The Bix pays homage to jazz legend Davenport

Bix Beiderbecke. (photo courtesy of Bix Jazz Society.)

After last year’s 49th annual event went virtual due to the pandemic, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival is celebrating its golden anniversary with live music in person this weekend in Davenport.

Steve Trainor, president of the Bix Jazz Society, said their 50th festival kicked off last night and features five concerts of five hours each over three days with all-American programming.

“We have them from Denver, Minneapolis, Toledo, St. Louis, Chicago, Des Moines,” Trainor says. “So a total of eight professional groups, two of which are star groups from some of the other groups, then the ninth is our Bix Beiderbecke Youth Band.”

Bix, a native of Davenport, was a pioneer of cornet and piano jazz nearly a century ago, who died at the age of 28 in 1931. His music remains popular around the world and the festival has, in the pre-COVID era, attracted Bix enthusiasts from as far away as Australia, Japan and Europe. For this 50th year however, Trainor says a lot fewer people are traveling.

Des Moines Jazz Group NOLA. (photo courtesy of the Bix Jazz Society)

“Years and years ago there wasn’t what we call the Internet and we didn’t have a festival every other weekend,” says Trainor. “We had 10,000 people in the park, sometimes more. We average around 3,000 (per day) and we have to be happy with that, especially considering last year. We can’t wait to see real people and hear real music.

Every effort is made, he says, to make sure this year’s festival is a * safe * festival.
“There is no mask warrant at this point in the state of Iowa, but we have masks that we can give to people,” Trainor said. “We have seats for two, seats for four, and you can stretch out because there are about 700 seats. There are hand hygiene stations.

Most concerts take place at the Rhythm City Casino event center in North Davenport, although a few select shows are presented at the Putnam Museum and Oakdale Cemetery, where Bix is ​​buried. Fans will also want to visit the Bix Museum on the lower level of the River musical experience in downtown Davenport.

It is dedicated to telling the story of the hometown hero through recordings, photos, videos, storyboards, letters and his instruments.

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