King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band is rightfully one of the most celebrated of all New Orleans jazz bands. Their recordings from 1923 were groundbreaking. Not only were they the recording debuts of Oliver, Louis Armstrong and clarinetist Johnny Dodds but they are definitive examples of ensemble-oriented classic New Orleans jazz, certainly ranking as the most exciting and advanced jazz recordings up to that point in time. While the rapid evolution of jazz would soon find them being surpassed (only three years later) by Armstrong’s Hot Five recordings, the Creole Jazz Band sides would be among the main inspirations for Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band of the 1940s and countless other revivalist jazz groups. However there was always one flaw to the Oliver performances: the erratic and often-scratchy recording quality.
For the 2007 double CD Off The Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Recordings, engineer Doug Benson did a remarkable job of remastering the Oliver recordings. For the first time, one can really hear what the Creole Jazz Band sounded like on pitch-corrected and mostly very clear recordings. Even those listeners who already have these timeless performances several times will want to get this twofer.
All 37 performances by Oliver’s band are here including such gems as “Canal Street Blues,” “Chimes Blues,” “High Society,” “Jazzin’ Babies Blues,” “Buddy’s Habits,” two versions apiece of “Dipper Mouth Blues,” “Snake Rag,” and “Riverside Blues,” and three of “Mabel’s Dream.” The interplay between Oliver and Armstrong (it is fun to guess who is playing what), the masterful playing of Dodds, and the fine ensemble work of trombonist Honore Dutrey and pianist Lil Armstrong are among the joys of these innovative and timeless recordings which can finally be truly heard. The accompanying booklet is also memorable. All serious early jazz collections simply have to include this version of this classic music.