Jazz Recommendation: "Canal Street Blues" Recorded by King Oliver

March 23, 2018

We have for some time known about the 1923 King Oliver recordings, but have not gotten around to making a jazz recommendation about one of the tracks until now. But these recordings, like the best of the George Lewis recordings, deserve more recognition. 


The fame of Louis Armstrong and George Lewis means that King Oliver tends to be overlooked as a New Orleans jazz musician, although King Oliver was actually among the earliest and best traditional jazz bandleaders/musicians, being born in the 1880s. He began to play cornet for local jazz bands in the late 1900s and 1910s, and by 1920 was leading a band of his own. 


During the 1920s, King Oliver continued to lead his own jazz band, and in 1923, several recordings were made of the Band. "Canal Street Blues" is one of the recordings made in 1923. The 1923 recordings include Louis Armstrong, who would soon become one of the most famous traditional jazz musicians of the era. 


The 1920s proved to be the peak of King Oliver's career, however. By the mid-1930s, he was in poor health, and he died in 1938.




The "Canal Street Blues" recording features a catchy melody with the clarinetist playing on top of the cornets. Of course, at the time of this recording, solos were still limited (it was not until Louis Armstrong and eventually modern jazz that all of the improvisation would be done in solos); only the clarinetist takes a solo, and the majority of the recording is ensemble playing.


The cornets play many interesting lines, including wailing sounds that fit with the ensemble sections well. On the "Canal Street Blues" recording, it is very clear that all the musicians know exactly what to play and that they know what is best for the recording in general.


The line-up for "Canal Street Blues" includes the following musicians: King Oliver and Louis Armstrong (cornet), Honore Dutrey (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Lil Hardin/Armstrong (piano), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Bill Johnson (bass), Baby Dodds (drums).








King Oliver, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Oliver

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