It's not that everyone hasn't tried. There has been a steering committee of Quad-Citizens working SO hard on the grand plan for more than a year: “A Rhapsody for Bix,” and the creator would be Lalo Schifrin, a Bix Beiderbecke enthusiast who has written for everyone from “The Three Tenors” to the thumping theme of “Mission Impossible.”
The Bix rhapsody score, which everyone describes with superlatives like “astounding” and “magnificent,” should be a zealous seller. Had this been a country-western star or a pop rock group, it may have been a sellout the first morning.
But the Oct. 12 premiere at The Mark of the Quad-Cities has not exactly been a piece of cake at the box office, though this is a world premiere of a major symphonic work by an internationally known musician-composer. Complications and misunderstandings have not helped.
Item: There has been a general misunderstanding that the whole night would be one long Bix-symphonic-jazz-opus. Not so. The "Rhapsody for Bix" will be a 24-minute finale of a classical jazz concert with versions of Schrifin's "Mission Impossible" and Artie Shaw's "Begin the Beguine" and themes from "Zorba the Greek," "Third Man" and "Dr. Zhivago." And a western medley from "High Noon and "Magnificent Seven." Only premiere soloists have been booked: James Morrison, who is likened in talent to Wynton Marsalis, will be on horn and Manny Lopez will be offstage to play Bix's ghost-like replies — on Bix's actual horn — being brought to Moline by its California owners for the concert. Louie Bellson is coming back to town to play.
Item: The full Quad-City Symphony is performing "A Rhapsody for Bix." Some, including trendsetters, were not aware that Kim Allen Kluge, the symphony's director, would not be on the podium. He has long had a previous commitment to conduct the Alexandria, Va., Symphony on that date. Schifrin will conduct, blessed by Kluge. This is the way it is done by composers/conductors at premieres of their work. Task-master Schifrin has directed some of the world's most famous symphonies, and has set three full Q-C Symphony rehearsals, plus another for the jazz combo. Still, Kluge's absence has bothered some, though at no point was it EVER stated that Kluge would be conducting.
Item: The seating arrangement at The Mark has been reconfigured for what a steering committee member says will create a more intimate atmosphere. Ticket purchasers should call the Mark box office to determine if their seats have been reassigned (764-2000) or for information on what to do. (Or drop in at The Mark during office hours.)
Item: On the night of the premiere, there is an immense wedding reception at Davenport River Center involving a prominent Quad-City family. Six-hundred are expected. Many of those would be the type to attend the Bix event.
Item: Some have argued the premiere would have attracted more, had it been held during the Bix Jazz Festival, but the steering committee had bet on the come. They expected 250,000 people in the Quad-Cities for the Riverboat Rendezvous, and many would buy tickets for the Bix symphonic premiere. The number of riverboats has been cut, and proportionately the number of potential concert-goers.
Item: "Oh, there are so many reasons hard-core symphony goers give as an excuse for not buying tickets," says a steering committee member. "We've even been told they don't want to hear music about a man who drank far too much."
If you go, you'll have a unique, memorable evening. Tickets are left ($15, $30, $45) at The Mark or Ticketmaster.
Even Bix would be in favor. Jimmy McPartland, cornet replacement for Bix when he left the Wolverines, says in the book, "Remembering Bix"…"About 1929, he (Bix) took me to a Stravinsky concert at Carnegie Hall by the New York Philharmonic. We used to talk about writing a jazz symphony. Nothing ever came of the idea. I wish he'd put down on paper…what I knew was in his head."