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Ollie Powers’ Harmony Syncopators
Ollie Powers is an obsure figure in the shadows of early Jazz history in Chicago, though, as will be seen from the personnel given below, his band in the autumn of 1923 contained some names to conjure with. As far as can be ascertained, nothing else from this session was ever issued and it is quite likely nothing was ever made, as the ‘takes’ of this number reach as high as six, four of which were issued by Paramount on their own or subsidiary labels such as Claxonola and Puritan. The take used here was the fourth. It is not known whether these six takes were made in one day or over a period of time.

The Ollie Powers Harmony Syncopators
The Ollie Powers Harmony Syncopators, playing at the Vendome Theater, most likely around 1923.

The general sound of the band is suggestive of an attempt to emulate the very successful King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band , then playing at the Lincoln Gardens (459 East 31st Street), with Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds. So far as the front line is concerned, this is achieved remarkably well. Ladnier was very much a force to be reckoned with, though lacking at that time to some extent the maturity of Oliver and the genius of Armstrong.

Vincent, or Venson on trombone was at least Dutrey’s equal, and Noone of the gentler Creole school of clarinettists, could give a good account of himself, and does so in this recording. Diemer introduces the alto saxophone voice to little advantage, but the rhythm section as a unit is inclined to stodginess, due to the unimaginative and over-recorded brass bass (probably sousaphone). Calamese, the second cornet, and Powers, the leader, are barely discernible owing to the indifferent recording. Nevertheless, this is a record of great historical interest and, unlike many others of this description, it has quite long moments of musical value.

It appears that Ollie Powers was a vocalist as well as a drummer, for on the original coupling to this title he sang a number “Jazzbo Jenkins“. From this and the fact of his having recorded two quite commercial numbers for Paramount three months earlier, and two more for Columbia in New York over a year later (these were never issued), it seems likely that his status as a jazz musician (although Freddie Keppard and Louis Armstrong both played briefly with this group) is not as obvious as that of a cabaret entertainer.

Taken from the book Recorded Jazz: A Critical Guide by Rex Harris and Brian Rust.

Ollie Powers grandson has written more about him HERE.

ddd discography

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Jazzbo Jenkins
(Shelton Brooks)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
12059-B

1538-1
Jazzbo Jenkins
(Shelton Brooks)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
12059-B

1538-2
Play That Thing
(Ollie Powers)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Puritan
11263
Claxtonola
40263

1502-1
Play That Thing
(Ollie Powers)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
20263-A
Claxtonola
40263
Harmograph
851

1502-3
Play That Thing
(Ollie Powers)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
12059-A

1502-4
Play That Thing
(Ollie Powers)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
12059-A
Harmograph
874

1502-5
Play That Thing
(Ollie Powers)
9-1923 Chicago, Illinois Paramount
12059-A

1502-6

Ollie Powers’ Harmony Syncopators

Artist Instrument
John Basley Banjo
Alex Calamese Cornet
Grover Compton Piano
Horace Demer Alto Saxophone
Ollie Powers Vocals, Drums, Director
Eddie Vincient Trombone
Tommy Ladnier Cornet
Jimmie Noone Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
William Moore Tuba

A special thanks to Eugene A Contini for his help with the recordings on this page. 

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