Dixieland fans are flocking to Davenport for the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival which opens this today for the 51st time.
Steve Trainor, president of the Bix Jazz Society, says there will be five concerts over three days with an all-American line-up of bands, including the Benny Goodman Trio and the New Orleans Night Owls. “We do have ones from Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Des Moines,” Trainor says. “So, a total of eight professional bands, two of which are all-star groups from some of the other bands, and then the ninth is our Bix Beiderbecke Youth Band.”
Bix, a Davenport native, was a jazz pioneer on the cornet and piano nearly a century ago who died at age 28 in 1931. His music remains popular around the globe and the festival has, in pre-COVID times, attracted Bix lovers from as far away as Australia, Japan and Europe. Trainor says the crowds have thinned a bit.
“There was a time years and years ago when there wasn’t this thing called the internet and we didn’t have a festival every other weekend,” Trainor says. “We had 10,000 people in the park, sometimes more. We’re averaging about 3,000 (a day) and we have to be happy with that.”
Most of the concerts are being held at the Rhythm City Casino’s Events Center in north Davenport, though a few select shows will be performed at the Putnam Museum and at the Oakdale Cemetery, where Bix is buried. Fans will also want to visit the Bix Museum in the lower level of the River Music Experience in downtown Davenport. It’s dedicated to telling the story of the hometown hero through recordings, photos, videos, storyboards, letters and several of his instruments.