JOHNNY DODDS (VOLUME 2)
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
Johnny Dodds, clarinet; with –
Tiny Parham, piano (on #1, 2) – Blind Blake, guitar and vocal; Jimmy Bertrand, slide whistle (0n #3) – Jimmy Blythe, piano; Bertrand, washboard; others unknown (on #4) – Freddie Keppard, trumpet; Blythe; unknown trombone and traps (on #5, 6); Trixe Smith, vocal (on #5) – unknown guitar, piano, vocal (on #7, 8) Chicago; 1926-28
Dodds and Parham
1. Nineteenth Street Blues (Tiny Parham) (2:50)
2. Loveless Love (W. C. Handy) (2:37)
3. C.C. Pill Blues (Blake) (2:28)
Blythe’s Washboard Ragamuffins
4. Your Folks (Blythe) (2:36)
Jimmy Blythe’s Rafamuffins
5. Messin' Around (Blythe) (2:57)
6. Adam's Apple (Blythe) (2:52)
7. Salty Dog (Charlie Jackson) (3:01)
8. Steal Away --- (2:57)
JOHNNY DODDS (1892-1940) was one of the very great jazz clarinetists. This is the second in a series of LPs that underline the accuracy of this sweeping statement. As in Johnny Dodds, Volume 1 (RLP1002), he is heard here in outstanding examples of the brilliant and deceptively easy-going style that he, as much as anyone else and more than most, helped to create in Chicago some twenty-five years ago.
Dodds learned to play in the traditional New Orleans manner back with the old bands, like the Eagle and the Tuxedo. He picked up the classic clarinet style of the Creoles 'the short, choppy, many-note phrases alternating with long, swooping glissandos; the subtle and delicate changes of key and register); he mastered this style, and he proceeded to do many fabulous, beautiful and exciting things with it.
Dodds could play it sweet or rough, could explore thoroughly the full range of his instrument in any tempo. But most of all, it would seem, he loved the swift, yet thoroughly relaxed, small-band style that developed rather unobtrusively on Chicago's South Side during the 1920s - a music that is sometimes referred to as "Mecca Flats jazz," after the lunge and picturesque old apartment building where so many Negro jazzmen of the period lived or hung out.
The clarinettist had come out of New Orleans to play with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, the brilliant group that also served to introduce you Louis Armstrong to Chicago. He first recorded with the Oliver band, in 1923, and then went on to become one of the most in demand recording artists of the '20s, Chicago's "Golden Age" of jazz. Into a four or five year span Dodds concentrated his appearances with Armstrong's Hot Five, with Jelly Roll Morton, with such groups of his own as the Footwarmers and Black Bottom Stompers, and with a great many others - including those with whom he is heard on this LP and in volume 1.
When the Depression put an end to golden ages and to flurries of recording activity, Johnny drifted pretty much out of the center of things. His style and his jazz ideas did not permit him to be absorbed into anyone's big band, and there was little else for a talented New Orleans clarinettist to be doing. He recorded a few sides again, in the late '30s (primarily attempts at recreating the old style), and then in 1940 he died.
Dodds was a most important figure in Chicago in his day, and his influence remains, but he seems to be remembered chiefly for his association with Armstrong. He is brilliant on his many records with Louis, but to 'type' him on the basis of, for example, the Hot Five sides, is to run the risk of missing the essence of Johnny Dodds.
Certainly it is easy enough to let him slide by you - this was not a man about whom colorful legends sprang up. Except for a large and ornate ring of which he was inordinately proud, the older musicians appear to recall just about nothing. But his personality (as well as his vibrant clarinet style) is by no means lost. It is very much in evidence on the 8 selections here. The picture of Dodds they give may not be the most familiar, but it is probably the truest and most accurate.
As the personnel listings given indicate, it is not possible to learn the exact identity of all the musicians on these early record dates. In a sense, this is fully consistent with the music itself. For one thing, these were rather casually organized record dates, in which any few of the South Side 'regulars' might gather together to make a couple of sides. So, after all these years, not even those of the musicians who are still living could tell you exactly who played on what numbers. For another, this was very much a group music. These South Side jazzmen understood each other's music thoroughly; they played together for years; and all shared the same free and easy, highly rhythmic approach to jazz. So it didn't much matter exactly who played or what the exact instrumentation was. The only necessity, you might say, was that Johnny Dodds be included as often as possible.
Johnny's relaxed style and wide vibrato could handle the lead all by itself just as well as it fitted into a full ensemble. On the first two numbers (originally Paramount 12483), Dodds is joined only by Tiny Parham, a huge pianist who led and played in theater pit bands of the era, but who occasionally relaxed into the backroom atmosphere of sides like these. Johnny Blythe, another of the many celebrated piano men of the day, recorded frequently with Johnny. On his Your Folks (Para 12428), Dodds is the whole show: on Messin' Around/Adams Apple (Para 12376), he shares honors with an easy-going vocal by Trixie Smith, and with the powerful horn of the legendary New Orleans great, Freddie Kappard. (Keppard made few records, and all of them are rare. These two illustrate, incidentally, the hazards of reissuing rarities: the surface noise is more noticeable than could be desired, since the original master record no longer exists and these were dubbed from less-than-perfect copies. But the brilliance of Dodds and Keppard here seems ample compensation.)
On C. C. Pill Blues (Para 12634), Dodds takes part in a typical skiffle-style free-for-all, with Blind Blake playing guitar and shouting, and Jimmy Bertrand performing on a piping toy usually known as the slide whistler, or Swanee whistle. Bertrand, about whom very little is known, was primarily a drummer, but on this number and the preceding one (where he plays washboard), he indicates that he could do more things with such off-trail instruments than anyone else probably ever thought of.
Finally, Johnny rides freely and alone on the now-standard Charlie Jackson tune, Salty Dog, and Steal Away (Para 12779), tossing in a remarkable, blues-charged, lower register solo on Salty Dog - 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 anyone else.
This material is reissued by special arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner. The slight 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 tone qualities.
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Oriin Keepnews
Cover by Paul Bacon.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27 New York