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Joseph "King" Oliver

If we were to take all the major trumpet players in jazz, line them up in chronological order, ask them who they listened to and were influenced by, then send them down the long dark chute of jazz history, they would run right smack dab into King Oliver.

Joseph Oliver was rumored to have been born on a plantation in Abend, Louisiana in 1885. His first instrument was the trombone, which by 1904 he was playing in the Onward Brass Band. He would continue with several bands, and started also playing the cornet. Being that New Orleans was a trumpet playing town, he had to work hard and long on his chops, and spent a lot of time learning to read music, which he became very good at, even in spite of having lost one eye. By 1910 he was leading his own band at Pete Lala’s the club where he started to garner a reputation, and where the name “King” was picked up, this due to his constant playing and able to obtain a sweet tone on his horn. He would go on to improve on his use of mutes and other means of getting unusual sounds out of his horn. There were also stories about trumpet battles in which he came out on top, having bested his local rivals.

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