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If Bix Played Gershwin by Dick Hyman and Tom Pletcher

Although we are only half way through the year, If Bix Played Gershwin has to be a contender for my favorite traditional jazz recording in 2004. Dick Hyman, Tom Pletcher and Arbors Records have just done everything right on this CD. Bix fans have benefited by all the offerings showered upon them during 2003 in celebration of Beiderbecke’s centennial year. Now Dick Hyman has come up with a truly original way of celebrating Bix. Of the 250 or more recordings made by Beiderbecke, there are no Gershwin tunes if you eliminate Ira’s Sunny Disposish recorded with Jean Goldkette.

Like the rest of us, Dick Hyman is getting on in years and in spite of listening to his music for decades, I still consider him to be one of the "young cats." This piano-man is a humungous musical sponge devouring "everything good" that he has heard over the years. At intervals, the sponge explodes in a flurry of creativity and great sessions like this one. Working with Tom Pletcher, one of the finest Bixian cornetists on the scene, the pair put together eighteen arrangements of Gershwin pieces as Beiderbecke would probably have played them.

In its own way the septet on this CD is similar to the units Bix and his Gang, the Frankie Trumbauer band and the trio of Bix, Tram and Eddie Lang. Vince Giordano takes over the chair once occupied by Adrian Rollini. I’m a bass sax junkie and will buy any record that includes the "big mac" of saxophones. Meticulous drumming by Ed Metz Jr. adds to the excitement of this little band.

Embraceable You features a beautiful solo by Tom Pletcher. The cornetist felt that he was, perhaps, too influenced by a favorite Bobby Hackett record and wanted a second take. Dick Hyman, in agreement, decided to play in Bix’s piano style while Pletcher concentrated on the horn. The result is Bix soloing on cornet while accompanying himself on piano. On In a Mist the famed Beiderbecke piano composition, Hyman plays it as George Gershwin would have handled it. Such is the attention to detail showered on this album by the players.

If Bix Played Gershwin gets the highest marks for creativity, musicianship and entertainment value. Dick Hyman isn’t getting older, he’s just marinating!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dick Hyman and Tom Pletcher
  • CD Title: If Bix Played Gershwin
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Arbors Jazz
  • Tracks: I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’; Oh Lady Be Good; Sweet And Low-down; I Got Rhythm; But Not For Me; Kongo Kate; I’ve Got a Crush On You; Rialto Ripples; The Half Of It, Dearie, Blues; ‘S Wonderful; Yankee Doodle Rhythm; I Was So Young; Fascinating Rhythm; In a Mist; Sunny Disposish; Embraceable You #1; Embraceable You #2; Somebody Loves Me.
  • Musicians: Dick Hyman (piano, arrangements); Tom Pletcher (cornet); Dan Levinson ( clarinet, C-Melody sax); David Sager (trombone); Vince Giordano (bass sax); Bob Leary (guitar, banjo & vocal on track 9); Ed Metz Jr. (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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