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Authentic New Orleans Jazz Recordings

by Norrie Cox

The following recordings (those marked with an *) are all excellent examples of the original New Orleans style and are currently available. Please note that the original style was in existence some 20/30 years before the first recordings were made in the early 1920s but it is believed that the style did not change radically until it became a part of the entertainment industry in the early 1920s. It was born as a folk music and survived virtually unchanged in New Orleans until 1940 when it was rediscovered and went on to become a worldwide phenomena. Today in many countries of the world you can find bands attempting to recreate the style but none have been completely successful in recapturing all of the elements that make up that unique music, New Orleans jazz. The first three are examples of the "Classic" style.

*1. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. "The Complete "King" Oliver - Vol. 1." KJ112FS

Historically and musically this is the most important set of recordings available. Joseph "King" Oliver left New Orleans for Chicago in 1918 and by the time these recordings were made had established himself as the premier entertainer in the New Orleans style. Recorded at four different sessions in 1923 they show how rapidly the band was developing. The first track is played entirely ensemble, which is one of the most important elements of the original style, but gradually solo passages are introduced until by the last session the solo is a key part of the performance. Please note that these are pre-electric recordings that initially will take a little getting used to but they are the quintessential examples of New Orleans jazz in its purest form and should be in every jazz collection.

Dipper Mouth Blues
*2. Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton's Red Hot Peppers. 1926-1930 JSP Box Set

"Jelly Roll" Morton raised the New Orleans band style to a new high. He did not invent jazz as he claimed but his contribution was of immeasurable importance. He composed virtually all of the songs he recorded and skillfully combined improvised ensemble, hot solos and arranged passages into the overall performance in such a skillful manner that each of these tracks is a true masterpiece.

The Pearls
3. Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and his Hot Five and Seven. "The Hot Fives & Hot Sevens, Vol. II." Columbia CK 44253

Louis joined Joe Oliver in Chicago in 1922 and after leaving for a two year stretch with Fletcher Henderson in New York returned to cut some 26 sides, in the period November, 1925 to May, 1927, with his Hot Five and Hot Seven groups. These forever changed the concept of jazz since he was so superior in every way to his fellow musicians that it was inevitable that he became the "soloist" and the ensemble faded in importance. From this time on all future developments of small group improvised jazz featured the soloist and only in New Orleans itself did the ensemble style persist. All 26 sides are available on three CD's and the one listed is a good introduction to Louis as the gifted soloist.

Willie The Weeper

In the late 1930s several jazz historians wondered about the pioneers still living, and playing, in New Orleans and their research was responsible for a revival of interest in the early jazz style. The remaining discs are all examples of the original or "Archaic" New Orleans style.

*4. Various Artists including "Kid" Rena, "Kid" Howard, Andy Anderson, "Punch" Miller, and Willie "Bunk" Johnson - "Prelude to the Revival - Vol. I and II." AMCD-40 & 41

These sides are very uneven from a musical standpoint but are very important historically. They include the first ever recordings of "Bunk" Johnson, although not with a band, and the first ever of the original New Orleans style. Recommended only for the really serious student of the music.

*5. "Bunk" Johnson and His Superior Jazz Band - "Authentic New Orleans Jazz." GTJCD 12048-2
"Bunk" was generally accepted as the runner up to "King" Oliver in New Orleans but did not seek his fortune in Chicago and thus missed out on the opportunity to record. He toured widely in the South with various aggregations and in 1931 retired from music after a killing on the bandstand. He was discovered in 1939 in New Iberia where he was driving a truck in the rice fields. After work on his teeth and with a borrowed horn he started his second career. The sides in this CD, recorded in New Orleans on June 11, 1942, were the first of hundreds of recordings made by Bill Russell of native New Orleans musicians. They were also directly responsible for the revival of interest in early jazz that by the sixties had spread to all major countries of the world where to this day it is widely revered and imitated.

Moose March
*6. "Bunk" Johnson and His New Orleans Band. "The Complete Deccas, Victors and V Discs. 1944-1946. Document Records DOCD-1001.
If one was to choose just one example of the archaic New Orleans style this would be it. It is a collection of sides made by the "Bunk" Johnson band during their visits to New York in 1945 and 1946. The music is excellent and the recording quality is well above average although marred in one session by a terribly out of tune piano.

You Always Hurt The One you Love
*7. George Lewis. "George Lewis & His New Orleans Stompers Vol. 1 and 2." American Music AMCD-100 and 101.
This is another "must have" session. Recorded in New Orleans in November of 1943 the music is probably the best example of the archaic style ever recorded. It is totally unspoiled by any commercial considerations and is a miracle of mostly ensemble music played by musicians at the height of their musical prowess. This is as close as we can get to how the music must have sounded around the turn of the 19th century. I agonized long and hard over whether this or #6 should be the "desert island disc" and finally settled on the former because it is slightly commercialized and, as thus, easier for the novice listener to enjoy. This and #1 exemplify the similarities and differences of the Classic and Archaic New Orleans styles.
*8. George Lewis. "George Lewis with "Kid Shots" (and "Bunk")." American Music AMCD-2.
These two sessions recorded in New Orleans in 1944 are a thoroughly enjoyable collection which includes several of my all time favorites, such as "Gloryland", "Burgundy Street Blues", "Ice Cream" and the wonderful "San Jacinto Blues."
All of these discs are available (through special ordering) from any good CD retailer. They may also be ordered via mail from the Jazz Record Mart, 444 North Wabash, Chicago, IL 60611 (or visit their website at The AMCD discs are also available through the mail from the Collectors Record Club, 1206 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116 (or visit their website at A good on-line source for any of these great recordings is the Louisiana Music Factory (
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