It’s been almost seventy years since anyone could hope to glimpse Johnny Dodds in the flesh . . . so this will have to do.
The Beloved and I were seriously downtown in New York City a few weeks ago, on our way to a presentation. She spotted a little antique store — “A Repeat Performance,” 156 First Avenue (212. 529.0832) and we walked in. It’s a long narrow shop, crammed with more than the eye can take in — but all of it neatly arranged, including vintage clothing, musical instruments, typewriters, books. My eye was caught and held immediately by an elementary-school style phonograph near the entrance. (I find phonographs captivating, having spent so much of my life in front of them, and the equation is not complicated. Phonograph = Music = Pleasure.)
But what really drew me was the 78 on the turntable. It was a Bluebird 78, which might have resulted in something less than enthralling: Charlie Barnet or Freddy Martin. But not this time. I stood still, picked it up, admired its shiny surface, and asked the proprietor, as casually as I could, “How much do you want for this?” “Five dollars,” she said, perhaps seeing something in my eye that said she had a customer’s interest in something that clearly was worth more than fifty cents. “Done,” I said, paid her, and we went on our way — because otherwise I would have made us seriously late.
I’ve heard this music before on various vinyl issues, but never seen it on a shiny Bluebird 78 reissue, I presume ten or so years after it was first recorded. All hail Johnny Dodds!
We haven’t found our way back to that shop yet, but I wonder what other treasures are there. Where there’s one jazz record, usually there are more . . . hiding.