Dr. Michael White teaches Spanish and Afro-American music at Xavier University. But his avocation is working to assure preservation of the New Orleans jazz tradition through writings, lectures and, as here, performing. Selecting soul-mate fellow clarinet player Johnny Dodds as the subject for this CD, White recreates tunes Dodds wrote and played with either his own group or with one of the many groups he was a member of during his performing years. The older brother of drummer Baby Dodds, he was largely self taught although he is purported to have taken some lessons from master New Orleans clarinet teacher Lorenzo Tio. Although not as technically adept as other New Orleans clarinet players like Jimmie Noone or George Lewis, Dodds possessed a unique and memorable tone which White faithfully follows. The rendition of "Loveless Love," which Dodds put to wax in April of 1927, is traditional jazz at its purest. The solemn trumpet of Norman Thatcher, both in solo and in unison with White's mournful clarinet, makes this cut one of the highlights of the album. There are some rarities here as well, like "Melancholy," "Blue Clarinet Stomp," and "Bull Fiddle Blues," all of which Dodds wrote and of which he was virtually the only performer. Discographies reveal no other recordings of these pieces by anyone else from that period. The set includes "Wild Man Blues," which Dodds recorded with his Black Bottom Stompers as well as with Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven. White receives A-one support from players who share his admiration and feel for the New Orleans style. In addition to Thatcher, Emil Mark's piano and Colin Bray's bass are fully synchronized with White's interpretation of the music Dodds wrote and played. Big Bill Bissonnette, the driving force behind Jazz Crusade Records, is here playing the typical New Orleans style of drums. Solid stuff and recommended.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan