Original Dixieland Jazz Band: Tiger Rag (1917 version)
Tiger Rag (1917 version)
Original Dixieland Jazz Band
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (RCA Victor RD-7919)
Recorded: August 17, 1917
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
This band has received plenty of attention from jazz writers, but only occasionally for its music. White musicians making the first jazz record? . . . the very fact seems to invite pointed commentary. Even the name of the band comes across nowadays as an affront, and the feisty attitude of the Nick LaRocca, who made no apologies for his position of precedence, has not helped to endear him to later generations of jazz fans. Even he must have known that, under slightly different circumstances, Freddie Keppard might have beaten the ODJB to the studio. Or maybe the rumored recordings by the LA-based Black and Tan Jazz Orchestra will someday come to light, and give those mostly forgotten musicians the nod. But wouldn't that just be another scandal - a West Coast band established as the first to make a jazz record?
For better or worse, we are left with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. And, yes, you should listen to the music before passing judgment on this ensemble. LaRocca was a fine cornet player, and the band plays with enthusiasm and energy here. The tempo is quite fast by the standards of New Orleans jazz (which was played with more restraint than you might think), and the sense that this band is on the brink of veering out-of-control no doubt was a major reason why the ODJB sold a million records. The novelty effects aren't as entertaining to modern ears as they were to the first listeners, and I would rather hear more cornet and fewer squeals from the tiger. Yet, say what you will, this band was hot.
Note: Click here for David Sager's review of a follow-up version of the same song made six months later by the ODJB.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia