Thursday, 8 August 2013

18. King Oliver: Sugar Foot Stomp (The Original Decca Recordings)

Joe "King" Oliver was a pivotal figure in the very early days of jazz by bringing the sounds of New Orleans to the ears of Chicago and to introducing the world to Louis Armstrong. He was at the peak of his popularity in the early 20's, a few years before Armstrong and Bechet were to strut their stuff. The recordings here are from 1926 and 1927, a time of tremendous creativity in the world of jazz. Oliver's star was on the wane even then but he did have enough clout to hire musicians of the ilk of Kid Ory, Luis Russell, Barney Bigard and Paul Barbarin. All hailing from New Orleans of course!

One of the opening tracks is Snag It. It's almost like an early rock n roll record with vocalist Richard Jones egging the band on with refrains of "snag it snag it!" and "mess around!" Oliver's ratatat stop break solo is also blistering. In Jackass Blues Oliver shows his chops and is unafraid of hitting some great high notes. This is also remarkable bearing in mind that it was around this time that playing was becoming extremely uncomfortable for him. (More than likely due to his fondness for sugar sandwiches washed down with sugar water hence the name of the next track, Sugar Foot StompWaWaWa drives along wonderfully with a great riff and solos from Ory and Bigard. Someday Sweetheart was Oliver's biggest hit with a rather affecting tuba solo that you can easily see being a double bass if it was recorded ten years later. Johnny Dodds makes a guest appearance on this one. A busy man in 1926!

The turning point of the album is Doctor Jazz. The track serves as an example of an Oliver composition that was surpassed by another artist a short while later. In this case it is the Jelly Roll Morton one that will always spring to mind. Willie The Weeper and one of jazz's most famous tracks, West End Blues, was also to be recorded shorty after by Louis Armstrong.

Black Snake Blues though is a great track with Ory, Bigard & Omer Simeon all playing with one foot firmly placed in the blues.It was probably recorded on the way to NYC where Oliver was to turn down a lucrative gig at the famous Cotton Club.

By the recording of the last few tracks the game was up for The Syncopators. Shortly after turning down the Cotton Club gig, Ory, Simeon and Russell would be gone. Barney Bigard would also soon be joining up with Duke Ellington's orchestra who as we all know did take the Cotton Club gig and enjoyed a long and successful career thereafter. Unfortunately for Joe Oliver this was to be the beginning of the end. He did play on for a number of years but with his health failing he was to end up broke working at a pool hall in the deep South while swing, the music he helped to cultivate, was king.

01. Too Bad
02. Snag It (first version)
03. Deep Henderson
04. Jackass Blues
05. Sugar Foot Stomp
06. Wa Wa Wa
07. Tack Annie
08. Someday Sweetheart
09. Dead Man Blues
10. New Wang Wang Blues
11. Snag It (second version)
12. Doctor Jazz
13. Showboat Shuffle
14. Every Tub
15. Willie the Weeper
16. Black Snake Blues
17. Farewell Blues
18. Sobbin' Blues
19. Tin Roof Blues
20. West End Blues
21. Sweet Emmalina
22. Lazy Mama

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