Saxophonist Chris Madsen salutes Bix | Bleader

Saxophonist Chris Madsen salutes Bix


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Chris Madsen
  • Chris Madsen
Saturday was the 109th birthday of Iowa trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, one of the greatest and most tortured of jazz's early phenoms—he died in 1931, at age 28, after suffering from alcoholism for years. Though no horn man from that era will ever escape the shadow of Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was a great player and brought a wonderfully lyrical, gentle quality to traditional jazz improvisation. His music has had a strong influence on local reedist Chris Madsen, a professor at Northwestern University, who recently released an entire album of music associated with the trumpeter. He'll celebrate the release of Plays Bix Beiderbecke (JeruJazz) with a performance on Wednesday night at the Jazz Showcase.

The recording is a lovely and loving tribute, and it stands out among similar efforts in part because there's not a note of trumpet to be heard. Madsen, who plays tenor, is joined only by bassist Joe Policastro and guitarist Dan Effland. The music is hardly modern in its approach, but it does shift perspective from a trad sound to something more swing-based—Beiderbecke's celebrated cohort, saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, was a big influence on Lester Young, and you can hear a touch of Pres in Madsen's elegant, silky lines. Below is the trio's version of "Davenport Blues."

Chris Madsen Trio, "Davenport Blues"

Today's playlist:

Pippo Spera, A Buen Puerto (Lion Productions)
Arthur Russell, Another Thought (Orange Mountain Music)
Ernie Henry, Last Chorus (Riverside/OJC)
Delicate Steve, Wondervisions (Luaka Bop)
Dona Dumitru Siminca, Sounds From a Bygone Age, Vol. 3 (Asphalt Tango)