Sunday, 18 August 2013

19. New Orleans Rhythm Kings & Jelly Roll Morton

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) were another highly influential early jazz band that bridged the gap between the original New Orleans ensemble sound to the Chicago style of the early to mid 1920's. Their career was brief as they only made recordings from 1922 to 1925 (not including a Platters-esque "reunion" in the mid 30's). Many have erroneously put them in the same bracket as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The differences in approach and style are noticeable from this important album. The NORK refused to go down the road of the novelty sound that the ODJB were famous for. They also acknowledged the influence of African Americans in their playing style something that Nick LaRocca went out of his way to deny.

The NORK possessed three musicians of great standing. Paul Mares on cornet, George Brunies on trombone and Leon Roppollo on clarinet. One of the most famous tracks on the album is Tin Roof Blues. Here is a great example of early New Orleans jazz musicians stepping away from the ensemble style and taking turns on their own. They are not quite improvising as much as Bechet or Armstrong would do a couple of years later but the evidence of alternate takes of this song would suggest that that they were pushing the envelope for the time.

In July of 1923 they recorded a session with Jelly Roll Morton. These were to prove historically important as they were one of the first mixed race recordings released by a major label. Howard Reich and William Gaines in their biography of Morton in Jelly's Blues argue that the recordings transformed the NORK significantly.

1. Eccentric
2. Farewell Blues
3. Discontented Blues
4. Bugle Call Rag
5. Panama
6. Tiger Rag
7. Livery Stable Blues
8. Oriental
9. Sweet Lovin' Man
10. That's A-Plenty
11. Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble
12. Weary Blues
13. That Da Da Strain
14. Wolverine Blues
15. Maple Leaf Rag
16. Tin Roof Blues
17. Sobbin' Blues
18. Marguerite
19. Angry
20. Clarinet Marmalade
21. Clarinet Marmalade
22. Mr. Jelly Lord
23. Mr. Jelly Lord
24. London Blues
25. Milenberg Joys
26. Milenberg Joys
27. Mad

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