Past Perfect presents 20 classic jazz sides recorded between 1926 and 1940, featuring the New Orleans-cum-Chicago-styled clarinet of Johnny Dodds. This tasty sampler includes several fine collaborations with young cornetist Louis Armstrong, a majestic trio involving Lil Hardin Armstrong and New Orleans bassist Bill Johnson, and various ensembles driven by some seriously funky jug and washboard players. Each performance is well chosen and tidily restored. One that stands out from the rest is "Melancholy," a swinging jam on the blues recorded in 1938 at the beginning of the clarinetist's all-too-brief comeback. With trumpeter Charlie Shavers, pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong, guitarist Teddy Bunn, bassist John Kirby, and drummer O'Neill Spencer, this was by far the most modern-sounding band that Dodds ever got to record with. Bunn's solo is a marvel that might very well need to be heard twice. While any of various chronologically complete retrospectives can provide a more detailed history of Dodds and the music he lived for, Past Perfect's New Orleans Stomp and its companion volume, Blue Clarinet Stomp, are warmly recommended for seasoned listeners and newcomers alike. Packed with hot stomps, syncopated licks, and gully low slow drags, this compilation closes, quite sensibly, with Johnny Dodds' very last recordings: "Red Onion Blues" and "Gravier Street Blues."
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