RLP12-122
LOUIS ARMSTRONG: 1923

with KING OLIVER’S CREOLE JAZZ BAND

Jazz Archives #100(12”) 

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Johnson (bj) Baby Dodds (drs)

Side 1; and Side 2, #1,2: Richmond, Indiana; April 5 and 6, 1923

Side 2, #3-5: Chicago; March, 1923 (Stomp Evans (sax) added on these three selections).


SIDE 1

  1. Chimes Blues (2:53) (Joe Oliver)

  2. Just Gone (2:42) (Joe Oliver)

  3. Canal Street Blues (2:29) (Oliver- Armstrong)

  4. Mandy Lee Blues (2:10) (Bloom – Melrose)

  5. Weather Bird Rag (2:42) (Louis Armstrong)

  6. Dipper Mouth Blues (2:38) (Oliver – Armstrong)

SIDE 2

  1. Froggie Moore (3:04) (Spikes – Morton)

  2. Snake Rag (3:03) (Joe Oliver)

  3. Mabel’s Dream (2:50) (Ike Smith)

  4. Southern Stomps (2:58) (Richard M. Jones)

  5. Riverside Blues (2:45) (Thomas Dorsey)


   The selections reissued here, made by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in the Spring of 1923, have a very substantial double claim to immortality. They are the definitive recordings of that remarkable music that is New Orleans jazz; and they are equally memorable as the first recorded examples of the incomparable jazz talent of Louis Armstrong.

   These are among the earliest recordings of Negro jazz, but that is only one small part of their significance. There was simply no other band with such command of the traditional style or with anything approaching the spirit and the sureness with which Oliver’s group – formed in Chicago, but almost entirely from New Orleans – could ‘drive down’ the blues and stomps that are the bedrock of jazz. Their influence on a whole generation of both white and Negro jazzmen was vast and valuable, and is still a long way from dying out.

   Joe Oliver was first called “King” in an era when that title was not handed out lightly: the pre-1917 New Orleans days of street parades and of the celebrated red-light district known as Storyville. Joe was 38 in 1923, and might possibly have lost some fraction of his earlier power, but certainly none of his remarkable fire and tone and imagination. Alongside this established master stood a 23-year-old youngster, on the first rung on what was to be the highest ladder any jazz musician has ever climbed. Louis Armstrong was just about getting under way, but the sound that bursts from his horn here shows clearly that he already deserved to share a bandstand with Oliver, and seems to foretell that the protégé was soon t outshine his teacher.

   Satchmo himself has written the story of how he came into the Creole Band:*

   “I joined Joe’s band in Chicago in 1922. He and Jimmy Noone had gone up there together in 1918; and he took Chicago by storm. Then he sent for me to play second trumpet … I guess Joe decided to have two because he figured I could blend with him … He must have remembered they way I played, the things we’d talked about. I must have proved it to him in some way before he left in 1918.  After all, he didn’t need to send for me; he was top man …


   “I’ll never forget the night I joined the Oliver band. They were playing at the Lincoln Gardens, at 31st near Cottage Grove, and old, famous spot … Well, I came up to Chicago and I didn’t come in on the train that Joe was supposed to meet. So that makes me come in all by myself. I looked all around and I didn’t see anybody. I said: “Lord, what’s going to happen now? And I wondered if I should go right back on the next train. I was just a youngster from New Orleans and I felt real lost in Chicago. But a redcap told me: “Why don’t you just get a cab and go out to the Lincoln Gardens.”

   “When I got there and got out of the cab, I heard this band. They were really jumping then, and I commenced to worry all over again. I wondered if I could ever fit into that band. Oh, those cats were blowing! Old Johnny Dodds was making those variations and Baby Dodds shimmying on the drums. Dutray was good on that trombone, too’ he had a beautiful tone. When I walked in that night, I just sat down and listened”

   * Joe Oliver is Still King,” by Louis Armstrong, in the Record Changer magazine; July, 1050.

   That was surely a moment to get misty-eyed about, a crucial moment in the history of jazz: the beginning of the fusing of the wonderful, still-expanding talents of the young Armstrong with this tight-knit unit that, with him, was to establish a high-point in traditional jazz. And Louis did not just sit and listen for very long. These records were made only a few months later, but by then the unequalled Armstrong –Oliver teamwork had been fully developed. Following the original New Orleans pattern of ensemble playing, solos were a fairly rare occurrence with the Creole Band; the dramatic flashes came most often from the brilliant breaks the two horns worked out together. In that same magazine article, Louis described their almost-intuitive technique:

   “We really made something of it. Musicians would be sitting right in front of the bandstand and they couldn’t tell when we had decided what break we were going to take. We weren’t reading any music. Joe had a way of making up his break while he was playing the lead … and I was on to his playing so well that I just figured my second to it and I’d just go about my business – and when the break came, it was just there …

   In the inevitable emphasis on these two, there is danger of undervaluing the roles of the others (particularly clarinetist Johnny Dodds). All contribute importantly, for the essence of the music is that, as Louis put it, you can hear “this band” – this joining of individuals into creative unity. They play, together in the fullest meaning of the term “ensemble,” with unsurpassed understanding of and respect for each individual’s contribution to the collective musical product. This, above all, is the key to the greatness of traditional jazz and of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

   And it is no small clue to Armstrong’s total musical greatness to note that he carried out his particular assignment in this band to perfection. Louis’ later, unmatched personal fame came largely through a quite different, virtuoso approach to jazz, but his primary function here was to be second horn and, to his great credit, no one has ever been a better second trumpet than was young Satchmo, recording with King Joe in 1923.

   A note on the original recordings:

   The first eight selections here were made for Gennett. They are presented in exact order of recording, with one exception: Chimes Blues, which includes Louis’ first recorded solo, has been placed at the head of the list. Its master number is 11387, and it was first issued on Gennett 5135, backed by Froggie Moore (mx.no. 11390). Just Gone (11383)/ Canal Street Mouth (13884) were Ge 5133; Weather Bird (11388) / Dipper Mouth (13889) were Ge 5132. Mandy Lee (11385) was originally coupled on Ge 5134 with I’m Going Away to Wear You Off My Mind (also recorded at this time and reissued on Riverside 12-101). Snake Rag (11391) was first issued on Ge 5184. Five selections (through 11387) were recorded on April 5, 1923, the others the following day. The remaining three selections were made for Paramoutn, another notable pioneer in jazz recording. Mabel’s Dream (mx.no. 1622)/ Riverside (1624) were originally Para 20292; Southern Stomps (1623) was on Para 12088. These were recorded slightly before the Gennetts, but issued slightly later. The Gennett numbers made up the 10-inch LP, RLP 1029; the Paramounts were part of RLP1005. All appear here for the firs time on 12-inch LP.


   special album package –

HISTORY OF CLASSIC JAZZ (60 complete selections: five 12-inch LPs in deluxe album package. All the great

names of classic jazz; plus 20,000-word essay by historian Charles Edwards Smith.) (SDP-11)

   Among the several notable 12-inch LPs of early jazz in the “Jazz Archives” series are –

Young LOUIS ARMSTRONG (RLP 12-101)

JOHNNY DODDS: New Orleans Clarinet (RLP 12-104)

NEW ORLEANS LEGENDS: Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Kid Rena (RLP 12-119)

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   (The slight surface noise 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 BILL GRAUER and ORRIN KEEPNEWS

Notes by ORRIN KEEPNEWS

Cover photograph: EDMOND EDWARDS; design: PAUL BACON

Last three selections reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner

Remastered, 1957, by Reeves Sound Studios


RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS

553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.