In what might be dubbed the Big Bang Theory of Jazz, the world began in April 1923 when King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong in tow stepped into the Gennett Recording studio and cut nine sides. The Oliver band had been knocking 'em dead for several months in nearby Chicago at the cavernous South Side dance hall Lincoln Gardens, and these recordings would become the gold standard for early New Orleans jazz. Even more significant for the future of jazz, although Louis would play his first recorded solos on these sessions, he would soon outgrow the limited space for him in such ensembles of collective improvisation. He just wanted to cut loose and blow, and as people heard him and his fame grew, he would evolve into the first star of jazz and almost single-handedly transform jazz from a dance music to that of improvising solo performance.
You can witness what Louis had become by 1933 in the first Louis on film – that year he was captured in a live performance on a Copenhagen concert stage – no Hollywood gimmicks or studio post-dubbing of music. And you can explore that transformation in Amoeba's new Vinyl Vault. In honor of, and as tribute to Louis, we have added digital files of virtually all of Louis' early records from 1923 to 1928, remastered directly from the cleanest original 78s available. So have fun exploring the Louis Armstrong archive in Amoeba's Vinyl Vault.
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (April 1923 to December 1923)
When I first started collecting 78s, I avoided early “pre-electric” discs because the sound was a bit distant and thin compared to the electric process, which was still a few years off in the future, and I passed up many of these 1923 King Oliver Gennetts. Now I look back on my screwed up priorities and feel it was akin to throwing away a hundred dollar bill because it was too wrinkled. Musically, if not sonically, these early King Oliver Gennetts still hold up as some of the most exuberant discs ever recorded. Every player attacked the thread of melody at once, each adding fuel to the fire without getting in each other's way – never mind that you're not a jazz fan, and don't confuse these recordings with later derivative white revival “dixieland” (or “dorksieland” as some of my friends call it). Early jazz was first and foremost dance music, the rock 'n' roll of its day, and New Orleans style was loud, brash, rock solid dance music, activating hormones and posing the same kind of threat to middle America that rock 'n' roll would in the 1950s. Check out this1925 headline from a Cincinnati newspaper zeroing in on the insidious influence of jazz.