Originally issued on CD in 2001 and then apparently reissued several times since, this priceless recording gathers 17 sides cut by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band for various labels during a British sojourn in 1919 and 1920, along with four recorded in New York for the OKeh label in 1922 and 1923. Performing as a quintet for the former sessions and a sextet for the latter, Nick LaRocca's ensemble made music in a style that few outside of New Orleans had heard before: syncopated like ragtime music, but featuring extended and simultaneous improvisatory soloing, it was a major new development in American dance music -- and although others had been playing what would come to be called "jass" music in New Orleans for some time, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made the earliest recordings of this new music and were a prime mover in making it heard outside of that city. The recordings gathered here are of inestimable value not only for their musical quality (which is stellar), but also for the window they give listeners on what was actually being heard by international audiences at the moment that jazz music began to be a worldwide phenomenon. Some of the tracks here will be familiar to fans of traditional jazz: "Tiger Rag," "At the Jazz Band Ball," "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" -- these are standards. But the energy and invention with which they are played by this ensemble are nearly unmatched by any of the band's peers, and the sound quality achieved by sound restorationist John R.T. Davies for this release, though inevitably limited, is exceptional. Rarely do recordings of this much historical significance offer so much sheer listening pleasure at the same time.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson