100 Jazz Profiles
Joe 'King' Oliver
1885 - 1938
Trumpeter and bandleader. Midway between 1910 and 1920, Oliver had established himself as one of the 'kings' of the cornet in his home town of New Orleans. He played in street parades, and with his own small band, gaining a reputation as a master of the use of mutes.
In 1919 he went to Chicago, then, a couple of years later, to Los Angeles, before returning to Chicago in 1923, and launching his famous Creole Jazz Band. This included the young Louis Armstrong on second cornet, and the duets between the two brass players became legendary, and some were recorded for posterity.
The band's residency at the Lincoln Gardens was highly influential on a generation of Chicagoan jazz players, and its discs were widely imitated round the world. This group lasted until 1924. The following year Oliver put together his Dixie Syncopators, a larger band with three reed players, and he made further excellent recordings in Chicago and (from 1927) in New York.
However, he never really achieved the level of success in New York that he had had in mid-1920s Chicago, and he spent his last years touring ever more obscure corners of the deep South with a travelling band. He died in poverty in Savannah, Georgia, where he had taken a job as a janitor in a pool hall.
Laurie Wright: 'King' Oliver (Chigwell, Storyville, 1987)
King Oliver Vol 1 (1923-9) and Vol 2 (1927-30) (RPCD 787, 788)
Suggested track: Dippermouth Blues
Joe 'King' Oliver
Informative site with links to Ken Burns' film Jazz
on radio 3
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