Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bix Beiderbecke Celebration at Ascona

What do you get when you cross a long dead New Orleans-style jazz cornetist, Switzerland and about 100,000 people? The 19th New Orleans Jazz Ascona from June 26 – July 7, 2003. Last year’s festival attracted over 82,000 people and this year the small Italian-speaking Swiss town of Ascona located on Lake Maggiore hopes to draw more as it celebrates Bix Beiderbecke’s 100th birthday.

On July 1 the festival will pay tribute to Italian-American violinist Joe Venuti, and on July 2 Enrico Intra’s orchestra will pay homage to Paul Whiteman, the manager and conductor Beiderbecke played for during his final days. On July 4 a special tribute concert will be held featuring four “Bixian” cornetists, Tom Pletcher, Randy Reinhart, Dick Sudhalter and Randy Sandke. They’ll be backed by Bob Wilber (sax), Kenny Davern (clarinet) and Andy Stein (violin).

Concerts begin at 11 a.m. and go through the wee hours of the morning in various bars and restaurants throughout town. At 8 p.m. outdoor concerts are held on Lake Maggiore, and these often turn into late night jam sessions that last until dawn. Past performers include Louis Nelson, Dan Barrett, Freddie Kohlman, Danny Barker, Doc Cheatham, Arvell Shaw, Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Leroy Jones, Jonny Varro, The Olympia Brass Band, the Ginger Pig Jazzband and King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys. This year several of these artists will be returning, including Leroy Jones and Dan Barrett, along with 35 other bands.

For more information about the festival go to and

Originally Published