The Secret Six • Centennial Tribute To King Oliver​’​s Creole Jazz Band

The Secret Six • Centennial Tribute To King Oliver​’​s Creole Jazz BandEvery year is now a centennial year for historic jazz. Between 2017 and 2023 we didn’t commemorate that many recordings. The ODJB got their articles in 2017, Mamie’s Smith was memorialized for kicking off the blues craze in 1920, Kid Ory’s 1922 records had a mention, and The NORK we covered far ahead of their centennial when Rivermont had a major re-issue. Nearly everything else rolled by without acknowledgment. That changed with the centennial of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band’s 1923 recordings. From here on out there’s hot jazz galore. You could spend the rest of the 2020s making daily playlists of jazz records celebrating their hundredth birthday.

But just because a birthday has passed doesn’t mean you should forget those great recordings another hundred years, and just because we didn’t cover the Secret Six Jazz Band’s Centennial Tribute To King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in real time doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. Recorded at the New Orleans Jazz Museum in April 2023 and released on Bandcamp in September it is a professionally recorded set featuring 14 of the titles recorded by the Creole Jazz Band in 1923. Those sessions featured the earliest recordings of Louis Armstrong but is also the first we hear most of the rest of the band: Baby Dodds on drums, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lil Hardin on piano, Honoré Dutrey on trombone, and Bill Johnson on banjo and double bass.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Sitting in for the classic lineup are a set of contemporary New Orleans names jazz fans should familiarize themselves with. Haruka Kikuchi, with her Ory style trombone, is prominent in the set. Craig Flory on clarinet—you may recognize him from Tuba Skinny and elsewhere. Zach Lange and Nathan Wolman have the unenviable task of filling in for Oliver and Armstrong, rising to the occasion and playing off each other nicely. John Joyce leads the Secret Six in all its various line ups, and plays upright bass. He is also known for the Smoking Time Jazz Club. (By the way, he is no relation to the elder John Joyce who teaches jazz history at Tulane and plays drums for the Louisiana Repertory Ensemble.) Hunter Burgamy, who wrote our cover this month, is on guitar. James McClaskey, whose latest album is my current obsession and will be gushed over in my June column, is on banjo, and Defne “Dizzy” Incirlioglu completes the group on washboard. She can be found in a number of New Orleans groups when a solid washboard is required.

This is a very different kind of project than the previous Secret Six albums we have raved over these past few years, which are reflective of the current traditional jazz scene in New Orleans. They put a lot of work into preparing this themed show, and it was a celebrated event in the local jazz history community. The set is respectful but not clinical. It stays true to the original without full re-creation. 1923 was still the acoustic era of recording, limited in some ways, and it is nice to hear these classic tracks played with joy and clarity as a group. The album was nominated for Best Traditional Jazz Album of 2023 by OffBeat and the band for Best Traditional Jazz Band. Musicians on this set appear in four of five nominations in each category! Joyce gathered the creme de la creme for this performance.

In addition to being well recorded it was engagingly filmed for a live broadcast that can now be found on YouTube on the NOLA Jazz Museum page. The primary difference being the introductions to songs are not included on the album release. If you like what you see I encourage you to support the band by downloading the album on Bandcamp and exploring the other Secret Six releases.


Centennial Tribute To King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
The Secret Six

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of

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