Kid Ory & His Creole Jazz Band – Sunshine, Exner, Decca, Recordings, plus Broadcasts (1922-1947)
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– This Download Album includes illustrated booklet notes & detailed discography.
Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973) has the distinction of having led the first African-American band from New Orleans to make it on to record, surprisingly enough on the West Coast, where he had moved in 1919. All six recordings are included here, two band sides and four accompaniments to vaudeville-blues singers. The discs appeared on two labels, Nordskog and Sunshine.
Ory’s band, then playing at the Wayside Park Cafe, included two important figures in cornetist Mutt Carey (1891-1948), and clarinettist Dink Johnson (1892-1954), later better known as a pianist and as Jelly Roll Morton’s brother-in-law. Discographies list Montudi “Ed” Garland on bass, but he appears to be present only in spirit. Some profess to hear an attempt to copy the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, but I would guess that those who hold this view have not heard the Blues sides. Incidentally, nothing much seems to be known about either singer beyond what can be deduced from the records, viz that Roberta Dudley was a Blues singer as then understood, and Ruth Lee was a cabaret artiste.
In February 1944, Marili Morden (later Ertegun) of the Jazz Man Record Shop was asked to organize a New Orleans band for a guest spot in Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater radio show. She recruited Ory and Mutt Carey, who had already begun working together again, along with the great New Orleans clarinettist Jimmie Noone, drummer Zutty Singleton, who was working at Billy Berg’s, and Ed Garland, really present this time. On piano was Albert “Buster” Wilson (1897-1949), a veteran of Dink Johnson’s 1921 band and Paul Howard’s Orchestra, but who had not previously recorded. His by now somewhat archaic style was crucial to the band’s sound and he was received much less credit than his due. The guest spot turned into a residency from which many airshots survive, including Mutt’s Blues on this CD, and the band gradually became Ory’s band, with Carey’s full consent it seems. Their first commercial session was for Jazz Man’s Crescent label in August 1944. The second, for the even smaller Exner label, is included here. Doc Exner was a Seattle radiologist and record collector who began his label with issues by the John Wittwer Trio featuring Joe Darensbourg, whom he asked to go to Los Angeles to organize the session with Ory. In his autobiography Telling It Like It Is, Darensbourg relates the difficulties he had in clearing the session with the Los Angeles colored local of the AFM, difficulties which, reading between the lines, may not have been unconnected with Joe having been a member at various times of both the white and the colored locals! Exner himself came down from Seattle to C. P. McGregor’s studio for the session. Jimmie Noone had died on 19 April 1944 while the band was still on the Orson Welles show. On Exner, his place was filled by Darensbourg, who would become an Ory regular. Zutty Singleton had also moved on and is replaced on Exner by Alton Redd and on Decca by Minor Hall, who became Ory’s regular drummer. The repertoire may now seem hackneyed. Mutt gets to give his version of the Oliver solo on Dippermouth, Joe his version of the traditional solo on High Society, and Bud Scott gets to shout “Oh, play that thing!” one more time. In 1945, though, all this was still fresh and new and sounds it, with assistance from an airborne rhythm section. Exner captured the band after it had settled down but before any of the inevitable effects of nightly performance of a fixed repertoire had crept in. A month later they achieved major label status with a session for Decca. These records passed from critical view during a long period of unavailability, but they also are of very high quality, though Minor Hall is a more earthbound drummer (compare the two versions of “High Society”). Blanche Touquatoux justifies the Creole tag with a French vocal shared by Ory and his wife Cecile.
The band returned to Crescent for later 1945 recordings and in 1946 recorded for Columbia. In January 1947 Rudi Blesh launched a radio program over the Mutual Broadcasting System called This Is Jazz, devoted to the presentation of righteous traditional jazz. Ory’s band was a natural for this format, but the program was presented from New York City and so generally featured a pick-up band mixing vintage New Orleanians and non-vintage Condonites. Two programs only were transmitted from the West Coast and the first on 9 August from Hollywood featured Ory.
Mutt Carey had left. His replacement was Andrew Blakeney. In 1946 he was a member of Horace Henderson’s band, but was working as a tool-keeper for the Education Board when recruited by Ory. He put his experience of the Chicago scene in the twenties to good use in the band, though he later said he wasn’t completely happy with Ory’s strictly from Dixie policy. It doesn’t show and he is a worthwhile contributor to an entertaining set. The inclusion of the jolly 1915 pop Down Among The Sheltering Palms with its jolly Bud Scott vocal is perhaps an indication of the direction the traditional revival on the West Coast was headed in.