[Dixielandjazz] Question re Bix/Do records capture greatness?

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sat Jun 11 14:20:07 PDT 2005

On Jun 11, 2005, at 1:13 PM, Stan Brager wrote:

> Recordings capture the musicians at a specific moment in time in much 
> the
> same way as a test "captures" the knowledge of a student. Many 
> students are
> intimidated by a test and some musicians do feel intimidated by the
> recording process. A recording reveals any and all flaws for all to 
> hear for
> eternity. A flaw in during a live performance disappears with the next 
> note.
> Listen to Fats Waller And His Rhythm's many recordings. This is a 
> group of
> musicians who were self-confident in who they were and what they were 
> doing
> and the records capture this. It was also true of many of the Eddie 
> Condon
> sides as Steve Barbone pointed out. The same is true for Louis 
> Armstrong -
> listen to his first recording of "West End Blues".  If I could have 
> only one
> Louis Armstrong recording, this would be it.
> On the other hand, listen to Jess Stacy's solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing" 
> at the
> 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert. In my mind, listening to all the Stacy 
> solos in
> my collection, Stacy has never topped this moment.

> It's true that there is the tension of performing before a live 
> audience
> which induces many players to take "chances" and try something 
> different.
> Too many musicians and bands want to "play it safe" in the studio.
> Does being a great jazz musician preclude errors? No, it's not the 
> error but
> what the musician does next to incorporate the error into his solo and 
> make
> it seem OK. I remember a jazz DJ who used to play a recording by Eddie
> Condon in which a cornetist (identified in the liner notes as Pete 
> Pesci)
> made an error. Every time, the DJ played that recording, he'd mention 
> that
> particular clam which detracted from listeners' appreciation of the
> performance as a whole.
> Do records capture greatness? Yes, they can and they do but only if the
> musician can forget about the recording process and just make music.
> Pete Pesci was in fact Bobby Hackett.
> Stan
> Stan Brager

Re errors, yes, they're so often a sign of reaching for something and 
can lead to new musical discoveries. In the 60s Down Beat reported that 
Monk stopped a tune in the middle of a recording session and said he 
wanted to do another take because "I made a mistake that sounded 

And does anyone know if the old Bix story is true?--that he didn't like 
the way "Goose Pimples" was going at the recording serssion, so he blew 
two clinker notes at the end of the piano break, but later decided he 
liked the take so much that it became a favorite of his. Nice story, 
but it sounds fishy, like the story, now discredited, that said that 
Louis forgot the words to "Heebie Jeebies," resulting in the first 
full-chorus scat on record.

I also dug your balanced analysis, Stan, of recordings/live 
performances. Sometimes live is great, sometimes not. Sometimes 
recordings capture brilliance, sometimes they don't. What we do know is 
that our ears tell us that the sound coming from speakers can on some 
occasions make us marvel at the extraordinary creativity of the 
players, and we can both re-experience that and share it with others. 
If the greatest records are second-best to what an artist played one 
night at a bar or concert, we can wonder about that, but let's just 
congratulate those who were on site and be grateful for the treasured 
version that happens to be preserved on record.

Charlie Suhor

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