Clarinetist Jimmy O'Bryant was born somewhere in Arkansas in 1896 and died inside of the County Hospital in Chicago on June 25, 1928. Although a Biograph LP bearing his name did appear during the '60s, it wasn't until near the end of the 20th century that this enigmatic individual's works began to become available in the digital format. Virtually every Paramount record recorded under his name from November 1924 through January 1926 may be found on Mystery Man of Jazz, a collection released on the Frog label in 2002. For those desiring a more diverse approach, RST's two-volume retrospective (released in the mid-'90s as a sort of centennial tribute) adds examples from O'Bryant's adventures as sideman and accompanist, along with selections by an even more obscure reed player, Vance Dixon. While that route is packed with rarities and rewarding moments, having all 27 of O'Bryant's primary recordings on one disc helps maintain the focus upon one of Paramount's busiest and most promising instrumentalists, whose accomplishments were subsequently overshadowed by those of Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone. O'Bryant's spunky little group, which was variously known as O'Bryant's Famous Original Washboard Band, the Hot Dogs, O'Bryant's Washboard Wonders, and Cracker Jack's Corrugated Characters, operated as a trio with pianist Jimmy Blythe and percussionist Jasper Taylor unless enlarged to a quartet by cornetist Bob Shoffner. The vocalist on "Brand New Charleston" has been identified as Ruth Coleman. Beginning with track 21, Taylor is replaced by another legendary washboard virtuoso, W.E. "Buddy" Burton, who also plays banjo on "Milenberg Joys," and who, like both Taylor and Blythe, made great records with Johnny Dodds. Here at last is the definitive Jimmy O'Bryant collection, suitable both as an introduction to early Chicago jazz and as a valuable resource for those who are already devoted to this kind of music.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf