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Johnny Maddox and his Dixie Boys: Dixieland Blues

This album is mostly arranged Dixieland. Made in 1959 for Dot, it was a meeting between Johnny Maddox (dubbed the King of Ragtime because of his million-selling hit, “The Crazy Otto Medley,” recorded in 1954) and a septet of prominent Dixieland players. From the perspective of 2005, it sounds perfect for a record company trying to reach a large audience of the time, but it lacks the rawer, freewheeling quality of the Chicago-style and New Orleans-style Dixieland bands of the period.

Maddox-a true master-and the Dixie Boys find common ground in the blues: “Beale Street Blues,” “Wolverine Blues,” “Memphis Blues,” “Royal Garden Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” et al. Maddox’s solos sound as articulate and authentic as music generated by a piano roll. Red Callender’s jaunty tuba work stands out in the ensemble. Bobby Hammack (rhythm piano), Nappy LaMare (banjo) and Nick Fatool (drums) join him in the rhythm section, with Matty Matlock (clarinet), Mannie Klein (trumpet) and Moe Schneider (trombone) in the frontline. Short solos by the Boys hit the spot, but you can’t escape the feeling that this album could have swung with a lot more excitement.

Originally Published