Stomp!

I couldn’t resist a quick post about this old record, which was made in Chicago in 1928. The personnel line-up is very similar to that of the classic Hot Sevens, except that Louis Armstrong wasn’t there. Satchmo was, in fact, replaced for this number by two trumpeters, Natty Dominique and George Mitchell. John Thomas played trombone, Bud Scott was on banjo and Warren “Baby” Dodds played the drums.

The star of the show, however, is undoubtedly the great  Johnny Dodds (the older brother of the drummer). He was a clarinettist of exceptional power, a fact that enabled him to cut through the limitations of the relatively crude recording technology of the time. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Louis Armstrong doesn’t make it easy for a clarinettist to be heard!

This is still a favourite tune for jazz bands all around the world, but I’ve never heard a version as good as this one. There are lots of little things that contribute to its brilliance, such as the thumping 2/4 rhythm (which also gives away its origins in the New Orleans tradition of marching bands). It’s a bit fast to actually march to, though;  I suppose that’s what turns a march into a stomp. I like the little breaks too (such as Bud Scott’s banjo fill around 2:10 and, especially, the ensemble break at 2:45). But most of all it’s all about how they build up the momentum in such a  controlled way, using little key changes to shift gear but holding back until the time Johnny Dodds joins in again (around 2:20). At that point the whole thing totally catches fire and the remaining 40 seconds or so are some of the “hottest” in all of jazz history.

Some time ago I heard Robert Parker’s digitally remastered version of this track, which revealed that Baby Dodds was pounding away on the bass drum all the way through it. He’s barely audible on the original but it was clearly him that drove the performance along. Anyway, despite the relatively poor sound quality I do hope you enjoy it. It’s a little bit of musical history, but also an enormous bit of fun.

One Response to “Stomp!”

  1. […] blogged before about the pioneering clarinettist Johnny Dodds, who appeared on an astonishingly high fraction of […]

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