King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band: Chimes Blues


Chimes 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


Recorded: Richmond, Indiana, April 5, 1923


Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

This medium-tempo piece sounds like a jazz band playing around a china vase. It follows a winding garden path through two straight ensemble blues choruses, then four more (two of them stop-time) around Lil Hardin's chamberesque piano, until it finds the main attraction: Louis Armstrong's first ever recorded solo.

Hardin, the only non-New Orleanian in the group, had received classical training. She could sound more "legit" than the other band members, who had come up "ragging" the music. But it is Armstrong who saves the day—opening the door to the china shop like a bull that just happened by. The beauty of the Oliver band—and many of the Crescent City bands—was that it could play arranged passages as though they were improvising. Armstrong walks away with the cake, swinging like nobody ever had. When you heard Louis on "Chimes Blues," Gary Giddins has commented, "You heard the future."

Although the piece fails to stand as one of Oliver's great compositions, it brings out his bluesy concept. Five years later, he reconceived it as "Mournful Serenade," which Jelly Roll Morton recorded to great effect.

Reviewer: Peter Gerler

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