Joseph Nathan Oliver, better known as King Oliver, was an American jazz cornet player and bandleader. A notable composer, his compositions included Dippermouth Blues, Sweet Like This, Canal Street Blues and Doctor Jazz. As his student, Louis Armstrong has said, if it was not for the influence of King Oliver, jazz would not have been what it is. His playing style and use of mutes left a lasting impression.
What made a particularly lasting impression over his musical talents was his showmanship. Stories circulate about how in the early days of jazz, King Oliver would meander down the streets of the red light district called Storyville in New Orleans like some kind of Pied Piper drawing a crowd and leading them to the Aberdeen Café to hear him play his music.
The group he led in these recordings from 1923 were the quintessential group that he brought to Chicago with him including Louis Armstrong. This group was virtually the living definition of Hot Jazz. Intricate arrangements with snappy instrumental panache taking a Ragtime feeling and brushing it with the Blues for a deeper sound.
An interesting aside is that these recordings were made at Gennett Records deep within a gorge in Richmond, Indiana. I discovered the ruins of this studio one day quite by accident. Driving by on my way to another hike, I saw a really impressive great blue heron that caught my attention as it dove down into the gorge. Deciding to divert from my original destination, I followed a path down and found the studio’s remains. Whisper has it that one day they intend to make this into a living history site. I sincerely hope they do. I would love to take my little girls to hear this musical era recreated.
Giving this a 9 out of 10.
Off the Record can be listened to here: