The Unrecognized Bix Beiderbecke #2 – Alabammy Snow


On 15 May 1929 a small contingent of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra recorded two sides for Columbia – “What A Day” and “Alabammy Snow”.
The record was issued under the pseudonym “The Mason-Dixon Orchestra” no doubt as an “in-joke” because the catalogue number of the record was 1861.
Okeh (a subsidiary label of Columbia) always issued recordings with a similar personnel under saxophonist Frank Trumbauer’s name.
It is rumoured that “Tram” once mentioned that cornetist Bix Beiderbecke did not record with his orchestra for Okeh after the session of two weeks earlier, 30 April 1929.
But with a slightly different personnel under another name and for another label, this one-off session may have escaped Tram’s memory and Bix recorded in the same studio on the day after this session.
The discographies have always named three trumpeters/cornetists for this date, Charlie Margulis, Harry Goldfield and Andy Secrest, all three Whiteman regulars and the latter known for his ability to sound like Bix, who was being featured less and less and was to leave the band permanently in September.
But at the time of the Mason-Dixon recording date, Bix was still very much with Whiteman and it would have been logical if he was present; he had done a radio show with the band the day before and recorded in the same Columbia studio with them the day after.
Still, in the discographies and books about Bix, it has always been accepted that he was not present and that everything on this record that sounds like Bix was actually played by Secrest.
However, careful listening and deducting reveals that Bix can be heard on both sides.
Using the latest techniques we have newly restored both titles from a mint copy of Columbia 1861-D and identification of Bix has become quite obvious.
First of all, on both sides Secrest is the very prominent lead cornetist and it is clear that there is only one other cornet present – Bix.
On “Alabammy Snow” there are two horns in the written ensembles (with Secrest again prominent) while the other, Bix, is filling in here and there – most significantly two descending phrases in the background from ca. 0:28 and another line, typical for him, in the final chorus at 2:29.
Neither of these phrases can be by Secrest who is heard simultaneously, nor do they sound anything like Margulis or Goldfield and we are confident that they are by Bix.
Note: all Bix Beiderbecke biographies that mention the session as well as “Jazz Records” name this title incorrectly as “Alabamy Snow”.

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