June 17, 2024


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CD review: Albert Nicholas – As It Is When It Was 2020: Video, CD cover

A superb clarinetist with an attractive mellow tone, Albert Nicholas had a long and diverse career but his playing was always consistently rewarding. He studied with Lorenzo Tio, Jr. in New Orleans, and played with cornet legends Buddy Petit, King Oliver, and Manuel Perez while in his teens.

After three years in the Merchant Marines, he joined King Oliver in Chicago for much of 1925-1927, recording with Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators. He spent a year in the Far East and Egypt, arriving in New York in 1928 to join Luis Russell for five years. Nicholas, who had recorded in several settings in the 1920s, sounded perfectly at home with Russell, taking his solos alongside Red Allen, J.C. Higginbottham, and Charlie Holmes. He would later re-join Russell when the pianist had the backup orchestra for Louis Armstrong a few years later, and Nicholas also worked with Jelly Roll Morton in 1939 (he had recorded with Morton previously in 1929). Things slowed down for a time in the early ’40s, but the New Orleans revival got him working again in the mid-’40s with Art Hodes, Bunk Johnson, and Kid Ory; by 1948, the clarinetist was playing regularly with Ralph Sutton’s trio at Jimmy Ryan’s. In 1953, Nicholas followed Sidney Bechet’s example and moved to France where, other than returning to the U.S. for recording sessions in 1959 and 1960, he happily remained for his final 20 years.

01. I’m Coming Virginia
02. Song of the Wanderer
03. Tin Roof Blues
04. Anah’s Blues
05. Lulu’s Back in Town
06. Basin Street Blues
07. Etta
08. Room Rent Blues
09. Royal Garden Blues
10. Rose Room
11. Lover Come Back to Me
12. Black and Blue
13. Careless Love
14. Ostrich Walk
15. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me
16. Winin’ Boy Blues
17. Digga Digga Do
18. I Found a New Baby
19. Ain’t Misbehavin’
20. Rose Room II
21. I’m Coming Virginia II
22. Dippermouth Blues
23. Rose Room III
24. The Dancing Girls Come Out
25. Winin’ Boy Blues II

Albert Nicholas - As It Is When It Was (2020) Hi-Res

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