Jazz drummer and bandleader Josh Duffee says he feels at ease anywhere he's played on the planet.
"Anywhere I go around the world, when I tell them I'm from Davenport, Iowa, they say, 'That's the home of Bix Beiderbecke,'" said Duffee, a member of the board of directors of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society. "He's known more around the world than he was in the '20s. His popularity, his sound is worldwide."
The music of Beiderbecke (1903-1931) has been celebrated for 43 years through the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival the first weekend of August. Players and fans come from across the country and around the world to celebrate the cornet player.
"His greatest contribution was really inventing jazz improvisation on the cornet, and being a free spirit and just being able to learn by his ear," Duffee said.
Bix's music first gained the attention of jazz fans while he was a member of Frankie "Tram" Trumbauer's band, which played extended gigs in St. Louis and recorded the album "Singin' the Blues."
"People from the '30s and '40s and '50s up to today still identify that as one of the iconic jazz recordings," Duffee said. "You can hear Bix and Tram going back and forth, talking to one another musically."
Duffee said Bix's sound is often compared to Louis Armstrong for its creativity and groundbreaking way of approaching music.
Duffee said Bix's music deserves repeated listening, because new elements are discovered every time.
He also said jazz musicians can readily answer the question, "What was the first Bix album you ever heard?"
"He had that big of an impact on jazz musicians in particular," Duffee said.