Johnny Dodds (with the New Orleans Wanderers): Perdido Street Blues
Perdido Street Blues
Johnny Dodds (with the New Orleans Wanderers)
King of the New Orleans Clarinet (Disques Black & Blue)
Recorded: Chicago, July 13, 1926
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
In the hierarchy of New Orleans jazz, the trumpet / cornet players are at the very top of the heap. They were often given nicknames like King (Joe Oliver, Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard) or Pops (Armstrong) or Papa (Mutt Carey) to emphasize their role as pater familias. In contrast, the most famous New Orleans drummer was known as "Baby" and the leading trombonist was called "Kid." And the clarinetist in the band? He certainly wasn't called King - or even Earl or Squire. Every traditional jazz band worth its sassafras needed one, but they usually got no nickname at all. Little wonder so many switched to sax when they got the chance.
Which brings us to the subject of Johnny Dodds. Here the great New Orleans clarinetist, best remembered as a sideman with Armstrong and Oliver, gets to step to the forefront at a recording session and makes the most of the opportunity. He contributes two majestic choruses that rank among the finest examples of traditional jazz clarinet playing you will ever hear - and shows that he doesn't need a famous brass player in tow to validate his artistry. George Mitchell plays better on his Jelly Roll Morton sides, and Ory's solo is sleep-inducing. But Dodds alone is enough to enshrine this track in the pantheon of New Orleans classics. The ensemble playing in the final seconds is picture perfect, and Dodds shines in the coda. Okay, you can hold off on the crown, but playing like this certainly deserves at least an earldom or principality.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia