversy regarding his true name, the cause of his death, and the importance of his contributions to jazz.
I am going to finish the post with the obvious, I love Davenport Iowa for a variety of reasons but mainly for Bix.