For as disappointing as Volume Two of JSP's Jelly Roll Morton box is from a clarinetist's perspective, Volume three is a real treat, at least for most tracks. This disc covers the Red Hot Peppers recordings from sessions in 1930. Of particular interest to clarinetists will be two gems, "Little Lawrence" and "Harmony Blues", featuring Lorenzo Tio, Jr.. Tio was the youngest of a family of clarinet players and teachers whose influence on the history of jazz clarinet would be difficult to exaggerate. Junior taught Sidney Bechet, Jimmie Noone, Omer Simeon, Johnny Dodds, Barney Bigard, Albert Nicholas, and other important jazz clarinetists of the early 20th century, and the foundation of the New Orleans sound is evident in his playing on these records--lush, round, and soulful. Despite his activity in both New Orleans and New York over the course of his career, he actually recorded very little (only a few sessions with Clarence Williams, Sidney Bechet, and Morton), so these sides are an absolute must for jazz clarinet aficionados.
The rest of the CD is taken up with various clarinetists who generally do a good job, including Happy Caldwell, a mystery clarinetist who might have been Ernie Bullock or Jerry Blake, and Albert Nicholas, who is in much better form for these recordings than the ones from a year or so earlier. His tone is full and mellow--the sound we generally associate with his playing. His chalumeau solo on "Low Gravy" sounds particularly influenced by Jimmie Noone, and he's focused on even more on "Strokin' Away." "Blue Blood Blues" is perhaps the best of the bunch, beginning with a truly beautiful chalumeau melody, which seems to portend the chalumeau work of Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot some thirty and forty years later.
The disc is rounded out with two tunes featuring a mystery clarinetist of lesser quality, but the songs themselves ("Gambling Jack" and "Fickle Fay Creep") are well worth hearing.