In the Alley: JOHNNY DODDS
VOLUME 2 of Early Recordings by the Great Classic-Jazz Clarinetist
Jazz Archives #100(12”)
Johnny Dodds, clarinet, on all selections; with –
Dixieland Thumpers (Side 1, #1-3):
Natty Dominique (tp) Jimmy Blythe (p) Jimmy Bertland (drs, wbrd). Chicago; 1927
Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders (Side 1, #4,5):
Tommy Ladnier (tp) Austin (p) unknown (drs). Chicago; June, 1926
Jimmy Blythe’s Ragamuffuns (Side 1, #6):
Freddie Keppard (tp) Blythe (p) unknown (tb) (drs). Chicago; early 1927
Tiny Parham (p) (Side 2, #1,2). Chicago; December, 1926
Blythe’s Washboard Ragamuffins (Side 2, #3,4):
Blythe (p) Jimmy Bertrand (wbrd) others unknown. Chicago; September, 1926
Blind Blake (Side 2, #5) vocal and guitar; with Jimmy Bertrand (wood blocks, slide whistle. Chicago; 1928
Paramount Pickers (Side 2, #6);
Unknown piano and guitar. Chicago; 1928
Sock That Thing (2:48)
Weary Way Blues (2:56)
There’ll Come a Day (2:52)
Lovie Austin’s Blues Serenaders
Merry Makers’ Twine (2:54)
In the Allery Blues (2:56)
Jimmy Blythe’s Ragamuffins
Adam’s Apple (2:52)
Dodds and Parham
Loveless Love (2:37)
Nineteenth Street Blues (2:51)
Blythe’s Washboard Ragamuffins
Ape Man (2:43)
Hot Potatoes (2:56)
Salty Dog (3:01)
JOHNNY DODDS (1892-1940) was one of the very greatest of jazz clarinetists. This reissue album of 1920s selections featuring his horn is the second 12-inch Riverside LP devoted to demonstrating the accuracy of this sweeping statement. As in the previous such collection (RLP 12-104), Dodds is heard here in outstanding examples of the brilliant and deceptively easy-going “South Side Chicago” style of jazz that he, as much as anyone else and more than most, helped to create nearly three decades ago.
Dodds was born in New Orleans; his early years were also the early years of jazz and he learned to play in the classic New Orleans manner with legendary old bands like the Eagle and the Tuxedo. He mastered the Creole clarinet style – the shot, choppy, many-note phrases alternating with long swooping glissandos; the subtle and delicate changes of key and register – and proceeded to do many beautiful and exciting things with it.
T he clarinetist had come North from New Orleans to play with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, that notable pioneering group that also served to introduce young Louis Armstrong to Chicago. Johnny first recorded with the Oliver Band, in 1923, and then went on to become one of Chicago’s most in-demand recording artists of the ‘20s. Into a four or five years span Dodds concentrated his many appearances with Armstrong’s Hot Five, Jelly roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, groups of his own and a great many others.
Then the Depression, and ensuing changes in jazz fashions, shunted him to one side. It is impossible to conceive of Dodds playing in anyone’s big band, and there just wasn’t much else to e doing musically in the ‘30s. He did not record again until 1938, when there were a few sides made that attempted to there were a few sides made that attempted to recapture the old feeling; and in 1940 he died, following a cerebral hemorrhage.
Despite the near-universal agreement of those who know and love traditional jazz that Dodds was one of the greats, fame (of the large-scale, full-blown sort achieved by an Armstrong or a Morton) eluded him. There is no particular mystery about this: there was simply nothing at all of the showman about him. He was quiet, not the sort to grab the spotlight, nor the kind about whom colorful and dubious legends spring up after death. Aside from the fact that he owned a large and ornate ring of which he was inordinately proud, the older musicians have little anecdotage to recount about Johnny, and so nothing much remains – except, of course, his music.
And that music remains alive, exciting and satisfying. A good deal of the best of it is also the best-known: his brilliant performances with the Hot Five, and on the tightly constructed Oliver and Morton band sides. But to remember him solely for such efforts is to run the risk of missing the essense of Johnny Dodds. For he was a richly varied artist within the New Orleans-based framework. He could play rough or sweet, could explore thoroughly the full range of his instrument in any tempo; and he would seem to have been most completely at home in the swift, yet utterly relaxed patterns of the small-band jazz idiom that developed rather unobtrusively in the joints and dingy backrooms of the streets and alleys of Chicago’s South Side. It was a kind of music that, like Dodds himself, did not really survive past the end of the ‘20s, but it was (and on such records as these still is) an amazingly evocative, endearingly unpretentious, and – to use a 1960s term that I am not at all surprised to find apt – extremely soulful music.
As the varying (and sometimes incomplete) personnel listings indicate, this was a period of rather casually organized record dates. And this jazz in an “in-the-alley vein was also very much a group music. These South Siders understood each other’s music thoroughly; they played together for years; and all shared the same free-and-easy, highly rhythmic approach. So specific personnel and instrumentation didn’t matter that much: the only necessity, you might say, was that Johnny Dodds be included as often as possible.
Thus on the first side of this LP you find Dodds in combinations including either Lovie Austin or Jimmy Blythe on piano, and co-featuring on trumpet either the legendary and seldom-recorded Freddy Keppard, the deeply blues-tinged Tommy Ladnier, or Natty Dominique – certainly not a polished performer, but one who fits this idiom to perfection.
Johnny’s relaxed style and wide vibrato could handle the lead all by itself quite well, and on the Side 2 selections he is the only horn. There are two unique clarinet-piano duets with Tiny Parham, a free-for-all skiffle session led by Blind Blake, two swingers with a Jimmy Blythe-and-washboard group, and finally a version of Charlie Jackson’s now-standard Salty Dog on which Johnny tosses in a remarkable, blues-charged, lower register solo – as if to emphasize the fact that there was just about nothing he couldn’t do on a clarinet more gracefully and beautifully and meaningfully than just about anyone else.
A discographical note:
All of these selections originally appeared on Paramount. Sock That Things was on Paramount 12594 (master number 20241); Weary Way Blues / There’ll Come a Day (respective master numbers: 855 and 856) were coupled on Para. 1252. Merry Maker’s Twine / In the Alley Blues (2624/2623) made up Para 12391; Adam’s Apple (2603) was on Para 12376. Loveless Love / 19th Street (4413/414) were Para 12483; Ape Man / Your Folks (2479/2480) were Para 12428. Hot Potatoes (20521) was on Para 12673, and Salty Dog (21185) was on Para 12779.
Dodds can also be heard on –
JOHNNY DODDS: New Orleans Clarinet (RLP 12-104)
LOUIS ARMSTRONG: 1923 (king Oliver’s Creole jazz Band (RLP 12-122)
Other examples of South Side jazz can be heard on Volume 6 of Riverside’s HISTORY OF CLASSIC JAZZ, available as a single album (RLP 12-114) or as part of the deluxe, annotated five-alums set (SDP-11).
(The surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes; it has not been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of original tone qualities.)
LP produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and BILL GRAUER
Notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner
Cover designed by KEN DEADOFF
Remastered, 1960, by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.