Creole Jazz Band

JOE “KING” OLIVER                                                                                                                              The Complete 1923 Creole Jazz Band Recordings                                                                       Off the Record/Archaeophone OTR-MM6-C2

You know all about these sides, or you wouldn’t be a member of this organization and you wouldn’t be reading the Journal! Back in the 1970’s when the LP of the Gennett sides came out on the Herwin label, Dick Spottswood wrote in Hip magazine that these recordings were so important that they should be remastered every decade or so as duplication technologies advanced. Prior to this set, the best was the late John R.T. Davies’ careful tape-scraping for Retrieval Records – he was not always working from original discs, though. A bunch of folks have pooled their collections of the Gennett, OKeh, Columbia, and Paramount recordings by the Creole Jazz Band: multiple copies, multiple styli, computer magic. The end result is that you can hear the band about as well as it is humanly possible in the early 21st Century from an acoustic recording. As they say hereabouts, I was gobsmacked by the fullness of sound, the spiritual unity of the band and the musicality of their work when I first pressed the “play” button. How good is this!

We all know and revere this material and consider it akin to the Rosetta Stone for translating the transition from ragtime to what has become referred to as jazz. The cast of characters is near-mythical and many of the tunes have become major building blocks in the development of the repertoire of this music we love. We’re not dealing with dancing bears here (one does not criticize there choreography… one merely marvels that they do it in the first place), but real musical talent and, dare I say it, genius at work. Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band was a tight and swinging outfit that played for African-American dancing crowds who were keen to party heartily. And all this can be heard here. This stuff deserves its legendary status and now we can really hear the music and understand why. It’s not the equivalent of being at the Lincoln Gardens, but it’s as close as we’ll get.

As Dick wrote in Ed Steane’s little magazine back in the day, this stuff needs to be revisited from time to time and this latest visitation is mind-boggling good. I hardly need to say that this set belongs in the collection of each and every Association member. This sort of collective cooperation is not always done; here it has been to everyone’s benefit… marvelous music. Kudos to all

PETER B. LOWRY

published IAJRC JOURNAL: Vol. 40, no. 2 (May 2007) – featured review

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