Dan Levinson

Salutes the ODJB

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In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band became the first jazz ensemble to record. Focusing exclusively on group (as opposed to individual) improvising, the ODJB was most notable for its colorful ensembles, its sense of swing, and its help in popularizing the music. In 1983, 17-year-old Dan Levinson (an aspiring clarinetist) discovered the ODJB. Since then, he has developed into a clarinetist and altoist with a beautiful tone inspired by Rosy McHargue. Levinson's first concert was a program of the ODJB's music, and 15 years later, he finally had an opportunity to record a tribute to his early influence. Teamed with cornetist Jon-Erik Kellso, trombonist David Sager (from Banu Gibson's band), pianist Tom Roberts, and drummer Kevin Dorn, Levinson and his group perform 16 selections originally recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band plus five others ("Hawaiian Butterfly," "Swanee," "Oh by Jingo," "The Sheik of Araby," and "Rambling Blues") that were played but not recorded by the early band. Many of these versions are close to note-for-note re-creations of the ancient recordings, but they are full of life since the musicians really know this music. On a few selections, Levinson overdubbed his alto (some of the ODJB's 1920-1921 recordings had an added C-melody saxophonist), but one cannot tell that those tracks are not totally live. Among the highlights are "I Lost My Heart in Dixieland," "At the Jazz Band Ball," "Alice Blue Gown," "Clarinet Marmalade," "Margie," and "Tiger Rag." Overall, this is a delightful set, showing that even in its earliest stages, jazz can still sound lively and timeless.

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