There's no denying the historical significance of performances by seminal New Orleans acts like the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and the New Orleans Wanderers, but even these earliest cuts on the disc (dating, contrary to the album's title, as far back as 1917) are rendered with the kind of care and attention in production that will please those who ordinarily don't dip that far back into the jazz legacy.
Failing to do so, though, means missing the work of clarinetists like Johnny Dodds, Larry Shields and Leon Rappolo, not to mention their bandmates such as Kid Ory, Eddie Condon and Earl Hines. The names grow more familiar as the selections move into the swing era, with appearances by Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Pee Wee Russell and Barney Bigard. Need more? There's Woody Herman, Artie Shaw and Sidney Bechet.
And it's just getting rolling. By the time the era covered by the disc draws to a close, artists like Tony Scott, Stan Hasselgood and Buddy DeFranco are exploring the instrument's potential in bop settings, alongside the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Charles, Al Hendrickson and Max Roach.
There's no doubt an insufficient appreciation among contemporary fans of the role the clarinet has played in the development of jazz. The 21 tracks collected here go a way toward giving the instrument its due.