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Jazz trumpet legends return home to Queens

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Rande Sandke plays the opening selection, "Jazz Band Ball," a Biz Beiderbeck original tune and one of 16 compositions delivered in two sets for the audience in attendance at Flushing Town Hall. Photo by Norm Harris
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Rande Sandke with the new Flushing Town Hall deputy director, Sami Abu Shumays, holds the special "Bix Beiderbeck" cake, one of two large cakes with the image of Bix on it that was brought out on stage during intermission to celebrate Beiderbeck's birthday. Photo by Norm Harris
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The Rande Sandke Quintet of Sandke on trumpet; clarinetist Dan Levinson; trombonist Harvey Tibbs; Marks Shane on piano; Vince Giardano tripling on bass sax, double acoustic bass and tuba; and radio personality and renowned drummer Kenny "the Jazz Maniac" Washington jam on the last and seventh Armstrong composition, "Swing that Music." Photo by Norm Harris

The homage to two jazz giants at Flushing Town Hall Saturday was named: “Bix Beiderbeck and Louis Armstrong back home again in Queens.”

Both artists played, lived and died while living in Queens. The influential musicians have been described by trumpeter Randy Sandke as “perhaps the first great soloists in jazz.”

Sandke, a renowned Beiderbeck scholar, said “Satchmo and Bix met first as teenagers while working on riverboats in 1920. They met several times later during their early careers,” and in 1928 “Armstrong stated that he had been digging Bix’s playing in small combos.”

During the program, Sandke noted that “Bix and Louis were trailblazers not only in music but in human relations as well” and that both were born of different circumstances with their music communicating different sensibilities. Yet he pointed out that the two men from dissimilar backgrounds showed that jazz could incorporate significantly different approaches without compromising its soul and vitality.

The question-and-answer period during the evening’s concert was exceptionally informative as Sandke and members of the audience representing the Queens-based “Bix Beiderbeck Jazz Society and the Sydney Bichet Jazz Society” exchanged little known tidbits of information and facts about Armstrong’s and Beiderbeck’s creatively rich early musical history.

The event was also a birthday party for Bix, who was born March 10, 1903.

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