Artifacts #4

On display at the Putnam Museum and IMAX Theater in Davenport,
Iowa is this gold-plated Bach Stradivarius Cornet (serial no. 0620;
bell-mandril #106), purchased in February of 1927 by Leon Bix
Beiderbecke; whose middle name is engraved on its bell.

Update: The webmaster of a Bix Beiderbecke tribute site, under the impression that the above image was knowingly extracted from his corner of the internet, has insisted that we here at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . . alone among all other sites and blogs who've posted it, provide a link to its presence at his site as well. We are, as always, happy to comply with even the most polite request.

The same image of this gold-plated Bach Stradivarius Cornet can be found . . . here


Vanwall said...

After a number of years of desultorily practicing the cornet, my parents, especially my father who was in our family's heavily-favored opinion a brilliant horn man who hid his light under a bushel, decided they were throwing bad money after good, and mercifully ended my lessons. Part of me wished I had continued, trepidation over my father's over-arching perfect-pitch example notwithstanding, but the greater part of me felt only relief - altho I'm sure my Dad was disappointed, he was understanding nonetheless, and turned his attentions to my younger brother, who seemed more in tune, literally. I, for one, lived in awe of Dad's musical talents, so casually used and sparingly, at that - our piano at home and occasional noodling on my cornet, and his quiet bravura on the accordion at family gatherings. Nobody sang "Jalisco" like my old man - his Spanish was as rich and colloquial as anyone south of the border. And that leaves out his Prewitt-like bugle work from his service years we've only heard about. Of all the instruments he played, I think the cornet edged out the accordion for relaying his brilliance to the ear, and I always have a soft spot for that particular piece of brass. I'd've killed to get a piece of art like this for him.

Brendan said...

I first saw this horn in the summer of 2005, during the annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport. It was laid out on a table at the back of one of the venues -- perfectly gorgeous.

“We ask you not to touch it,” a woman from the Putnam Museum told me as I approached. She wore forensic-style white gloves and had the clipped demeanor of a homicide detective.

While Bix had indeed purchased the horn, she explained, it’s not clear whether he much liked it or even played it. “We know he had more than one cornet,” she said. “This particular one was discovered in his apartment by his mother and brother.”

“His New York apartment?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

“After he died?”


Wow, I thought. This horn was there at the end. And he didn't even much like it.

How sad.

Vanwall said...

Art cops. Wow. If I was in a kinky mood, I'd've made a move for it just so she could cuff me. ;-)

I'll bet he must've like it some, or it wouldn't've been there.

swac said...

I played a Bach Strad once (not mine). They're a damn fine horn.

Awesome entry.

Albert Haim said...

The photo of Bix's cornet is from my website
You posted it without my permission. I took this photo in Davenport several years ago.
Either remove the photo or specify that the photo is from my Bixography website and provide the above link.

Albert Haim Founder and webmaster

Tom Sutpen said...


Well, I didn't get it from your website . . . I'm pretty sure I got it from another blog . . . but it's certainly there, so I'll be happy to plug it if you insist.

By the way, did someone tell you this photo was taken from your site?