Cornet-player Joe "King" Oliver was born in 1885, joining Kid Ory's Brownskin Babies in about 1914 or 1915, and developing great expressive skills in the use of mutes.
Oliver, like many New Orleans musicians, left for Chicago after the closure of Storyville in 1918, forming his own band, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Clarinetist Johnny Dodds eventually replaced Jimmie Noone, Lil Hardin took over piano from Lottie Taylor and Baby Dodds on drums replaced Minor Hall. In 1922, Oliver further cemented his dominance of the Chicago music scene by sending for the young Louis Armstrong, already a powerful contender for concert crown.
In 1923, the Creole Jazz Band became the first to record in the New Orleans style, establishing a standard never to be surpassed. The loose counterpoint of the melody instruments - cornets balanced by trombone, clarinet weaving subtle patterns between the brass - remains a model of symmetry. The intuitive understanding between the cornets in their brilliant breaks, the leader's mastery of the mute on the famous Dippermouth Blues, Armstrong's historic first recorded solo on Riverside Blues, all contribute to jazz's cornerstone collection (Louis Armstrong & King Oliver and King Oliver's Jazz Band). The former album also contains two duets between Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, King Porter Stomp and Tom Cat Blues.
The strains of touring broke up the band by 1924, with Armstrong marrying Lil Hardin and the Dodds Brothers and trombonist Honore Dutery quitting. The following year Oliver formed the Dixie Syncopators, usually a ten - piece band with three saxophones and a tuba. Playing for dancers at the Plantation Café in Chicago between 1925 - 27, the band was commercially successful, and numbers like Someday Sweetheart and Dead Man Blues became King Oliver's best selling records (King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators). Also included is Oliver's version of a number associated with Armstrong, West End Blues, a less dramatic rendering. From 1927 until his death in 1938, Oliver's decline was shown among scratch bands; pyorrhea made playing an agony, and his attempts to adapt to the changing musical climate were often ill - considered.
Pianist Clarence Williams used him on a fairly routine session with his Novelty Four in 1928, and Oliver plays well on Blue Blood Blues and Jet Black Blues the following year in an Eddie Lang group, Blind Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four (Classic Jazz Masters: King Oliver). Occasional felicities are to be found among his late recordings for Victor (King Oliver & His Orchestra and King Oliver In New York). At his death in 1938, he was working as a janitor.