Jazz Oracle is one of the world's greatest historic jazz reissue labels, and should really be winning awards for its beautiful packaging, thorough research, concise documentation, color reproductions of 78 rpm record labels, and impeccable sound restoration. Issued in early 2008, Jazz Oracle's collection of early Joe Robichaux recordings even managed to supersede Document's outstanding 1999 release, Joseph Robichaux & His New Orleans Rhythm Boys: 1933. This was accomplished by eliminating a couple of alternate takes and adding two rare Okeh sides from December 1929 with Robichaux accompanying vaudeville blues singer Christina Gray on "The Reverend Is My Man," while comedian Joe Lawrence is heard answering her in an offhand manner on the flipside, "Just Like You Walked In, You Can Walk Out." As for sound quality, little or no 78 rpm surface noise is audible, making the Jazz Oracle transfers feel a tiny bit subdued by comparison, even if some will prefer the "cleaned up" sound to the crispness of the Document reissues. Robichaux (1900-1965) was a New Orleans native who gigged in Chicago from 1918-1923 and returned to his hometown the following year to form a band with trumpeter Lee Collins and saxophonist David Jones. After opening the Astoria Garden on South Rampart Street, the Jones and Collins Astoria Eight cut four sides for Victor in November 1929. Unfortunately, these recordings are not included on this collection, but seem to have been tantalizingly mentioned in the liner notes to serve as a prologue to the Christina Gray Okehs and 20 Vocalions recorded in New York City on five consecutive days from August 22-26, 1933 by Joseph Robichaux & His New Orleans Rhythm Boys. This hot little band was driven by the leader's superb piano, Walter Williams' tenor guitar, and the drumming of a foot-thumping character named Ward "Bucket" Crosby who also liked to cut loose on temple blocks, chimes, and the vibraphone. Eugene Ware blew the trumpet and reeds were handled by Gene Porter and Alfred Guichard, who split vocal duties with Williams. Originally issued on the Rex and Perfect labels, "That's How Rhythm Was Born" (complete with cheerful references to "darkies" and "jig town") and "Swingy Little Thingy" are plastered with vocals by Chick Bullock, a ubiquitous and somewhat glib chortler from Butte, MT who managed to make it onto even more records than Bing Crosby during the 1930s. These platters appeared before the public as by Chick Bullock & His Levee Loungers. Especially since according to the discography, the two "takes" of "Swingy Little Thingy" are identical (!) the producers of this Jazz Oracle package were wise to eliminate alternate Bullocks in favor of the Christina Grays. Robichaux went on to lead a big band during the '30s, worked with Lizzie Miles and clarinetist George Lewis, then resurfaced during the early '60s as a member of the Preservation Hall All-Star Jazz Band. The 1933 recordings are delightful artifacts that bear repeated listening. This is very exciting music, and early jazz lovers are urged to track down either the Document or Jazz Oracle issues, or both.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
feat: Christina Gray
feat: Christina Gray