The work of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band provided one of the first entries in The Cannonball blog. Apart from being regarded as the first band to record jazz, their sound held little interest for me and I offhandedly, perhaps even snobbishly, dismissed them. They were too far removed from Kind of Blue and their music sounded too simple and clunky. However I feel it is time to correct that by including this album into the library.
Let's be clear, the ODJB did not invent jazz. They may not even legitimately have the first jazz record. No-one can be quite sure how jazz sounded in the first decade of the 20th Century, however bands like the ODJB provide a valuable link to the sound that came before, to the music that was to dominate the 1920's and push jazz into the improvisational vehicle it was to become. They were a band from New Orleans whose style legitimately shocked the ears of the listeners that bought their records. The novelty of Livery Stable Blues helped establish them as the first popular jazz band outside of their native home.
Certain elements of future jazz techniques can be gleaned from these early tunes. For example the use of stop breaks and short solos in Dixie Jass Band One Step. Drummer Tony Sparbaro shows remarkable swing and experimentation and clarinetist Larry Shields is very much to the fore proving a nice drive and blues sensibility to the music. The sound quality is remarkable given that they were recorded in 1917 (it's so odd to think that when these recordings were made the First World War would not be over until over a year later).
The album also includes the very first known recording of Tiger Rag, one of the most covered songs in jazz, controversially attributed to ODJB's cornetist and leader Nick LaRocca
If one was to be brutally honest then it would be fair to say that some of the stuff can be repetitive, with the ensemble style sounding cluttered. However the influence of this band cannot be underestimated (Bix Beiderbecke recorded nine ODJB tunes in his career). There are some standout tracks, including At The Jazz Band Hall, Margie and the exotic Palesteena and I believe this is an essential album for any jazz library, regardless of the absurd claims that this band invented a genre. The early music they recorded paved the way for the jazz age of the 1920's and their travels in Europe enabled the world outside of the USA to hear this unique music.