King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band: Canal Street Blues


Canal Street Blues


King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band


Off The Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (Archeophone OTR-MM6-C2)

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Joe 'King' Oliver (cornet), Louis Armstrong (cornet), Honoré Dutrey (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Hardin (piano), Baby Dodds (drums),

William M. Johnson (banjo)


Composed by Joseph Oliver & Louis Armstrong


Recorded: Richmond, Indiana, April 5, 1923


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Having left New Orleans in 1918, King Oliver played mostly around Chicago—with a year in California—for four years. Then in 1923, after he had brought Louis Armstrong up from New Orleans, he took his Creole Band into an April 5 wax-cylinder recording session at Gennett Studios in Richmond, Indiana. They played into a big horn, and the engineer mixed the sound by moving the players closer to or farther from the horn. After nine months of these sessions, the band had produced some 37 sides—the first significant recorded body of black New Orleans jazz. It would change the shape of American music.

"Canal Street Blues," from the April 5 session, is the parade song of your dreams. In New Orleans, the parade beat drives the music: real parades, where uniformed men carrying horns would march in the heat for six to eight hours, standing up, swinging, big second lines trailing.

In this, the classic New Orleans jazz ensemble, the Creole Band drives through the heat and plays with fire streaming off their backsides. The piano-banjo-drum rhythm section, with the future Mrs. Louis Armstrong on keys, beats as if they're driving a herd—and there was one, on the dance floor. The simple, 3-note motif conjures a waving flag. Dutrey blows into the music from behind, pushing its resonance. In true New Orleans style, the clarinet takes the big solo. Enter the final ensemble, where Louis tops Oliver's lead with a "perfect" fifth and joins him in a one-bar duet break at the end, with trombone sneaking in on beats 3 and 4. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Reviewer: Peter Gerler

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