Louis Armstrong – Muskrat Ramble – Album Review

Louis Armstrong clarinet album Muskrat Ramble cover

Louis Armstrong – Muskrat Ramble – Album Review

Review by Nick Ellman, of Naughty Professor


 

Johnny Dodds is regarded as one of three forefathers of the clarinet in swing music. He was among royalty in New Orleans playing with legends like Joe “King” Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. I especially enjoy his work with Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five because of the way they interact together.

This album contains some serious gems. “Muskrat Ramble” is a song that was recorded a lot around that time (first recorded in 1926 by this band). I really like the way the horns all fit so well into their musical roles together. Johnny Dodds plays the pivotal harmonic chord tones that largely define the mood of the song. His colorful embellishments add so much character that I feel he’s an unsure hero of this music. Dodds’ counterpoint with the melody can be easily overlooked by the impressive playing of Louis Armstrong. However, Johnny Dodds’ sound is a hallmark of the clarinet in this style and this album is a staple.

“Potato Head Blues” is a standout track on this album where Dodds really steps out. He is almost leading the charge with his playful arpeggios around the melody. This song is a bit of a medium swing but the melody (although light spirited) feels somewhat loose and lethargic. Dodds brings the bounce and the energy needed to lift the melody to the point where it actually feels lighter and more exciting. This album will never disappoint.

 

TRACK LIST: 

  1. Muskrat Ramble
  2. Cornet Chop Suey
  3. Potato Head Blues
  4. Melancholy Blues
  5. Come Back Sweet Papa
  6. Alligator Crawl
  7. Wild Man Blues
  8. West End Blues
  9. Savoy Blues
  10. Struttin’ With Some Barbecue
  11. Willie The Weeper
  12. S.O.L. Blues

 

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