This Friday night will be a very special one for Dan Martin, a jazz bassist from Sunnyside, Queens – the New York City neighborhood where Bix Beiderbecke lived at the time of his 1931 death.
Martin leads The Creswell Club, a six-person traditional jazz band that will play Friday, July 29 at 8:10 p.m.-9:10 p.m. as part of the free, second-annual The Heights of the Era (THOTE) festival. The first was held July 24, 2021 at Lindsay Park, Village of East Davenport, and Creswell Club also helped kick it off.
“For myself, it was the height of the year,” Martin said this week. “It was the best event we played for last year and everyone else would say the same thing. It was a great crowd and when we play events, what we specialize in is this kind of music.”
When the Creswell Club played last year, there were fans of 1920s and Dixieland music in the crowd.
“They were yelling out for requests that were really deep cuts,” Martin recalled. “That was amazing, you know, and lots of people there who knew more about Bix than I do. And this is what I do for a living.”
Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (1903-1931) is the legendary jazz cornetist, composer and pianist who was born in Davenport, and died at 28 on Aug. 6, 1931, from pneumonia exacerbated by alcoholism. He’s buried at Davenport’s Oakdale Memorial Gardens.
The Bix 7 race (which attracts thousands of runners from around the world) is Saturday, July 30. It began in 1975 and until 2011, it and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival were held on the same weekend.
2011 was the first year the jazz fest was separated into its own weekend, to create more tourism opportunities for the Q-C area (since people come from around the world for the race and jazz), and to honor the anniversary of Bix’s death date, on Aug. 6. This year, it will be held Aug 4-6 at Davenport’s Rhythm City Casino Event Center.
Performing in Bix’s hometown
What was it like for Martin to play in Bix’s hometown?
“That meant the world to us and it was great,” Martin said. “And we actually modified our set a little bit, just for the occasion. We played some tunes that we don’t normally play and we’re doing the same thing this time.”
The Creswell Club is named for his son’s middle name – Creswell also is Martin’s wife’s grandmother’s maiden name. And his son’s preschool (he is 13 now) is right next to Bix’s old apartment building in Sunnyside — at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard.
When Martin moved with his wife in 2007 to the quiet Queens neighborhood, he knew next to nothing about Bix. In 2021, the Davenport jazz fest celebrated its 50th anniversary of honoring the young man with a horn.
Martin – now 53, with a 13-year-old son — had moved within eight blocks of the Sunnyside apartment building where the Davenport native died Aug. 6, 1931, and his life changed forever. A few years later, Martin founded his band, The Creswell Club (specializing in Dixieland music of the ‘20s).
For the past two decades, there’s been an annual Bix memorial concert in early August at Bliss Plaza, under the 7 train tracks at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard, near his former apartment, where period-themed musicians and dancers perform for free.
In addition to Martin, Creswell Club is comprised of Charlie Caranicas (trumpet), Betina Hershey (vocals), Dan Monaghan (drums), Nick Russo (guitar/banjo), and Jay Rattman (sax/clarinet). The members have performed at every major venue (Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Carnegie Hall) and hole in the wall (Mona’s, Fat Cat, Radegast) in New York, and they bring their love of trad jazz to the world.
They’ve played with Cécile McLorin, Bruce Barth, Jon Batiste, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and so many others. “But none of this matters when we’re playing together. What matters is the music,” the band website says. “What matters is the mood. What matters is the moment we’re all sharing together. The Creswell Club’s goal: to set the world on fire, and start a flame in your heart.”
A night of free musical bliss
The free July 29, 2022 event at Lindsay Park also will be live broadcast on WVIK (90.3 FM), from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The band lineup is:
- 3-3:45 p.m. — Edgar Crockett Band, Dixieland jazz (Davenport)
- 4:50-5:20 p.m. — Take Note, barbershop quartet (Chicago)
- 5:30-6:30 p.m. — The Sweet Tooth Jazz Band, Dixieland (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
- 6:50-7:50 p.m. — Kligubbin Irish Music All-Stars, Traditional Irish (Chicago)
- 8:10-9:10 p.m. — Creswell Club, Dixieland (Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y.)
- 9:30-10:30 p.m. — Matt Tolentino and the Singapore Slingers, Dixieland (Cincinnati, Ohio)
There also will be free, continuous shuttle service to and from the event. Parking will be available at 2119 Kimberly Road, Davenport (formerly Hobby Lobby). The shuttle will leave the parking lot at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the top of each hour (bound for the event), and will leave Lindsay Park at the top of each hour and 30 minutes past (last shuttle leaves at 10:45 p.m.).
For more information, visit the event website.