From the Record Shelves #171

Fidgety Feet

LP Riverside 8810

On this day a hundred years ago, on February 18, 1924, Bix Beiderbecke made his first record. His sound as it came out of a cornet and his musical ideas still fascinate people all over the world, and it is generally agreed that he was one of the greatest jazz musicians ever.

His success was not instant, though, since he did not play like any other cornetist that people had heard. He searched for a personal sound, had his own method of fingering and producing the notes on his instrument, and constantly tried new ideas. Some of them were inspired by the New Orleans Jazz that he had heard on records or came from the riverboats or Chicago’s South Side; some came out of his interest in classical music. But interviewed musicians that played with him often said that they didn’t understand where all this beautiful music came from.

The first recording was made with the “Wolverine Orchestra” for Gennett in Richmond, Indiana, and they chose four tunes that came from the repertory of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. It’s said that every new record that came out by that pioneer jazz orchestra became a lesson for the young Bix. And on almost every subsequent record session when Bix was in charge as musical leader or had influence over the choice, the ODJB tunes were favored. But he did what every revivalist ought to do: he played them in his own style.

Two of the tunes were rejected, but Jazz Me Blues and this one, Fidgety Feet, were released a couple of months later, and they were much talked about among musicians.

Bix discards the ragtime-styled original melody of the first theme of Fidgety Feet in his lead, and after the traditional second strain, they do a rhythmically advanced interpretation of the 32-bar trio part. At the end, Bix’s lead is played with drive and rhythmic variations, and his beautiful sound is striking in spite of the early limited recording technique.

I was very young when I bought this record, my third one featuring Bix Beiderbecke. It was a Saturday, and my mother, who was away, had given me money to eat in a restaurant in town. I did like I often did at the time when I had bought a new record; I enjoyed looking at it and feeling it before listening, and this time it was just me and the Bix record at a table in the dining room.