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Nick LaRocca : Nick LaRocca – 1960

Trumpeter Scott Black is a miracle man of sorts, saving and collecting one-of-a-kind private home recordings that would otherwise be lost to history. On his Kazoo Lips label, his four CDs of oddities and rarities include two notable releases. Nick LaRocca – 1960 issues a tape made by LaRocca for author Phil Evans, allegedly about Bix Beiderbecke who he lavishly praises. The founder and trumpeter of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who had retired from playing two decades earlier, rants quite a bit about his place in the history of jazz. He does put up an interesting argument, uses recorded examples and is certainly sincere, but he fails to convince me that jazz was founded by white musicians in Chicago.

The story behind New Orleans Jazz Acetates Vol. 1 is remarkable. Black retrieved a large batch of home recordings formerly owned by the late clarinetist Raymond Burke just moments before they were set to be thrown out in 1990. They were in horrible shape and many were broken. Fifteen years later, Black figured out how to save them. In the liner notes, he remembers, “It involved hairspray from a pump poured into a shot glass, Q-Tips & a 35mm projector lens. After coating the back of the flake, I had less than ten seconds to get it into position with the grooves lined correctly. After that, I had less than ten minutes to do a transfer before it would no longer hold. It could only be attempted once.” Although two of the 24 selections on this CD are excessively noisy, the rest of the music shows that it was worth it. Burke, trumpeters Johnny Wiggs and Sharkey Bonnano, pianist Armand Hug and other New Orleans players of the 1940s are heard performing high-quality trad-jazz and swing. Scott Black deserves the Jazz Archivist of the Year award for this!

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