Today, on the 90th anniversary of the passing of jazz legend and Davenport native Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), Josh Duffee of Davenport changed his Facebook profile picture to a black-and-white photo of a 24-year-old Bix, from 1927.

Bix's 1920s tuxedo jacket was installed this week at the Bix Beiderbecke Museum in downtown Davenport.

Bix’s 1920s tuxedo jacket was installed this week at the Bix Beiderbecke Museum in downtown Davenport.

A passionate jazz drummer, teacher and bandleader, Duffee and his Graystone Monarchs (10-piece all-star band) will be performing a “Tribute to Bix Beiderbecke” tonight at the Bix Jazz Festival at the Rhythm City Casino Events Center, 7077 Elmore Ave., Davenport, where the festival is currently taking place. This is the 50th anniversary for the jazz festival, to honor and continue the legacy of Bix, the great jazz cornetist, pianist and composer.

The Graystone Monarchs (including members of other bands at this year’s fest) will start their set at 8 p.m., which will coincide with the exact time (8:30 p.m. CST) that Bix passed away in his apartment in Queens, N.Y. All the musicians on stage will be performing music he performed and recorded, here in his hometown, at the exact moment he passed away. “This will be a very moving evening of music to celebrate Bix’s life as we remember him 90 years later,” Duffee posted.

Laura Heath of Trash Can Annie's Vintage Clothing helps prepare the Bix tuxedo as a new display in the Bix Museum.

Laura Heath of Trash Can Annie’s Vintage Clothing helps prepare the Bix tuxedo as a new display in the Bix Museum.

 

Patrons can get tickets to see an in-person or live streamed online performance to hear the music he performed with The Wolverines, Frank Trumbauer’s Orchestra, the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

According to the Jazz Trumpet Project, Aug. 6, 1931 was a hot, muggy day in Sunnyside, Queens. That night, the 28-year-old Bix burst into his apartment hallway screaming and demanding to see his rental agent, George Kraslow. When Kraslow reached apartment 1G, he found Bix trembling and ranting that two Mexican men were hiding under his bed with long daggers. Bix then apparently collapsed into his arms, dead.

The museum (free admission) will be open Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the lower level of River Music Experience, 2nd and Main streets, Davenport.

The museum (free admission) will be open Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the lower level of River Music Experience, 2nd and Main streets, Davenport.

“While the official cause of Beiderbecke’s death was lobar pneumonia, most historians agree that acute alcoholism was responsible for the decline in his physical and mental health in the last year or so of his life,” the jazz website says. “According to some accounts, Beiderbecke died only a month or two after moving into the apartment and never left the building except to buy bootleg gin.”

Bix's grave at Oakdale Memorial Gardens was decorated specially for today's 90th anniversary of his passing, Aug. 6, 1931, in Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y.

Bix’s grave at Oakdale Memorial Gardens was decorated specially for today’s 90th anniversary of his passing, Aug. 6, 1931, in Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y.

He is buried at the Beiderbecke family plot at Oakdale Memorial Gardens, at 25th and Eastern, Davenport, where each year the festival has a Saturday morning graveside service. The rest of the schedule for the fest (that began Thursday, Aug. 5)

 

Friday, Aug. 6 –

  • 6:00 – 6:45 – Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles
  • 7:00 – 7:45 – Mortonia Sextet
  • 8:00 – 8:45 – Graystone Monarchs (All-Stars)
  • 9:00 – 9:45 – Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys
  • 10:00 – Southside Aces

Saturday, Aug. 7 –

  • 10:00 – 11:00 (Oakdale Cemetery) – Cakewalkin’ Jass Band
Leon Bismark ("Bix") Beiderbecke was born in Davenport in 1903, seen here in 1927.

Leon Bismark (“Bix”) Beiderbecke was born in Davenport in 1903, seen here in 1927.

Saturday, Aug. 7 (Rhythm City Casino) –

  • 11:30 – 12:15 – Bix Youth Jazz Band
  • 12:30 – 1:15 – Southside Aces
  • 1:30 – 2:15 – Cakewalkin’ Jass Band
  • 2:30 – 3:15 – Graystone Monarchs
  • 3:30 – 4:15 – Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles
    BREAK – 4:15 – 6 p.m.
  • 6:00 – 6:45 – Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys
  • 7:00 – 7:45 – Graystone Monarchs (All-Stars)
  • 8:00 – 8:45 – Chicago Cellar Boys
  • 9:00 – 9:45 – Mortonia Sextet
  • 10:00 – Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles
Rock Island native and jazz trombonist Bill Allred (who played at the first fest in 1971) is back playing at the 50th anniversary festival at Rhythm City Casino Event Center.

Rock Island native and jazz trombonist Bill Allred (who played at the first fest in 1971) is back playing at the 50th anniversary festival at Rhythm City Casino Event Center.

This year’s festival also features a special guest, Bix fest pioneer and trombonist Bill Allred (who was part of the Aug. 6, 1971 reunion in Davenport) will perform in part of some of the bands’ sets. His performances have taken him to the major jazz festivals throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has appeared with Jack Teagarden, Bill Butterfield, Warren and Allan Vache, Peanuts Hucko, Acker Bilk, Al Hirt, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Cohen, Zoot Sims, Snooky Young, Bob Cooper, Milt Hinton, Bob Harggart, Barrett Deems, Louie Bellson, Roy Williams, and Buddy DeFranco.

In 1995, Bill created the Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band, which has traveled and performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. The band made 13 recordings which can be enjoyed on the top music sites. Allred (who’s based in Orlando, Fla.) continues to perform locally and at several European jazz clubs.

In time for the 50th anniversary fest, the Bix Beiderbecke Museum in downtown Davenport is now permanently displaying Bix’s tuxedo jacket and traveling trunk during his 1920s time playing for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The artifacts are on permanent loan from Bix’s great-nephew, Chris Beiderbecke of Moline. The museum raised over $12,000 through a fundraiser to pay for the renovations.

A Bix trunk from his days with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra was recently added at the Bix Museum next to one owned by Frank Trumbauer, a leading jazz saxophonist and bandmate.

A Bix trunk from his days with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra was recently added at the Bix Museum next to one owned by Frank Trumbauer, a leading jazz saxophonist and bandmate.

The project has been in development since February of 2020 and was completed in time to celebrate this week’s festival, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of Bix’s death in 1931.

“The community really stepped up when we asked for help to make this project a reality,” Bix Museum director Nathaniel Kraft said. “Despite a few setbacks along the way, we are extremely happy to have Bix’s tuxedo and trunk ready for the Jazz Festival to celebrate this historic milestone.”

Nate Kraft, director of the Bix Museum and Archives, before this weekend's festival.

Nate Kraft, director of the Bix Museum and Archives, before this weekend’s festival.

The tuxedo and trunk have joined many other Bix-related artifacts on display inside the museum’s permanent exhibit which includes Bix’s piano, childhood cornet, artifacts from his apartment, letters to his family, and a variety of instruments from musicians he played with.

Jazz drummer Josh Duffee of Davenport will lead his Graystone Monarchs tonight in a special tribute to Bix and pause in a moment of silence at 8:30 p.m., to honor the time of Beiderbecke's death at 28.

Jazz drummer Josh Duffee of Davenport will lead his Graystone Monarchs tonight in a special tribute to Bix and pause in a moment of silence at 8:30 p.m., to honor the time of Beiderbecke’s death at 28.

The Bix Museum will be open for extended hours this Saturday, August 7th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., so that Festival-goers and the public have an opportunity to see the new displays for the first time.

The Bix Museum is in the lower level of the River Music Experience at 2nd and Main Street in downtown Davenport. The museum is open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday typically by appointment only. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.bixmuseum.org. For tickets and more information on the festival, visit https://bixsociety.org/festival.php.

 

 

Help Honor the 90th Anniversary of Bix Beiderbecke’s Death Tonight and Tomorrow
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
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Help Honor the 90th Anniversary of Bix Beiderbecke’s Death Tonight and Tomorrow

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