[Dixielandjazz] ODJB

Jim Beebe jbeebe at centurytel.net
Sun Nov 16 19:19:48 PST 2003

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2003 4:08 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] ODJB

> Why all the flap about the ODJB as being so important to the development
> of jazz?

Because many do not seem to know the relevance of the Original Dixieland
Jazz Band (ODJB) to the history of Dixieland Jazz, the original jazz form.

> The style in which they played had disappeared by about 1925, less than
> a decade after they became popular. (except perhaps as cartoon music in
> the movies) And to this day NOBODY plays in that style. It remains the
> only style of OKOM that NOBODY is copying today. Excepting Nick LaRocca
> Jr.
> Why? Because it was not really very jazzy, contained a lot of hokum and
> had virtually no improvisation. That kind of music is very stultifying
> to play and very boring to most listeners.

   Steve, you are a bit off the mark here. Dixieland Jazz, if played by the
right musicians is very jazzy and contains a lot of improvisation.  Some
fun-hokum too.

  Phil Napoleon was one of the finest trumpet players to ever play dixieland
jazz.  Phil was an early great himself and his Memphis Five band that was in
residence at Nicks in NY for so long in the late 40s-early 50s was patterned
after the ODJB.  His wonderful drummer, Tony Spargo (Sparbaro) was the
original drummer in the ODJB.  Phil played the perfect lead for the
ensemble, that is the heart of dixieland jazz.  His trombonist, Andy Russo,
played superb ensemble patterned after Eddy Edwards, the OJDB trombonist.
Phil's clarinetist, Phil Olivella, was a wonderful solo and ensemble player.
He could weave around the polyphonic-contrapuntal ensemble and bring real
excitement to it.  His solos swung as harfd as anybody playing jazz.  So I
have to think that this band is what the ODJB would have sounded like if
they were around in later years.  Incidentally, Steve these guys were all of
Italian descent.

> And don't argue Bix was an ODJB follower. His playing, both in his own
> bands and as a sideman in other bands was nothing like what ODJB, or
> Nick LaRocca played. And when he played "their" songs (if indeed they
> wrote them without stealing) they sounded completely different.
> It is very funny to hear some folks say on one hand that Bix was mainly
> influenced by ODJB, and then hear tham deny a Louis Armstrong influence
> because "he didn't sound like Louis". Just shows a kind of double
> standard because he doesn't sound like ODJB either.
> Bix was Bix, ODJB was ODJB and Louis was Louis. Bix's style lives to
> this day. Louis' style lives to this day. ODJB? Their style has been
> dead a long time.

   I agree except for your last statement.

> Their contribution to jazz? The initial records. Getting the audience
> interested. Even on records, within 5 years, others had contributed a
> hell of a lot more. Who knows what the others had done prioir to
> recordings?

  Their contribution was to have the first best selling records that exposed
their music to people all over the USA and much of Europe. Yes, their first
records came off a bit stilted but everyone who recorded in those early days
came off stilted.  There are a number of reasons for this but the number one
reason  is that the records ran fast  In recent years I was able to hear
some of Arthur Pryor's solos slowed down to the right pitch and speed. This
made a world of difference in my appreciation of him. These were recorded in
1900-01. Arthur Pryor was the famous young trombonist with John Philip
Sousa's band, who completely shook up the trombone world.

> One might also consider that Sudhalter's book, Lost Chords, spends all
> of it's energy on those who influenced a type of jazz (OKOM) which is
> virtually ignored by the mainstream of jazz today. Why then are we so
> concerned about "contributors"? Shouldn't we be more concerned with OKOM
> "innovators", or more specifically the lack thereof over the past 50
> years?
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> PS. Don't ignore us Italians either. Note that on one hand that
> Sudhalter did, but at least he wrote a sentence in "Lost Chords" that
> someone "should write a book about the Italian contribution", especially
> the "Sicilian School" of clarinetists, Nuncio Scaglione et al, in early
> New Orleans Jazz. ;-)

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