Now here's a collection that is guaranteed to please anyone with a predilection for New Orleans-style jazz as it was played in Chicago during the 1920s and early '30s. Longtime old-school jazz heads and new initiates alike would benefit greatly from Acrobat's Chicago Black Small Bands, a 23-track anthology that traces the recording habits of 18 different bands during the years 1926-1936. The majority of the players began their careers in New Orleans and made the journey northward to industrialized Chicago. The New Orleans Wanderers, a group that included trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and pianist Lil Hardin, cut several handsome sides, returned to the studio the following day and made more records under the name of the New Orleans Bootblacks. As for Lil's husband at that time, Louis Armstrong is heard in duet performance with pianist Earl Hines on "Weather Bird," one of the best-known titles in the entire collection. Other comparatively famous artists who are represented here are clarinetist Jimmie Noone, pianist and composer Richard M. Jones, and the great Jelly Roll Morton, who performs his own "Wolverine Blues" in a trio with Johnny and Baby Dodds.
The Brothers Dodds also recorded with cornetist Natty Dominique and pianist Jimmy Blythe in a group billed as the Chicago Footwarmers. The Midnight Rounders, on the other hand, was a trio consisting of Blythe, Crescent City bassist Bill Johnson, and washboard handler Jimmy Bertrand, a versatile percussionist who also operated a xylophone with Junius "E.C." Cobb & His Corn Eaters. Junie Cobb, a clarinetist who pioneered the use of the tenor saxophone in jazz and played banjo with King Oliver, is also heard leading his "Grains of Corn" with Darnell Howard blowing clarinet and alto sax. Both groups featured Junie's brother Jimmie Cobb on cornet. Speaking of cornets, you'll want to be sure and listen for the mighty Punch Miller blowing cornet with cornetist Jimmy Wade & His Dixielanders, and with trombonist Albert Wynn & His Gutbucket Five (with Alex Hill at the piano, banjoist Papa Charlie Jackson, and a young Sidney Catlett behind the drums). The scat vocal on the exciting "Parkway Stomp" is by Punch Miller. Certain busy instrumentalists pop up throughout the collection, especially Jimmy Blythe, Jimmy Bertrand, and Darnell Howard, who reappears with the State Street Ramblers and the Memphis Nighthawks. Several participants from the Junie Cobb sessions show up as members of drummer Harry Dial's Bluesicians. Dial is best remembered for the records he made with Fats Waller in 1934 and 1935. Recorded in May 1930, Dial's "Funny Fumble" swings hard enough that drumming for Waller would have been the next logical step. This compilation is a stimulating little package of joy, and everyone who cares at all about traditional jazz should seriously consider tapping into it.