All Thumbs

Eugene “Rosy” McHargue, on hearing Bix Beiderbecke play the piano in 1926:

He played the tune called “Jazz Me Blues,” and he must have played it for twenty minutes that day. I have never heard anything like that in my whole, dreary life! He played it on piano—all wrong fingering—he played runs with these two thumbs—and he always seemed to make it. The sound he got—he really didn’t have to play much, because this sound always caused everybody to shut up and listen. I can’t describe it—it was just more like sort of a chime ringing—he got this tone on it. And I have heard and seen people cease talking to each other, just when he played some simple melody. His whole musical life was about ten years—his age, from about twenty to about thirty. A lot of that, of course, he was boozed up most of the time. But if anybody happens to ask about Bix Beiderbecke—yes, he was the best cornet player I ever heard, and could be the best jazz musician I ever heard. I will tell anybody that—I’ll tell the Devil that if he asks me!