Friday, August 12, 2011

Johnny Dodds takes charge

Clarinettist Johnny Dodds features on some of the greatest jazz records of the 1920s. His mellow lines snake through the richly textured ensemble sound of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, while he brings a more acerbic flavour to Louis Armstrong's famous Hot Fives and Sevens. And there he is again, wailing along with George Mitchell and the rest of Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. Dodds was clearly a musician many jazz greats wanted by their sides.

Yet the listener whose experience with Johnny Dodds stops at these recordings, seminal though they undoubtedly are, misses the man at his best. Dodds at his finest, his most creative, confident and comfortable self, can be found on less celebrated recordings - those where he is the dominant (though not dominating) musical force.

Here he is guesting with the Dixieland Jug Blowers, exhibiting some imaginative ensemble improvising. Listen to his low register playing at 2.06!

Next we have "Too Tight", with Dodds at his most movingly blue:

Finally, here he is with fellow clarinettist Junie Cobb on two electrifying performances - "Chicago Buzz" and "East Coast Trot". Dodds is the player further away from the recording horn, and he inspires Cobb (a player of varying quality) and the rhythm section with his blazing runs. He inspires me too!

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