A Davenport native who’s a legend in Dixieland jazz is being honored in his hometown with a toe-tappin’ festival starting tonight. It’s the 38th annual celebration of the life and musical genius of Bix Biederbecke .

Seventy-nine-year-old Howard Brarer is a second-cousin to Bix and says the music is timeless. “The thing that gets folks is the beat and you might say that your feet are stomping all the time,” Brarer says. “You’re with the music.” There are nine bands playing through Sunday at four venues, including Davenport’s LeClaire Park on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Brarer says the bands include local favorites and some of the nation’s top touring jazz artists. “We have our first-ever all-female jazz band, the Mighty Aphrodite, coming from Everett, Washington,” Brarer says. “These are all young women in their 20s and they’re highly regarded on the traditional jazz band circuit.”

Brarer says the style of music Bix helped to popularize remains popular — and not just with folks his age. Three of the bands playing this weekend are headed by people under 30 years old. He says Bix lovers are coming to the Quad Cities from all over the globe.

“One of our websites last month, we had 68,000 hits from 58 different countries, less than half from the United States,” Brarer says. “These were heavy hits from Europe and Australia.” Brarer never met his famous cousin. Biederbecke died in 1931 when Brarer was just one year old.


AUDIO: Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley reports on Bix Jazz Festival. :42 MP3