When: Mon., Jan. 4, 8 p.m. and Mon., Jan. 11, 8 p.m. 2016
THE ATOMIC RHYTHM ALL-STARS
MONDAY, JAN. 4
NEPTUNES, RALEIGH—If George Knott, the bandleader and bassist for The Atomic Rhythm All-Stars, could travel back in time to see any musical act, he says he'd dial up the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1928. He'd hear legendary trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke and bassist Steve Brown making red-hot jazz.
"To me, nobody touches Bix," Knott says. "He and Louis Armstrong are the two pillars of everything that jazz was for the next 15 years. Everybody wanted to be Bix."
Knott's visit would have been short: Beiderbecke drank himself out of Whiteman's orchestra within two years and died screaming about men with knives under his bed in 1931, just shy of his 29th birthday.
Still, the spectacular and often-romanticized trumpeter is a fitting representative of the brief period of jazz—the late-1920s and early-1930s—on which Knott and his seven-piece band focus. During the next nine Mondays at Neptunes, they'll offer listeners a rare chance to make the kind of time travel Knott desires by playing historically accurate arrangements of a music that would soon be tamed and streamlined by the big bands and then exploded by the bebop cats.
"I think it's a more sincere form of music, to be honest," Knott says. "And a lot of musicians get pissed off when they hear that."
Knott finds bebop's improvisational bent to be a bit narcissistic. And for him, the standardization of big band arrangements comes at the expense of a composition's original spirit. Knott's band plays the tune, rather than rushing through it to solo in the stratosphere, or flattening it out into background music.
"Paul Whiteman would play the verse and the chorus and the verse and the chorus, and then he might have a half-chorus of someone soloing. It was only to make it interesting musically," Knott says. "It's more true to the song and to the composer." 8 p.m., $3–$5 suggested donation, 14 W. Martin Street, Raleigh, 919-896-7063, www.kingsbarcade.com. —Chris Vitiello