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JazzTimes 10: Classic New Orleans Recordings

Essential tracks by Jelly Roll, Kid, Bunk, Satchmo, and more

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As anyone who has spent even an afternoon in New Orleans knows, that city’s traditional jazz has never gone away. But those of us who spend our time in other places tend not to give that music much attention. It’s associated with decrepit and too-fast silent movie footage, and cartoons. Swing, bebop, and subsequent styles are so much more sophisticated.

Of course, the secret to New Orleans jazz is that it’s incredibly sophisticated. It’s also the bedrock of all jazz that followed, meaning that even if we don’t instantly detect it, it’s never gone away for us, either. The music is still exciting, profound, and ahead of its time today, and it’s worthy of our attention. We don’t have the sounds of jazz’s very beginning: Trumpeter Buddy Bolden is usually regarded as Jazzman Zero, but aside from anecdotes and a scratchy circa-1905 photograph, there’s no documentation of him. (The notion persists that he made an old wax cylinder record, but we have yet to find it.) For all intents and purposes, though, these 10 records give us the foundation. All except the first entry are in chronological order.

3. Kid Ory’s Original Creole Jazz Band: “Ory’s Creole Trombone” (Ory’s Favorites; Awa, 2020 [originally recorded May 1922])

3. Kid Ory’s Original Creole Jazz Band: “Ory’s Creole Trombone” (<i>Ory’s Favorites</i>; Awa, 2020 [originally recorded May 1922])

Black Americans created jazz and nurtured it from the cradle—yet as in so many other things, when it came to recording it they were told to sit down, shut up, and wait their turn. That turn finally came with trombonist Kid Ory and his brilliant “Ory’s Creole Trombone.” The rhythmic verve that was missing from “Livery Stable Blues” is apparent in Ory’s first two bars: a kind of syncopated trot that recurs throughout the record. Although cornetist Mutt Carey and clarinetist Dink Johnson take lots of counterpoint opportunities, Ory is the only real soloist on this one, as the name might suggest. (Speaking of names, “Ory’s Creole Trombone” was originally issued under the name of Spike’s Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra, a pseudonym the band was using in in 1922; most reissues are under Ory’s name.)

Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring all of the songs in this JazzTimes 10:

Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.