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King Oliver

Joe "King" Oliver was one of the great New Orleans legends, an early giant whose legacy is only partly on records. In 1923, he led one of the classic New Orleans jazz bands, the last significant group to emphasize collective improvisation over solos, but ironically his second cornetist (Louis Armstrong) would soon permanently change jazz. And while Armstrong never tired of praising his idol, he actually sounded very little like Oliver; the King's influence was more deeply felt by Muggsy Spanier and Tommy Ladnier.

Although originally a trombonist, by 1905 Oliver was playing cornet regularly with various New Orleans bands. Gradually he rose to the top of the crowded local scene, and in 1917 he was being billed "King" by bandleader Kid Ory. A master of mutes, Oliver was able to get a wide variety of sounds out of his horn; Bubber Miley would later on be inspired by Oliver's expertise. In 1919, Oliver left New Orleans to join Bill Johnson's band at the Dreamland Ballroom in Chicago. By 1920, he was a leader himself and, after an unsuccessful year in California, King Oliver started playing regularly with his Creole Jazz Band at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. He soon sent for his protégé Louis Armstrong, and with clarinetist Johnny Dodds, trombonist Honore Dutrey, pianist Lil Harden, and drummer Baby Dodds as a core, Oliver had a remarkable band whose brilliance was only hinted at on records. As it is, the group's 1923 sessions far exceeded any jazz previously recorded; Oliver's three chorus solo on "Dippermouth Blues" has since been memorized by virtually every Dixieland trumpeter.

Unfortunately, the Creole Jazz Band gradually broke up in 1924. Oliver recorded a pair of duets with pianist Jelly Roll Morton but otherwise was off records that year. He took over Dave Peyton's band in 1925 and renamed it the Dixie Syncopators; Barney Bigard and Albert Nicholas were among the members. New recordings resulted (including "Snag It," which has a famous eight-bar passage by Oliver) but when the cornetist moved to New York in 1927, his music was behind the times and he made some bad business decisions (including turning down a chance to play regularly at the Cotton Club). Worse yet, his dental problems (caused partly by an early liking of sugar sandwiches) made playing cornet increasingly painful and, on many of his later recordings, Oliver is barely present (although he did a heroic job on 1929's "Too Late"). Pianist Luis Russell took over the Dixie Syncopators in 1929 and, although Oliver's last recordings (from 1931) are superior examples of hot dance music, he was quickly becoming a forgotten name. Unsuccessful tours in the South eventually left Oliver stranded there, working as a manager of a poolhall before his death at age 52. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Black Legends Of Jazz

Disc 1

1. Somewhere Along The Way

2. Mahogany Hall Stomp

3. Solitude

4. Jumpin' At The Woodside

5. When The Sun Sets Down South

6. Night Hop

7. Blues In The Dark

8. Sweet Lorraine

9. Melancholy

10. After You've Gone

11. Mood Indigo

12. Lullaby Of Birdland

13. Midnight Sun

14. Body And Soul

15. Down South Camp Meetin'

16. Cavernism

17. Good Morning Heartache

18. Flying Home

19. Tishomingo Blues

20. Snowy Morning Blues

Disc 2

1. Yancey Special

2. Coquette

3. Something To Live For

4. Sepian Bounce

5. King Porter Stomp

6. Bump It

7. Sugar Foot Stomp

8. For Dancers Only

9. I Won't Be There Long

10. Chant Of The Weed

11. Good Morning Blues

12. Passionette

13. Blue Serge

14. Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away)

15. Rebecca

16. Blow Top Blues

17. Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie

18. Keep It (In The Groove)

19. One O'clock Jump

x

Track List: Jazz Of The 1920s

1. Black Bottom Stomp

2. Black Beauty

3. Handful Of Keys

4. San

5. Variety Stomp

6. Too Late

9. One Hour

12. Four Or Five Times

13. Lonely Melody

15. That's A Serious Thing

16. Kansas City Shuffle

17. Ain't Misbehavin'

x

Track List: The History Of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Vol. 1 1921-1949

Disc 1

1. When The Saints Go Marching In

2. Maple Leaf Rag

3. Tiger Rag

4. A Handful Of Riffs

5. Perdido Street Blues

8. Sweet Mumtaz

10. Root Hog Or Die

13. Dear Old Southland

14. Sous Les Palmiers

16. King Porter Stomp

17. Besame Mucho

21. Eh La Bas

Disc 2

1. St James Infirmary

3. James Alley Blues

4. Crazy Cryin' Blues

5. New Orleans Joys

6. Old New Orleans Blues

8. Black Snake Blues

10. Funny Feathers

11. Louisiana Bound

12. Bread And Water Blues

13. Allons A Lafayette

16. Cabbage Greens No. 1

19. New Low Down Dog

20. I'm Cuttin' Out

21. Sidney's Blues

22. Just As Soon As I Go Home

23. Hackberry Hop

25. Junker Blues

26. Box Car Shorty And Peter Blue

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Haven't heard King Oliver in ages, brings back memories of another time, real cool!
Report as inappropriate
Catchy stuff!
Report as inappropriate
vjk41
Kool Brings back memories
Report as inappropriate
Good
Report as inappropriate
missycat_97
COOL!!! Good music, huh cja496? Peace!
Report as inappropriate
cja496
I'm 12 and I love king oliver

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