King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band: Dippermouth Blues (alternate review)
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band
Off The Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (Archeophone OTR-MM6-C2)
William M. Johnson (banjo).
Composed by Joseph Oliver & Louis Armstrong.
Recorded: Richmond, Indiana, April 6, 1923
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
Joe 'King' Oliver is often remembered in jazz histories as a mere footnote to the more illustrious story of Louis Armstrong - he was the man who gave Satchmo the break that brought him out of New Orleans and into the limelight of Chicago nightlife. But this account fails to do justice to Oliver's own artistry. "Dippermouth Blues" is one of the first great recorded masterpieces of jazz - and not just for Armstrong's contribution. Oliver's solo serves as a much-needed reminder of what jazz could do before Armstrong changed all the rules. It is to the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens what great medieval art is to the Renaissance masters - not an inferior predecessor, but rather the final flowering of a purer, more rarefied style.
Early New Orleans jazz was about the quality of sound rather than the quantity of notes, and Oliver was the great master of getting the cornet to speak with a vocal tone. His range is limited here, and his phrases are built on only two or three notes of the scale. But his down-and-dirty sound captures the ethos of jazz as it emerged at the dawn of the American century. The vitality of his playing comes through despite the passing decades and inferior recording technology of the era (although the sonic fidelity is much improved on this reissue compared to earlier releases). Even today, jazz virtuosos could learn lessons about phrasing from this too-seldom-heard classic from 1923.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia