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Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton was a New Orleans-born  "Creole of color"  who is considered to be one of the most important figures in early jazz.

Many peoples' impressions of early jazz are distorted by the primitive recording equipment. It's the equivalent to people's movements in silent movies. These two recordings show how subtle the music -- at least Morton's -- really was. A comment at the YouTube page featuring The Crave (above) writes that the recording was taken from a piano roll. I am not sure if the person knows that for a fact or is surmising, but it makes sense. In any case, the piece is absolutely beautiful. Ted Gioia at Jazz.com came to the same conclusion -- and he actually knows what he's talking about.

Red Hot Jazz has a nice profile:

Jelly Roll Morton was the first great composer and piano player of Jazz. He was a talented arranger who wrote special scores that took advantage of the three-minute limitations of the 78 rpm records. But more than all these things, he was a real character whose spirit shines brightly through history, like his diamond studded smile. As a teenager Jelly Roll Morton worked in the whorehouses of Storyville as a piano player. From 1904 to 1917 Jelly Roll rambled around the South. He worked as a gambler, pool shark, pimp, vaudeville comedian and as a pianist. He was an important transitional figure between ragtime and jazz piano styles. (Continue Reading...)
The writer of the profile points to a site -- it's name isn't clear -- that has a tremendous amount of information about Morton. 

The Crave is Above and King Porter Stomp below.

Originally posted to cweinsch on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Been a fan for years (3+ / 0-)

    Just love his stuff.  Great diary!

    One thing that often isn't mentioned about these early jazz and blues artists is all of the off-color puns they put in their titles and lyrics.  Sometimes they skipped the puns and put in straight-up porn, but it was disguised behind terminology and slang that was widely understood by blacks and not as much by whites.  For starters, "jelly roll" was slang for the female genitalia, and expanded and extrapolated into many other off-color terms.  It gives old blues classics like "Nobody in Town Can Bake a Jelly Roll Like Mine" a whole new dimension.  

    Sometimes, there was no disguising it.  The word "jazz" itself was originally slang for copulation (as was "swing", as it still is sometimes used today), and so when "jazz music" first appeared, some undies got tied in knots real fast.   This helps explain the often violent opposition to this musical form from churches; part of it was racist, part of it was a societal reaction to something openly being called "f*cking music".  Imagine posters hanging around towns today with the F-bomb all over them...

    Again, great diary!

  •  A couple of months ago (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hatrax, cweinsch, Chi

    I saw Marcus Roberts (pianist in the clip below) and his octet perform an entire evening of jelly roll compositions given modern arrangements.  Unfortunately none of that material seems to be on youtube so I am posting this older piece instead.

    "To see both sides of a quarrel, is to judge without hate or alarm" - Richard Thompson

    by matching mole on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:23:41 AM PDT

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