The Blues Essence of King Oliver

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Frank Youngwerth, Jazz, Jazz & Blues, King Oliver

Author: Frank Youngwerth



“It’s not exactly news anymore if a hip-hop group samples an old jazz record, but I was still pretty stunned to hear the Creators, a British production collective, cutting up the haunting, chime-laden intro to Joe “King” Oliver’s “St. James Infirmary” on a track released last year called “The Music.” The original Victor 1930 recording, something of a hit in its day, had been my own introduction to the legendary New Orleans cornetist’s music thirty-odd years ago; yet ever since, it’s rarely been heard or reissued in this country.

And not without reason, for it belongs to a group of recordings that every so often embarrasses the jazz anthology compiler or disc jockey who unsuspectingly draws from it–it’s a King Oliver-fronted record that doesn’t feature Oliver. Not one, but two other fine trumpeters, ex-Ellingtonian Bubber Miley and Henry “Red” Allen, take solos on “St. James Infirmary,” with Oliver thought merely to be playing lead on the last chorus.”


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