King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators: Wa Wa Wa
Wa Wa Wa
King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators
Sugar Foot Stomp (Frog UK)
Bob Shoffner (trumpet), Billy Paige (alto sax, clarinet), Luis Russell (piano), Bud Scott (banjo), Bert Cobb (Sousaphone), Paul Barbarin (drums).
Composed by Morton Schaeffer.
Recorded: Chicago, Illinois, May 29, 1926
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
Most observers agree that Joe Oliver was among the first brass men (if not the first) to change his sound by sticking bottles, cans, kazoos, or what have you into the bell of his cornet. Colleagues testified that by doing so, he could actually carry on a conversation through "talking horn" effects. Fifty years later, electric guitarists would emulate Oliver's genius using wah-wah pedals.
This dramatic composition, "Wa Wa Wa," showcases King Oliver's "talking" cornet. It also exemplifies how, with the onset of larger bands, New Orleans polyphonic ensemble play began stratifying into sections. It began slowly; at first, sections overlapped, maintaining some of the terrific Crescent City polyphony. The effect shows up here, especially in the last refrains.
Two horn choruses kick off the piece, the second with a repeated fourth-beat cymbal response from Barbarin. Cornet takes stage front for chorus #3; we're not sure whether it is Oliver or his second cornet Bob Shoffner. Note the horn's swing phrasing. But there's more.
Following two more choruses, one with an Ory "hat" trombone break, the final stratified ensembles blow into town. In the end, the band becomes a three-headed hydra—saxes and cornets swapping bars (boys running through woods tossing a ball), the clarinet weaving through them. It comes to a final head with Oliver's famed wah-wah break of repeated quarter-note yowls. Aside from his three choruses in "Dippermouth Blues" and certain other Creole Band breaks, this may rank as the most emphatic of his recorded solos.
Reviewer: Peter Gerler