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21 June 2017


The year was 1954 and I had discovered the wonderful early New Orleans-style jazz music coming to us in London on recordings from America. One of the first - what a great introduction to the heady effects of raw New Orleans jazz! - was Gravier Street Blues, composed by Clarence Williams in 1924 and played by Johnny Dodds and His Orchestra. The recording was made in 1940. I have recently learned Johnny recorded it, in fact, just two months before he died.
Johnny Dodds
This tune - catchily melodic, even though largely made up of simple riffs played in a 'bluesy' manner - galvanized my interest in this branch of music. I loved the combination of Johnny's clarinet with Natty Dominique's cornet. 

On the recording, there are, incidentally, good solo choruses from Johnny himself and from Lonnie Johnson on guitar.

As was often the case in the days of 78rpm recordings, the whole piece is completed in about two and a half minutes - a lesson to us all in the impact value of brevity.

A Johnny Dodds enthusiast has generously put this recording on YouTube for us all to enjoy. So please see whether you can share my enthusiasm:
Gravier Street, by the way, is very central in New Orleans. It runs parallel to - and between - Tulane Avenue and Perdido Street, not far from 723 Jane Alley, where Louis Armstrong was born.

I struggled to work the tune out for my mini filofax system and came up with a version typical of my amateurish approach. But then I found the great Lasse Collin had put up a leadsheet on his site: http://cjam.lassecollin.se
So here is Lasse's, followed - for what it's worth - by mine.
Many thanks, Lasse: