Bix: Singing the Blues by Robert Forrest

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Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 17 November 2013
This play centred on the only time that musicians Bix Beiderbecke (Bryan Dick) and Louis Armstrong (Eric Kofi Abrefa) were said to have played together at an after-hours session in the late Twenties.
Through a series of extended dialogues David Ian Neville's production explored the close relationship between the two: while totally different in terms of character (Beiderbecke was the more highly strung of the two, as well as being a more instinctive musician), they were symbiotically linked by a mutual desire both to play their music as well as overcome some of the obstacles preventing African-American artistes from achieving true greatness at that time.  Armstrong had achieved it - to an extent - but in Beiderbecke's view he had adopted some of the white strategies to do so, and thereby become something of an "Uncle Tom."  Armstrong, for his part, denied that he had suppressed his roots, and encourage Beiderbecke to follow his chosen path.  Sadly it was not to be: a mixture of drink, drugs and frustration ensured that Beiderbecke met an early death at the age of only 28.
While focusing on political as well as social issues of the tine, Bix: Singing the Blues also explored the imaginative elements of both musicians' characters; they shared a love of Keats' poetry, on account of its romantic aspects, its creation of an alternative world of pure imagination as an antidote to the materialism of everyday life.
Beautifully played by the two leading actors, this play offered an insight into the minds of two great musicians, whose work bears comparison with any virtuoso, irrespective of genre.