Floyd Bean

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A 1946 postcard from the Hot Club of Chicago, preserved in the archive of the Chicago Jazz Institute, tells a typical Floyd Bean tale. The card announces an upcoming battle of the bands, a competition…
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A 1946 postcard from the Hot Club of Chicago, preserved in the archive of the Chicago Jazz Institute, tells a typical Floyd Bean tale. The card announces an upcoming battle of the bands, a competition between Floyd Bean's Toddlin' Town Quintet and another band called the Windy City Five, with none other than Floyd Bean on piano. This guy was so busy on the Chicago scene that he even competed against himself in band battles, although one certainly wonders whether by tossing in a few clinkers on the keyboard here and there he could easily effect the contest outcome one way or another. Bean was a member of many different groups throughout nearly four decades of activity in Chicago, from leading a combo featuring a teenage Bix Beiderbecke in the '20s to working with George Brunis & His Dixieland All-Stars in the '60s. He was part of what was considered trumpeter Muggsy Spanier's greatest band, also featuring Chicago stalwarts such as Darnell Howard, Ralph Hutchinson, Barrett Deems, and Truck Parham. An original tune of Bean's, recorded by Spanier, hardly seems like it could be autobiographical as it is entitled "Lazy Piano Man." Bean played at many Chicago clubs with cornetist and bandleader Jimmy McPartland, sometimes involving the great songwriter Johnny Mercer. McPartland included the pianist in a combo he brought into the Decca studios for an anthology of Chicago jazz produced by that label. Legendary early jazz giant Bix Biederbecke was only 16 years old when he played in a Bean combo, which perhaps should be called a pod. The name Floyd Bean is good for more than just inane puns such as this; it has also been chosen to identify several models of racing cars as well as model airplanes.