Jelly Roll Morton: A Pivotal Figure in Early Jazz

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. The quality of the sound can be thought of as the equivalent of what people’s movements look like in silent movies. These two recordings of Morton show how subtle the music — at least his — really is.

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 or is guessing, 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 of Morton:

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 — which offers a tremendous amount of information about Morton.

King Porter Stomp is below.

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