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Various Artists: Jazz the World Forgot, Volumes 1 and 2

On the 46 tracks that comprise these two thoughtfully selected and carefully remastered reissue compilations, we find a degree of sensibility to specialist collectors’ needs that is seldom, if ever, in evidence on similar productions by major labels. Most importantly, we note the laudable effort on the part of producers Sherwin Dunner and Richard Nevins to avoid duplicating too many familiar classics long in the collections of most cognoscenti. As a matter of fact, there are only two titles by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (“Mabel’s Dream” and “Sobbin’ Blues”), one by Clarence Williams’ Blue Five with Sidney Bechet (“Wild Cat Blues”), one by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers (“Kansas City Stomps”), and none by Louis, Bix, Henderson, or Duke. In short, almost everything included in the set can be assumed to be new to classic jazz collections begun in the CD era, not to mention many historically comprehensive LP collections of earlier years.

Instead of assembling one more “Great Soloists” or “Representative Bands” package, Dunner and Nevins have tried to showcase some of the better obscure recordings of the 1920s and early 1930s, with no pretense toward either stylistic continuity or regional consistency. Thus, we find swinging examples of such variously located territorial bands as Roy Johnson’s Happy Pals, Taylor’s Dixie Serenaders, Ben Tobier’s California Cyclones, Floyd Mills’ Marylanders, Bennett’s Swamplanders, and Slim Lamar’s Southerners rubbing elbows with the more centrally stabilized but equally hot “big city” groups, such as those led by Bennie Moten, Charlie Johnson, Andy Preer, J. Neal Montgomery, Sam Morgan, Louis Dumaine, Oliver Naylor, Brad Gowans, Paul Howard, Phil Baxter, Johnny De Droit, Charlie Creath, Benjie White, and Alonzo Ross.

Besides the obvious historical appeal of these frequently overlooked rarities, there is also a valuable lesson to be learned from them about the variety of approaches taken by jazz bands from different parts of the country, especially those not yet fully homogenized by the twin influences of recordings and radio. Since territorial distinctions in jazz had all but completely disappeared by the mid-1940s, documentations such as these, besides being great fun to listen to, are also invaluable tools for study.

Originally Published