Joe "King" Oliver was Louis Armstrong's idol and mentor. Although preceded by the earliest recordings of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917) and both the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band (1922), Oliver's 1923 Gennett recordings are widely regarded as the cornerstone of recorded jazz. Released in 1997, Living Era's chronological Dippermouth Blues compilation lives up to its subtitle of "25 Greatest Hits" by presenting well-chosen examples from various segments of this man's relatively brief recording career, although most early jazz connoisseurs might wish for a bit more material from the 1923-1926 period. The exciting interaction between Oliver and Armstrong is aptly represented by the six earliest selections, while the remaining 19 tracks diligently document Oliver's post-Armstrong period. The records made between 1926 and 1928 by King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators and the final material waxed in 1929 and 1930 by King Oliver & His Orchestra (under the direction of Carroll Dickerson) clearly suggest the perceived parameters of the jazz scene in Chicago and New York during the second half of the 1920s. After Oliver moved his act to New York and resumed record production in November of 1927, a more carefully arranged and less spontaneous atmosphere gradually descended over the ensemble. When they first appeared, most of these records actually weren't "hits" at all. The jazz-addled public seems to have had a preference for quicker tempos and flashier arrangements. Over the years, traditional jazz lovers have cherished these relics as essential components in the evolution of jazz from classic hot dance music to big-band swing. Listeners in the 21st century are advised to savor the calm dignity of Joe Oliver's very personal version of the New Orleans-Chicago-New York traditional jazz trajectory. Note that beginning in 1928, as Oliver's chops began to fail, assistant brass men Ed Anderson, Dave Nelson, and Henry "Red" Allen began to stand in as soloists. The collective personnel on this compilation is extraordinary, reading like a who's who of New Orleans jazz talent, collectively making the move first to Chicago and then to New York City. For a special thrill, listen to Roy Smeck's steel guitar solo on "Everybody Does It in Hawaii," a delicate bit of smut penned by Jimmie Rodgers and Elsie McWilliams.
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