Johnny Dodds

1928-1940

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By 1928 and '29 jazz was beginning to mature and recording technology was growing up along with it. Even taking into account his remarkable accomplishments on phonograph records from 1923 through early 1928, the exciting material gathered together on this disc represents -- without question -- some of the very best jazz ever recorded by New Orleans/Chicago clarinet archetype Johnny Dodds. On the first 11 selections, Natty Dominique blows one tough little cornet, and Bill Johnson's bull fiddle comes across more clearly and dramatically than ever before. Throughout the 1920s, many bands relied on the tuba to provide the bassline on their recordings. Bolstered by the Victor Record company's superior equipment, Johnson's pulsing, visceral viol carries everyone along on a tonal current of unforgettable intensity. Anybody interested in trombonist Honore Dutrey should listen closely as this has got to be some of his best work on record. There's nothing quite like hearing Baby Dodds using the washboard as a neat, precise percussion tool. All the same it's refreshing when he switches to the drum kit and Lil Hardin Armstrong presides at the ivories. "Heah Me Talkin'" is a triumph, "Goober Dance" is pleasantly weird, and "Indigo Stomp" a wonderful ritual for piano, clarinet and bass fiddle. At that same session Johnny's group backed blueswoman Sippie Wallace on one song. This would be the only time Sippie and Johnny would collaborate in the studio. "I'm a Mighty Tight Woman" is a remarkable document, one of the strongest performances that this singer ever put across. The Paramount Pickers and Beale Street Washboard Band sessions are a delight, the sort of music you can go back and revisit regularly. The crowning glory of this collection is the inclusion of eight Decca recordings from 1938 and '40 that constitute the phonographic last will and testament of Johnny Dodds. Hearing his noble clarinet resounding in the same company as Charlie Shavers, John Kirby, Lonnie Johnson, Teddy Bunn, and the mighty Richard M. Jones brings out all of the best qualities in each musician. With O'Neill Spencer singing, drumming and rubbing on a washboard, we're faced with fully half of the John Kirby Sextet, a decidedly modern contingent mingling perfectly with players whose experience reached back towards the very beginnings of recorded jazz.

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