GRAPHIC NOVELS

Bix

Gallery 13: S. & S. Apr. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781501190780. $29.99 Rated: Teen+. BIOG
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Born into a prosperous family in Davenport, IA, Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke’s (1903–31) early musical talent was encouraged with private piano lessons that nevertheless fail to engage him. Things change, however, when he first hears the red-hot rhythms of jazz, first via vinyl disc but later from passing riverboats. He takes up the trumpet to re-create the audial magic that captured his soul. His conservative parents disapprove of what they hear as raucous noise and ship him off to school attempting to stamp out his willful desire to pursue the music he loved. Bix perseveres, finding new ways to reject his parent’s plans and seek his muse. He also discovers and develops a taste for alcohol, as he gets drawn further into the world of jazz, juke joints, parties and performance, where his talents start to be recognized. As Bix reaches new heights, he gets more and more erratic, retreating to drink when the parties are over and losing control of direction and purpose. 

VERDICT  Eisner-nominated Chantler (Two Generals) utilizes the deliberate cadence of panels alternating with layered multipanel visual bursts to denote musicality and the excitement of life in this nearly worldless graphic biography, a daring and bold experiment that stunningly succeeds. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s Graphic Novels Preview, "Picture This," LJ 4/20.]

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