Richard M. Jones worked as talent scout, pianist, and accompanist for Okeh records during the 1920s, and managed to make a small number of recordings during the '30s and early '40s. This unfairly overlooked individual composed fundamental old-fashioned standards like "Trouble in Mind," the "Jazzin' Babies Blues," and the "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues." The recordings he made with his Jazz Wizards and other bands in and around Chicago are well worth investigating. It wasn't until the '90s that these early jazz gems became generally available through the efforts of certain European reissue labels. Classics fit their chronological Jones edition onto two CDs by confining the selection almost exclusively to records issued under his name between the years 1923 and 1944. Document's Vol. 1 begins, like the Classics edition and any responsibly put together Jones chronology, with two marvelous piano solos recorded in June 1923, and covers a timeline extending almost exactly four years, to June 1927. Jones is most often heard with his Jazz Wizards, which at first consisted of clarinetist Albert Nicholas and banjoist Johnny St. Cyr.
Other players heard on this volume are cornetist Shirley Clark, trombonist Preston Jackson, clarinetists Stump Evans and Artie Starks, and tenor saxophonist Barney Bigard, then a member of the Luis Russell band who was destined to become Duke Ellington's star clarinetist. These are delightful old-time jazz get-togethers, and anyone who loves early Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, or Jabbo Smith will almost certainly appreciate the opportunity to savor the sounds of the Jazz Wizards. What distinguishes this edition from Jones' entries in the Classics Chronological Series are occasional examples of the pianist's collaborations with blues singers Sara Martin, Elzadie Robinson, and Bertha "Chippie" Hill. These seem to have been included as a supplement to Document's Richard M. Jones & the Blues Singers, but the effect upon a two-volume "complete" edition is to edge out other material. Absent, for example, are two records cut for Paramount in June 1927 by cornetist Don Nelson with Jones at the piano. If you want to hear them, consult Vol. 1 of the Classics edition.
A second volume on Document devoted to the pianist's adventures as an accompanist could have included every record he ever shared withBertha Hill, and would have freed up room for his superb player piano roll version of the "King of the Zulu Blues," which was released to the public in April 1927, not to mention his guest appearances with bands led by Luis Russell and King Oliver. Instead Document constructed a very enjoyable Incomplete Edition that includes most of the best of his early recordings while touching at times upon sessions that featured female vocalists. The four numbers sung by Bertha Hill are a real bonus.