“Here’s a treat! Hot playing, hot singing, and rhythm that will make you squirm when you hear it,” is what Victor said of this record in their April 1930 supplemental catalog, “It’s one of the meanest, hottest, most irresistible dance records ever. It’s the kind that breaks down all inhibitions!” This was actually the first King Oliver record I ever owned. I got it by accidentally bidding more than I’d intended to in an online auction. In spite of that, I was thrilled to have such a great record in my clutches, and I still get a thrill thinking of this outstanding hot jazz record. Since it was my first, I think it’s fair for it to be the first King Oliver record uploaded here.
By this late time in his career, King Joe was suffering from gum disease, and took far fewer solos on his trumpet than he did in years prior, and did not play on many of his Victor recordings at all. On this one however, Oliver does in fact play, though not a whole lot.
Victor 22298 was recorded January 28, 1930 at 28 West 44th Street in New York by King Oliver and his Orchestra. There seems to be some confusion as to the personnel, it features either Bubber Miley and Henry “Red” Allen, Jr. or Dave Nelson and Oliver on trumpet, Jimmy Archey on trombone, Bobby Holmes on clarinet and soprano sax, Glyn Paque and possibly Hilton Jefferson on clarinet and alto sax, Walter Wheeler on tenor sax, Carroll Dickerson on violin, Arthur Taylor on banjo, Jean Stultz on guitar, Clinton Walker on tuba, Don Frye or Hank Duncan on piano, and possibly Fred Moore on drums. Dickerson directed this session under Oliver’s name. Studio vocalist and occasional Jimmie Rodgers imitator Frankie Marvin provides the vocals. If anyone out there could tell me which personnel is definitively correct, I’d be much appreciative.
Of the first track, the Victor catalog says, “the ‘St. James Infirmary’ has created a sensation among dance enthusiasts. This record by King Oliver has capped the climax,” later continuing, “the song is taken from the old-time ‘Gambler’s Blues’.” Old time blues, they say, can’t say I have any complaints about that! While I couldn’t say for sure, many of the trumpet solos in this one do sound a lot like Bubber Miley’s style.
“King Oliver’s second number is a fox trot, ‘When You’re Smiling’. [This record] should be under your arm, carefully wrapped, the next time you come from a shopping excursion… And after that, you’ll have many moments in which to praise your buying instinct!” If you hadn’t guessed, that’s how Victor finished their marketing ploy for this record. Can’t say I really disagree with them, but thanks to Old Time Blues, you won’t have to wait ’till your next shopping trip in 1930 to hear it!