Bix: Like a Maggot Through a Corpse

From “Jazz and Poetry,” an essay by Richard Frost, published in The Antioch Review, June 22, 1999:

Musicians, whose most natural and constant language is music, typically resort to musical sounds when talking about music. The jazz trombonist Preston Jackson, telling about Bix Beiderbecke, spoke—sang would be more accurate—the following:

One thing about Bix, he was clean . . . and, his tone—he had a beautiful tone. First thing, a guy has to have a nice tone to sound like him. And the next thing, uh, it was just like, you say, Louie Armstrong—I could tell Louie Armstrong’s playin’, I don’t care if you have a thousand cornet or trumpet players playin’—I don’t mean at the same time, but individually I’m speakin’ about. And I could tell Bix too, because there hasn’t been anybody playin’, uh, if they played in that vein, they didn’t play long. Understand? That was New Orleans style. . . . This is a melody, that Bix was playin’. Da ah-, da-da, la da-da, da-da-da. But he phrases it so, and that beautiful tone, it was outstanding. Da, ah, da-da. When he got, um, dah-de-dot-dot-da. Da, dot-da dot-dot-da. Da da-da da da de-da de-dot-da. A-la-la la-la. De, dah, da-da, a-dada dada de da da-da-da-da-da-da, uh-uh, ulm, ah, la-da, do do da do-do dah-dah, da-da-da da-da. Dah, da-da-da, da-da, dot-dot-da. But only slower, and he’s just playin’ it slow, and that beautiful tone. It was flowin’. I mean, I agree with Hoagy. He was threadin’ . . . like a maggot, through a corpse. He was flowin’, the tone was flowin’, he was singin’.