[Dixielandjazz] Re: ODJB in 1917

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Thu, 15 Aug 2002 09:21:58 -0400

Ah Anton, ever the diplomat, What I am going to do in my own mind is decide that
I do not know the real answer. I am "Undecided now, so what am I going to do?"
For sure, not worry about it, because my opinion is not important relative to the
grand scheme of things. (nor even the not so grand)

Regarding the aural evidence on the records, yes the Columbia sides are more
"relaxed" And the only relatively "relaxed" sides the original ODJB ever recorded
in my opinion. Like you and Bill, I also prefer these, stylistically. However, I
also hear the Victor sides as musically more intricate. Interesting?

Perhaps giving more credence to the story that when they recorded for Columbia,
the songs had been neither fully written out nor fully rehearsed.  And that on
the way to the record date, they were humming the tunes to each other. If true,
these would exhibit the most "improvisation" of any of the original ODJB sides.
(with more swinging and less reading)

Also interesting to consider is why these two tunes were chosen. They were not
written by ODJBers as were One Step and Livery Stable. Given the success of the
Victor sides with ODJB written tunes, why would Columbia record them playing
other people's tunes afterwards? Why not more "originals"?

Contract problems? Fear of lawsuits? Perhaps. Which would also go a long way
toward explaining why matrix numbers might have been fudged in these very early
days of recording.

So, I am, ever the cynic, officially undecided. But respecting, of course, the
decisions that you and Bill have come to for they are well reasoned and you both
know more about discography than I do.

Steve Barbone

PS. When listening to the four "Darktown" takes, I note some differences in the
introduction on them. Perhaps hypothesis number 2 is not so far fetched. Those
takes with intro #1 may have been made on one date and those with intro #2 on

Anton Crouch wrote:

> Hello Steve and Bill
> No, please don't agree to disagree. Let's look at the evidence and come to
> a decision.
> There are 4 reasonable hypotheses about what happened between the ODJB and
> Columbia in 1917, viz:
> 1. The ODJB visited the Columbia NYC studios once only, on or about 31
> January 1917, and recorded 7 takes (4 of "Darktown strutters ball" and 3 of
> "Indiana").
> 2. The ODJB visited the Columbia NYC studios twice in 1917, once on or
> about 31 January 1917 and again on or about 31 May 1917. Recordings were
> made on both occasions but the allocation of dates to take numbers is not
> known.
> 3. As for 2 but no recordings were made on the January 1917 visit, ie the 7
> takes of the two titles were made on or about 31 May 1917.
> 4. The ODJB visited the Columbia NYC studios once only, on or about 31 May
> 1917, and recorded the 7 takes of the two titles.
> How do these hypotheses stand up in the face of the evidence?
> 1 is highly improbable. The 77000 matrix numbers were not used until April
> 1917. Is it possible that earlier matrix numbers were removed from the
> waxes and later numbers added (when Columbia decided to issue the
> recordings)? If so, why is there no reference to such a procedure in the
> files? Also, what were the earlier numbers? There is no gap in the 47000
> sequence for the January-February 1917 period and nothing by the ODJB has
> turned up in the 60000 to 64000 test and personal record series. Believing
> hypothesis 1 involves believing either that no matrix numbers were
> allocated at the time of recording or that two matrix numbers were used
> from a series that didn't exist at the time of recording.
> 2 is also highly improbable, for the same reasons that apply to 1. 2 has
> the additional problem of being in conflict with Columbia's practice of
> "carrying over" matrix numbers when recordings were made on subsequent
> dates. If the ODJB had recorded various takes of the same titles on
> different dates, the originally allocated matrix numbers (in the 47000
> series for a January 1917 date) would have been retained for the later date
> with the take numbers continuing sequentially from the first date.
> 3 fits all the available evidence.
> 4 is, discographically, the simplest hypothesis but it fails when the Eddie
> Edwards evidence is considered.
> So, let's not "agree to disagree". Let's accept hypothesis 3 until such
> time as either it is shown to be wrong or a more parsimonious one is proposed.
> All the best
> Anton
> PS: The matter of the musical worth of the 1917 Columbias is subjective and
> not evidence in this discussion. I actually prefer the first Columbias to
> the first Victors - as Bill says, more relaxed.   :-)