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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.

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.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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