Finding Bix: The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend

Bix Beiderbecke was one of the first great legends of jazz. Among the most innovative cornet soloists of the 1920s and the first important white player, he invented the jazz ballad and pointed the way to “cool” jazz. But his recording career lasted just six years; he drank himself to death in 1931—at the age of twenty-eight. It was this meteoric rise and fall, combined with the searing originality of his playing and the mystery of his character—who was Bix? not even his friends or family seemed to know—that inspired subsequent generations to imitate him, worship him, and write about him. It also provoked Brendan Wolfe’s Finding Bix a personal and often surprising attempt to connect music, history, and legend.






"Although Wolfe ultimately judges his search a failure—near the end of the book he writes of his 'chronic inability to find Bix'—the journey itself is well worth reading about." – New York Times

"An engaging book ... Mr. Wolfe is adept at introducing details that serve as promissory notes. Sometimes the details are minor, the payoff small yet satisfying." – Wall Street Journal

"It falls just short of being bitchy ... This is like an intentionally failed biography. The writer doesn't claim to have figured out the subject or have the final word on him ... Long story short, this was a strange, innovative, probably non-essential book that I'm glad I read." – Goodreads user Jermajesty

"Breezy, engaging, and entertaining ... fascinating." – Library Journal

"49 discursive but elegantly written chapters ... [Finding Bix] rolls along with a stimulating intellectual verve and attitude." – Down Beat

 "[Wolfe] is at heart an essayist, and his writing tends to ruminate on a question or, in the case of Beiderbecke, many questions." – C-ville Weekly

“'Finding Bix' is a compelling read because it’s about more than Bix: it’s about the myths we construct about artists and what it means to confront them. When we start to get a glimpse of who Bix may have actually been, Wolfe pulls back the curtain and reveals his own vulnerability as he too takes a hard look at this oft-idealized musician." – The Cedar Rapids Gazette

The main aim of 'Finding Bix,' and the central enjoyment it provides, is the grand tour it offers of the astounding array of 'Bixophiles'—friends, acquaintances, jazz players, scholars, plus the members of the surprisingly large Beiderbecke online discussion community—who over the generations have asserted their varying, often idiosyncratic interpretations of the artist’s life. – Omaha World-Herald



"And that's the rub, isn't it? We sincerely and passionately love Bix's music. We love the idea of Bix as a representative of our community. So we defend him against anything we think might tarnish his reputation. But in the process we tarnish our own." – Brendan Wolfe, Quad-City Times