King Oliver

Off the Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings

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Because the personnel include Louis Armstrong, Lillian Hardin, and Johnny and Baby Dodds, the 1923 recordings of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, originally made for the Gennett, OKeh, Columbia, and Paramount labels, have been reissued numerous times as formats have changed and technology has improved. Here, the Canadian label Off the Record (distributed in the U.S. by Archeophone Records) puts 37 tracks on two CDs, having made transfers from the most pristine 78-rpm discs available. As Lawrence Gushee discusses in a sleeve note, there are different philosophies about how best to transfer recordings from the acoustic era, from a purist notion that would preserve every scratch and click sound to a more modernist one that would "clean" the sound completely and conform it to later notions of fidelity by, for example, adding reverb. As Doug Benson reveals in his liner notes, this album takes a middle course, leaning to the purists, by leaving in some of the hiss and keeping the sound picture "flat." Still, modern technology and the reliance on well-preserved records for transfer bring out considerable clarity in this version of the tracks, even though a certain amount of variance in sound quality is inevitable, if only because different conditions were obtained at the different recording sessions for the different companies and there were differences in disc pressings. Fans of early jazz are likely to have an earlier issue of this material in their collections already, but even so they probably will want to obtain this one, if only for comparison.

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