Between his initial triumphs as leader of his Creole Jazz Band
in Chicago and the Victor sessions he led with his Orchestra in New York at the close of his recording career, Joe King Oliver
tried to continue leading his own groups but did his best work as sideman and accompanist. Much of the recorded evidence came together under the influence of Clarence Williams
, producer, session organizer, and talent scout for the Okeh label. In 2008, Frog Records compiled a dynamic core sample of Oliver'
s adventures with Okeh beginning with a date with Butterbeans and Susie
in September, 1924 and a rendezvous with Sippie Wallace
and Hersal Thomas
in February, 1925. This album deals largely with the year 1928, during which Oliver
worked closely with Clarence Williams
as a member of the Jazz Kings, the Blue Five, and the Novelty Four, while providing backing for vocalists Elizabeth Johnson
, Hazel Smith
, Texas Alexander, and Victoria Spivey
. Clarence Williams' Novelty Four
with guitarist Eddie Lang
(who sang Oliver'
s "What Ya Want Me to Do?") and percussionist Justin Ring
, who sounds like he's hitting a liquor bottle with a pencil during Lang'
s "In the Bottle Blues." "Jet Black Blues" and "Blue Blood Blues" were recorded in May, 1929 by Blind Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four
. Although Lang
participated in several other racially mixed recording dates during this period, the producers at this particular session decided to apply the pseudonym that had been used to mask the whiteness of Lang
whenever he recorded with guitarist Lonnie Johnson
. The collective interplay between those two guitarists, Joe Oliver
, pianist J.C. Johnson
, and singing percussionist Hoagy Carmichael
resulted in two of the best sides ever associated with any of the participants. This fascinating slice of history is highly recommended as a valuable addition to King Oliver'
s posthumous discography. There's room for at least one additional volume, as Oliver
showed up on many a record date during this period, largely thanks to the efforts of Clarence Williams