Violinist Armand J. Piron became leader of the Olympia Orchestra in 1912 and operated a music publishing business in partnership with Clarence Williams at 1315 Tulane Avenue in New Orleans from 1915 to 1918, when Piron formed his New Orleans Orchestra, securing steady gigs at the St. Charles Hotel and Tranchina's Restaurant. Piron's front line consisted of trumpeter Peter Bocage, trombonist John Lindsay, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Lorenzo Tio, Jr., and Louis Warnecke on the alto sax. Piron's rhythm section combined the talents of pianist Steve Lewis, singing banjoist Charles Bocage, brass bass bastion Jose "Bob" Ysaguirres, and drummer Louis Cottrell, mostly confined on record to woodblocks and a small cymbal. This invigorating little ensemble moved up to New York and made two unnumbered test pressings for Victor on November 24, 1923, subsequently cutting their first issued records for OKeh nine days later. "Bouncing Around" is a glorious example of early-'20s syncopated dance music, a genre still commonly overlooked but vital in its day to the development of jazz. "Kiss Me Sweet" has a delightful vaudeville vocal duet by Piron and Charles Bocage, who sound like a pair of cloned Noble Sissles. Piron moved freely between record labels, crossing over to Victor on December 11th and Columbia on December 21st. Steadily employing a terse vibrato, saxophonist Warnecke sounds similar to young Sidney Bechet, who like King Oliver was a transitory member of the Olympia band. It was Bechet who composed "Ghost of the Blues," recorded by Piron's group in February 1924. Piron's fiddling was sweet and fluidic, deftly complementing the other instruments without pouring on too much sugar. The material preserved here forms part of the bedrock of traditional jazz. "New Orleans Wiggle" and "Mama's Gone, Goodbye" are splendidly sculpted studies in old-fashioned entertainment. "Sud Bustin' Blues" and "Do Doodle Oom" are important links between Piron's band and the emerging Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Piron recorded no less than three different versions of Clarence Williams and Edgar Dowell's catchy novelty tune "West Indies Blues." Fortunately for anyone enamored of this melody, all three treatments are included here, reappearing like some sort of leisurely leitmotif. The first rendition features a rare vocal by illustrious and beautiful vaudeville blues chanteuse Esther Bigeou (1895-1936), a cousin of Paul Barbarin. Other singers heard on this compilation are the capable Ida G. Brown and the wobbly Lela Bolden. Despite rumors to the contrary, Piron did in fact record his theme song, "The Purple Rose of Cairo," along with "Day by Day," but these were Victor test pressings that were never released and have since disappeared. Piron returned to New Orleans, there to wax three last sides without trombone or tuba for a Victor field recording project on March 25, 1925. These selections conclude this beautifully presented, exceptionally rewarding survey of early vintage New Orleans\jazz and hot dance music.
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