5 November 2015


What a great historical document the Victor Recording Company provided for us in March, 1927, when they took equipment down to New Orleans and recorded four tunes (one of them twice) played by Louis Dumaine's Jazzola Eight.

These recordings give us the genuine article – authentic New Orleans jazz of the 1920s and of the kind so many of us are still trying to reproduce.
Louis Dumaine
Louis Dumaine lived from 1890 until 1949 and was a leader of brass bands and marching bands in New Orleans, as well as running his 'Jazzola Eight'. From this only known photo, he appears to have been a tall, thin man, taking care to dress smartly.

The Jazzola Eight were:

Louis Dumaine (leader and cornet and trumpet)

Morris Rouse (piano and composer)

Louis James (clarinet and tenor sax; born 1890, he played with such big names as Frankie Duson, Dumaine and even Percy Humphrey at Preservation Hall in his final years)

Earl Humphrey (trombone; one of the famous Humphrey brothers, he was still playing in New Orleans in the 1960s; and died in 1971)

Willie Joseph (clarinet)

Leonard Mitchell (banjo and vocals)

Joe Howard (tuba; born in 1870, he worked with many of the famous early bands, such as Celestin's, and went on playing well into his seventies)

James Willigan (drums; he had a short life but played in some famous early bands).

There were other musicians, such as Yank Johnson (trombone) who worked in this band, but not on the recordings.The tunes the company recorded (with the composers as named on the 78s) were:

Franklin Street Blues (Louis Dumaine and Eddie Jackson)

Red Onion Drag (Louis Dumaine and Eddie Jackson)
Pretty Audrey (Louis Dumaine and Morris Rouse)

To-Wa-Bac-A-Wa (Louis Dumaine and Eddie Jackson)

The Good News is that you can still hear all these performances on YouTube.

Franklin Street Blues is an example to us all – with excellent teamwork, clear driving leadership by Dumaine, unpretentious pleasant solos from clarinet and cornet; and a good blues vocal.

Red Onion Drag is in F. What an interesting and curious piece this is! Incidentally, it's very easy to pick up. It has a 16-bar introduction and then goes into a 16-bar chorus which to me sounds very similar to the tune known later as Rip 'Em Up Joe. And there's a third theme slightly different and even a fourth that sounds like (and may have been the source of) Lily of the Valley. The whole piece is another great example of teamwork, with some fine but unpretentious ensemble playing. Note Rouse's piano solo.

Pretty Audrey is a spirited up-tempo piece in Bb. After an 8-bar introduction and spikey 16-bar 'Verse', it goes into a 32-bar Chorus on the good old 'Bill Bailey / Golden Leaf Strut' type of chord structure. There is exciting, energetic ensemble work; and Dumaine chooses to play a chorus against offbeat stop chords. Willie Joseph shows great fluidity on clarinet.

To-Wa-Bac-A-Wa is a piece we have come to know better as The Bucket's Got a Hole in It. The tune is well arranged, played in F, with varied ensemble choruses. There's a clarinet solo chorus against offbeats; and even a neat little front-line ensemble one-bar 'break' (King Oliver style) in the final chorus.

Give them a listen! Start by by clicking HERE.

By the way, we should all be deeply grateful to Andy Wolfenden, who has made this and many other recordings of past greats available on YouTube. Check out his Channel.