Andy Schumm has made a name for himself in the last decade as the leading cornet player in the style of Bix Beiderbecke- a true standout in a crowded field. Futuristic Rhythms: Imagining the Later Bix Beiderbecke is his third album taking on the role of Bix himself.
Schumm led the Lake Records release of Bix: Off The Record (LACD339 2015) which featured tunes Bix was known to have played but never recorded. He followed that up with When Louis Met Bix (LACD345 2016) where he as Bix and Enrico Tomasso, in the role of Louis Armstrong, imagined not so much a foggy riverside meeting as a series of professional engagements featuring both legends.
In Futuristic Rhythms, he takes it further, exploring what might have been recorded had Bix lived past 1931. Such an exercise is in part a guessing game for scholars of the life and legend: who would he have worked with? What songs would he have been drawn to? Would he have developed with the times? The reasoning behind each track on the album is explained in the extensive liner notes written by Julio Schwarz Andrade. Several are obscure compositions from the ’20s that Bix might have been attracted to later. “Rain,” composed by Eugene Ford in 1927 is given a gorgeous softness. The standout track on the album, “The Things That Were Made for Love,” features a guitar, cornet, and piano chorus at the pinnacle of the sweet music of the era.
Other tracks seem to have been included to imagine specific pairings. “I Never Knew” has Bix with Benny Goodman on a particularly hot night with room for a Clarinet solo by Ewan Bleach, a star of the London early jazz scene and features a drum break by another Londoner, Nicholas D. Ball, a master of period percussion from the ragtime era onward.
The band is equally uptempo when Bix meets Basie and perhaps a good Bixian solo is what the tune was missing for me because while I typically find “Moten Swing” underwhelming this fine band really pumps it. Hoagy Carmichael’s beautiful “Memphis in June” allows guitarist Martin Wheatley to pay tribute to Eddie Lang. Martin’s son, Tom Wheatley, impresses on bass throughout the album. Still in his 20s, he can be found both playing slap bass in trad bands and producing highly avant-garde music of his own. The latest the album ventures is to 1948 and Cole Porter’s “Why Can’t You Behave?” which receives a crisp and believable rendition.
Which leaves us with Andy Schumm himself, who steeped as he is in Bix’s style of playing makes the presentation of the chosen tracks musically viable with no more—and no less—Bix than you would have expected to hear on real period recordings. Unnecessary ventures into Bix Bop are avoided and avid fans of Bix, as well as fans of the smaller bands of the swing era, will be pleased with this album.
Andy Schumm and his Sink-O-Pators- Futuristic Rhythms: Imagining the Later Bix Beiderbecke
Rivermont BSW-2244 (2018) www.RivermontRecords.com