JULY 25, 2017: Last weekend the Quad-City Times, in Davenport, Iowa, published a column arguing that Bix Beiderbecke was not an alcoholic but "a class act." I thought this was not only wrong; it is damaging. One can be both, after all. The editors graciously allowed me to respond in an op-ed. Here's at taste:
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.
JULY 14, 2017: John Check reviews Finding Bix in the Wall Street Journal and he mostly likes it. Here's a taste:
One of the book’s strongest chapters tells of a 1929 interview with Beiderbecke appearing in the Davenport Democrat. While calling it “the only known interview of the jazz legend,” Mr. Wolfe adds that “there’s always been something a little off” about it, something “that jazz scholars have struggled to clearly articulate.” After some sleuthing, he discovers that the interview was plagiarized from several sources, borrowing words from music journalists Henry Osgood, Abbe Niles and others. Perhaps Beiderbecke was reticent and the interview came to nothing. Then again, perhaps the temptation to plagiarize was too great for the Davenport reporter to resist. Whatever the case may be, the result is that Mr. Wolfe’s understanding of Beiderbecke “grows smaller and smaller, until eventually he disappears.”
JUNE 11, 2017: Geitner Simmons reviews Finding Bix for the Omaha World-Herald: "So many people have invested so greatly into propounding their 'proper' interpretation of the Beiderbecke story, one learns, that arguments on Bixian matters large and small often take on a fervor akin to heated theological debate. In other words, it’s great fun."
JUNE 4, 2017: Peter Keepnews includes Finding Bix in his summer roundup of books about music in the New York Times Book Review. He writes: "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."
MAY 28, 2017: The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette reviews Finding Bix: “'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."
MAY 19, 2017: The Rock Island (Illinois) Dispatch Argus reviews Finding Bix.
MAY 12, 2017: The National Book Review has a Q & A with me about Finding Bix. It's the best I've done so far, I think, in articulating what I think the book is about.
MAY 11, 2017: The Daily Progress, in Charlottesville, Virginia, publishes an interview feature about Finding Bix.
MAY 10, 2017: C-ville Weekly, in Charlottesville, Virginia, features Finding Bix, writing: "[Wolfe] is at heart an essayist, and his writing tends to ruminate on a question or, in the case of Beiderbecke, many questions."
APRIL 26, 2017: The May issue of Down Beat magazine features a review of Finding Bix by John McDonough. He writes that the book, comprised of "49 discursive but elegantly written chapters," "rolls along with a stimulating intellectual verve and attitude." McDonough, a contributing editor at the magazine since 1968, lectures at Northwestern University.
APRIL 19, 2017: Richmond Magazine did a nice Q&A about Finding Bix.
APRIL 14, 2017: I offer a few thoughts on Bix Beiderbecke and his music in episode 8 of Russell Perry's epic Jazz at 100, a series produced and broadcast by WTJU at the University of Virginia.
I was also featured on the With Good Reason radio program, hosted by Sarah McConnell. The episode is called "Get Rhythm." You can listen to the second half of the episode, of why the Bix section comes first, below.
MARCH 31, 2017: A short, five-minute radio feature, produced by the With Good Reason radio program and designed to promote their longer music episode, tells the story of Bix Beiderbecke.
MARCH 1, 2017: My new podcast, a partnership between Encyclopedia Virginia and WTJU Radio at the University of Virginia, launches today. You can read more about it here or in the Daily Progress, of Charlottesville, Virginia.
FEBRUARY 26, 2017: WTJU, the college radio station at the University of Virginia, is producing 100, one-hour episodes on the history of jazz. The occasion? Well, this day is the centennial of the first jazz record, made by a white New Orleans band called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. These records are what first introduced Bix Beiderbecke to jazz, and I'll be appearing on an early episode to talk about Beiderbecke. Learn more here.
JANUARY 27, 2017: The British publication ShortList quotes me in an article whose premise is that jazz fans are pretentious wankers!
"Ted Gioia wrote an excellent book last year called How to Listen to Jazz," says Brendan Wolfe, jazz critic and author of Finding Bix: The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend (out in May). "But there's the irony, though. Jazz began as popular art, as something to dance to, as stuff that teenagers would listen to on record over and over again in the way I did R.E.M. when I was in high school. Now you need to read a book to know how to listen to it? Can you imagine if someone wrote a book called How To Listen To Hip Hop?"
Why do jazz fans so often come across as total wankers?
JANUARY 14, 2017: Geitner Simmons, of the Omaha World-Herald, calls Finding Bix "virtuosic" with "wildly playful writing ... Highly rewarding."
NOVEMBER 4, 2016: Matthew Gibson and I appeared on WMRA Radio today talking about our work on the history of African American suffrage and disfranchisement in Virginia. This stuff matters—especially in an election season!
OCTOBER 1, 2016: My short article on The Aviator statue at the University of Virginia—"A Flight Forgotten"—appears in the University of Virginia Magazine's new fall issue.
JUNE 30, 2015: My short essay "A War by Any Other Name" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. When the Indians and Jamestown colonists fought was it really a war?
JUNE 2, 2015: My extremely grouchy face can be found in this week's C-ville Weekly under the headline, "More than facts: Brendan Wolfe reimagines Virginia history." Thanks to Sarah Lawson for thinking our work at Encyclopedia Virginia was worthy of notice.
MARCH 13, 2015: My short essay "Little Ice Age" on climate change at Jamestown appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. Turns out this sort of science has always been important.
MARCH 1, 2015: My cover story on the Union occupation of Charlottesville during the Civil War, "A Civil Occupation," appears in the new spring issue of the University of Virginia Magazine.
JANUARY 27, 2015: My short essay "Irene Morgan" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. She was Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks—and not nearly as polite!
DECEMBER 4, 2014: My short essay "Paquiquineo, or Don Luis" appears today in Obscure Histories: History with Science. Just my opinion, of course, but the most interesting figure in all of Virginia history.
MAY 3, 2013: My personal essay "The Case of the Hungry Stranger" appears today in The Morning News. It's about the life and death of a mercurial—and often very funny!—dude. A.k.a. my dad.
MARCH 1, 2013: My cover story, "Unearthing slavery at the University of Virginia," appears in the new spring issue of the University of Virginia Magazine.
JANUARY 19, 2012: Valerie Strauss has given over the space in her Washington Post education column today to something I wrote about continuing problems with a Virginia fourth-grade textbook. It's more than just grousing on my part but, I hope, a recipe for how to better think about the history we are teaching young students.
JULY 1, 2010: My review of The Pen Friend by Ciaran Carson appears today in the summer issue of VQR. You may or may not want to read this novel at the end of the review, but you will at the least been introduced to a singular literary voice. I promise!
FEBRUARY 12, 2010: The Special Collections blog at the Davenport Public Library featured my recent discovery of the fact that the only known interview with Bix Beiderbecke was a fake, a fraud. I sent this same information to the local newspaper—the newspaper that originally ran the interview back in 1929—and ... crickets.
JANUARY 15, 2010: Carolyn Kellogg, author of the Jacket Copy literary blog at the Los Angeles Times, interviews me about the rocky experience I had editing the Wikipedia entry on Bix Beiderbecke. I'm not a Wiki-hater, by the way, but the experience certainly gave me pause.