I remember one day, probably over the dinner table, and seemingly out of nowhere, my dad said to me, “So you know, Jazz is basically all about sex.” Such a thought had never occurred to me, nor did it make much sense at the time, since my notion of jazz was mostly the abstracted bebop of New York. But over the ensuing years, I became more familiar with New Orleans music and early 20th Century American music in general, I realized it was true. Well, ok, some songs were about reefer, but most of the rest really were about sex, or if not nominally about sex, it was an ever-present undercurrent. There is a strutting quality to New Orleans jazz, as well as a dark and primal power that can be found in Jelly Roll Morton’s music. This raised eyebrow and lick of the lips became diluted as jazz was passed into the hands of white people in the northern cities.
Actually, as he told Lomax some years later, Morton had to write incredibly racy, saucy lines or else people would take him – a slender, long-fingered piano-player (piano was considered a lady’s instrument at the time) – to be of the queer, effeet variety, and that would have been (carreer) suicide.
There’s also a joyful exuberance to this work that lies just on the cusp of total anarchy and chaos but is tightly structured enough to come barreling through in one piece.
It’s evening in Washington, D.C., and the year is 1938. Pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton, who had once known far better times, tuned in his radio to Robert Ripley’s popular broadcast, “Believe It Or Not.” Ripley’s guest was W.C. Handy, the man who composed or set down some of the most popular blues tunes of all—notably the “St. Louis Blues,” “Memphis,” and “Beale Street Blues.” When Handy was introduced as the originator of jazz and the blues, Morton went uncorked and fired off a 4000-word screed to the Baltimore Afro-American and Downbeat magazine. “W.C. Handy is a liar,” was the headline of the Baltimore paper.
“Dear Mr. Ripley,” wrote Morton, “you have done me a great injustice and you have almost misled many of your fans… . It is evidently known, beyond contradiction that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz and I, myself, happened to be the creator in the year 1902. . . .” Morton signed his letter and titled himself the “Originator of Jazz and Stomps, Victor Artist, World’s Greatest Hot Tune Writer.”
It is always a tricky thing in jazz to declare “firsts” and ascribe invention to anyone because so much of the music in its early years took place away from the recording horn and out of earshot. Nonetheless, it is beyond denying that Morton, in his nomadic wanderings during the early twentieth century, codified a wealth of influences into a music that broke from the stiffness of ragtime to fashion a nascent jazz that was greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the very first giants of jazz, Jelly Roll Morton did himself a lot of harm posthumously by exaggerating his worth, claiming to have invented jazz in 1902. Morton’s accomplishments as an early innovator are so vast that he did not really need to stretch the truth.
Morton was jazz’s first great composer, writing such songs as “King Porter Stomp,” “Grandpa’s Spells,” “Wolverine Blues,” “The Pearls,” “Mr. Jelly Roll,” “Shreveport Stomp,” “Milenburg Joys,” “Black Bottom Stomp,” “The Chant,” “Original Jelly Roll Blues,” “Doctor Jazz,” “Wild Man Blues,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here,” and “Sweet Substitute.” He was a talented arranger (1926’s “Black Bottom Stomp” is remarkable), getting the most out of the three-minute limitations of the 78 record by emphasizing changing instrumentation, concise solos and dynamics. He was a greatly underrated pianist who had his own individual style. Although he only took one vocal on records in the 1920s (“Doctor Jazz”), Morton in his late-’30s recordings proved to be an effective vocalist. And he was a true character.
Jelly Roll Morton’s pre-1923 activities are shrouded in legend. He started playing piano when he was ten, worked in the bordellos of Storyville while a teenager (for which some of his relatives disowned him) and by 1904 was traveling throughout the South. He spent time in other professions (as a gambler, pool player, vaudeville comedian and even a pimp) but always returned to music. The chances are good that in 1915 Morton had few competitors among pianists and he was an important transition figure between ragtime and early jazz. He played in Los Angeles from 1917-1922 and then moved to Chicago where, for the next six years, he was at his peak. Morton’s 1923-24 recordings of piano solos introduced his style, repertoire and brilliance. Although his earliest band sides were quite primitive, his 1926-27 recordings for Victor with his Red Hot Peppers are among the most exciting of his career. With such sidemen as cornetist George Mitchell, Kid Ory or Gerald Reeves on trombone, clarinetists Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, Darnell Howard or Johnny Dodds, occasionally Stomp Evans on C-melody, Johnny St. Cyr or Bud Scott on banjo, bassist John Lindsay and either Andrew Hilaire or Baby Dodds on drums, Morton had the perfect ensembles for his ideas. He also recorded some exciting trios with Johnny and Baby Dodds.
With the center of jazz shifting to New York by 1928, Morton relocated. His bragging ways unfortunately hurt his career and he was not able to always get the sidemen he wanted. His Victor recordings continued through 1930 and, although some of the performances are sloppy or erratic, there were also a few more classics. Among the musicians Morton was able to use on his New York records were trumpeters Ward Pinkett, Red Allen and Bubber Miley, trombonists Geechie Fields, Charles Irvis and J.C. Higginbotham, clarinetists Omer Simeon, Albert Nicholas and Barney Bigard, banjoist Lee Blair, guitarist Bernard Addison, Bill Benford on tuba, bassist Pops Foster and drummers Tommy Benford, Paul Barbarin and Zutty Singleton.
But with the rise of the Depression, Jelly Roll Morton drifted into obscurity. He had made few friends in New York, his music was considered old-fashioned and he did not have the temperament to work as a sideman. During 1931-37 his only appearance on records was on a little-known Wingy Manone date. He ended up playing in a Washington D.C. dive for patrons who had little idea of his contributions. Ironically Morton’s “King Porter Stomp” became one of the most popular songs of the swing era, but few knew that he wrote it. However in 1938 Alan Lomax recorded him in an extensive and fascinating series of musical interviews for the Library of Congress. Morton’s storytelling was colorful and his piano playing in generally fine form as he reminisced about old New Orleans and demonstrated the other piano styles of the era. A decade later the results would finally be released on albums.
Morton arrived in New York in 1939 determined to make a comeback. He did lead a few band sessions with such sidemen as Sidney Bechet, Red Allen and Albert Nicholas and recorded some wonderful solo sides but none of those were big sellers. In late 1940, an ailing Morton decided to head out to Los Angeles but, when he died at the age of 50, he seemed like an old man. Ironically his music soon became popular again as the New Orleans jazz revivalist movement caught fire and, if he had lived just a few more years, the chances are good that he would have been restored to his former prominence (as was Kid Ory).
Jelly Roll Morton’s early piano solos and classic Victor recordings (along with nearly every record he made) have been reissued on CD.
Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe was born into a Creole community in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana 1890. A baptismal certificate issued in 1894 lists his date of birth as October 20, 1890; however Morton himself and his half-sisters claimed the September 20, 1885, date is correct. His World War I draft registration card shows September 13, 1884. He was born to F.P. Lamothe and Louise Monette (written as Lemott and Monett on his baptismal certificate). Eulaley Haco (Eulalie Hécaud) was the godparent. Eulalie helped him to be christened with the name Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s parents were in a common-law marriage and not legally married. No birth certificate has been found to date. He took the name “Morton” by Anglicizing the name of his stepfather, Mouton.
He was, along with Tony Jackson, one of the best regarded pianists in the Storyville District early in the 20th century. At the age of fourteen, he began working as a piano player in a brothel (or as it was referred to then, a sporting house.) While working there, he was living with his religious church-going great-grandmother and had her convinced that he worked in a barrel factory.
Morton’s grandmother eventually found out that he was playing jazz in a local brothel, and subsequently kicked him out of her house. “When my grandmother found out that I was playing jazz in one of the sporting houses in the District, she told me that I had disgraced the family and forbade me to live at the house… She told me that devil music would surely bring about my downfall, but I just couldn’t put it behind me.” Tony Jackson was a major influence on his music; according to Morton, Jackson was the only pianist better than him; he was also a pianist at whorehouses, as well as an accomplished guitar player.
Around 1904, Morton started wandering the American South, working with minstrel shows, gambling and composing. His works “Jelly Roll Blues,” “New Orleans Blues,” “Frog-I-More Rag,” “Animule Dance” and “King Porter Stomp” were composed during this period. He got to Chicago in 1910 and New York City in 1911, where future stride greats James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith caught his act, years before the blues were widely played in the North. In 1912–1914 he toured with girlfriend Rosa Brown as a vaudeville act before settling in Chicago for three years. By 1914 he had started writing down his compositions, and in 1915 his “Jelly Roll Blues” was arguably the first jazz composition ever published, recording as sheet music the New Orleans traditions that had been jealously guarded by the musicians. In 1917 he followed bandleader Bill Johnson and Johnson’s sister Anita Gonzalez to California, where Morton’s tango “The Crave” made a sensation amongst the early Hollywood set.
Morton moved back to Chicago in 1923 to claim authorship of his recently-published rag “The Wolverines” which had become a hit as “Wolverine Blues” in the Windy City. There he released the first of his commercial recordings, first as piano rolls, then on record, both as a piano soloist and with various jazz bands.
In 1926, Morton succeeded in getting a contract to make recordings for the US’s largest and most prestigious company, Victor. This gave him a chance to bring a well-rehearsed band to play his arrangements in Victor’s Chicago recording studios. These recordings by Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers are regarded as classics of 1920s jazz. The Red Hot Peppers featured such other New Orleans jazz luminaries as Kid Ory, Omer Simeon, George Mitchell, Johnny St. Cyr, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, and Baby Dodds. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers were one of the first acts booked on tours by MCA.
New York City
In November 1928 Morton married showgirl Mabel Bertrand in Gary, Indiana and moved to New York City, where he continued to record for Victor. His piano solos and trio recordings are well regarded, but his band recordings suffer in comparison with the Chicago sides where Morton could draw on many great New Orleans musicians for sidemen. Although he did record with such great musicians as clarinetists Omer Simeon, George Baquet, Albert Nicholas, Wilton Crawley, Barney Bigard, Lorenzo Tio and Artie Shaw, trumpeters Bubber Miley, Johnny Dunn and Henry “Red” Allen, saxophonists Sidney Bechet, Paul Barnes and Bud Freeman, bassist Pops Foster, and drummers Paul Barbarin, Cozy Cole and Zutty Singleton, Morton generally had trouble finding musicians who wanted to play his style of jazz, and his New York sessions failed to produce a hit. With the Great Depression and the near collapse of the phonograph record industry, Morton’s recording contract was not renewed by Victor for 1931. Morton continued playing less prosperously in New York, briefly had a radio show in 1934, then was reduced to touring in the band of a traveling burlesque act while his compositions were recorded by Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman and others, though he received no royalties from these recordings.
Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress interviews
In 1935, Morton moved to Washington, DC, to become manager and piano player at a dive called at various times the “Music Box”, “Blue Moon Inn” and “Jungle Inn” in the African American neighborhood of Shaw. (The building that hosted the nightclub still stands, at 1211 U Street NW.) Morton was also the master of ceremonies, bouncer, and bartender of the club. He was only in Washington for a few years; the club was owned by a woman named Cordelia who allowed all her friends free admission and drinks, which prevented Morton from making the business a success. When Morton got stabbed by one of her disgruntled friends in 1938 in which he suffered wounds to the head and chest, his wife Mabel demanded that he depart Washington. There is speculation the attack may have contributed to his early demise.
However, it was during his brief residency at the Music Box that folklorist Alan Lomax first heard Morton playing piano in the bar. In May 1938, Lomax invited Morton to record music and interviews for the Library of Congress. The sessions, originally intended as a short interview with musical examples for use by music researchers in the Library of Congress, soon expanded to record more than eight hours of Morton talking and playing piano, in addition to longer interviews during which Lomax took notes but did not record. Despite the low fidelity of these non-commercial recordings, their musical and historical importance attracted jazz fans, and they have helped to assure Morton’s place in jazz history.
Lomax was very interested in Morton’s Storyville days and some of the off-color songs played in Storyville. Morton was reluctant to recount and record these, but eventually obliged Lomax. Morton’s “Jelly Roll” nickname is a sexual reference and many of his lyrics from his Storyville days were vulgar. Some of the Library of Congress recordings were unreleased until near the end of the 20th century due to their nature.
Morton was aware that if he had been born in 1890, he would have been slightly too young to make a good case for himself as the actual inventor of jazz, and so may have presented himself as being five years older than he actually was, and his statement that Buddy Bolden played ragtime but not jazz is not accepted by consensus of Bolden’s other New Orleans contemporaries. It is possible, however, that the contradictions may stem from different definitions for the terms “ragtime” and “jazz”. Most of the rest of Morton’s reminiscences, however, have proven to be reliable.
These interviews, released in various forms over the years, were released on an eight-CD boxed set in 2005, The Complete Library of Congress Recordings. This collection won two Grammy Awards. The same year, Morton was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
During the period when he was recording his interviews, Morton was seriously injured by knife wounds when a fight broke out at the Washington, D.C. establishment where he was playing. A nearby whites-only hospital refused to treat him, and he had to be transported to a lower-quality hospital further away. When he was in the hospital the doctors left ice on his wounds for several hours before attending to his eventually fatal injury. His recovery from his wounds was incomplete, and thereafter he was often ill and easily became short of breath. Morton made a new series of commercial recordings in New York, several recounting tunes from his early years that he had been talking about in his Library of Congress Interviews.
A worsening asthma affliction sent him to a New York hospital for three months at one point and when visiting Los Angeles with a series of manuscripts of new tunes and arrangements, planning to form a new band and restart his career, the ailment took its toll. Morton died on July 10, 1941, aged 51 or 56, after an eleven-day stay in Los Angeles County General Hospital.
Original Jelly Roll Blues:
Comparing Morton’s piano solo recording of the “Jelly Roll Blues” [on his Library of Congress Recordings] with this version by his Red Hot Peppers affords an opportunity to hear how Morton translated a piano composition into an ensemble format. Whether as a piano solo or band side, the “Jelly Roll Blues” is replete with choruses of what Morton described as the “Spanish tinge,” inspired by the tangos he recalled from his New Orleans youth. This tune came to make such an impression that Shelton Brooks included a reference to it—”when they play those ‘Jelly Roll Blues'”—in his lyrics to the “Darktown Strutters’ Ball.”
Black Bottom Stomp:
This recording was added to the Library of Congress National Sound Registry in 2006, and it sums up in three minutes the essence of New Orleans jazz—and what differentiates it from “Dixieland.” New Orleans style had, at its center, a reliance on ensemble polyphony. The instruments in the front line—trumpet, clarinet and trombone—have different but complementary functions that, in the hands of musicians skilled in the tradition, allow all three instruments to play simultaneously without creating a musical hash. Morton’s aesthetic is on display: By balancing the ensemble and the soloists, and peppering the performance with instrumental breaks, a stop-time passage and more, the “Black Bottom Stomp” takes on compositional form, but never at any sacrifice of the New Orleans spirit that lies at its heart.
Morton sometimes worked as an entertainer during his nomadic years, and fancied himself a great comic. But the sketch openings on a few of his records reveal that Morton’s sense of humor was devoid of subtlety for anything but a tent show audience. Morton’s inability to outgrow the conventions of early twentieth-century vaudeville account in part for the lack of common ground between Morton and the new generation of swing musicians in New York during the 1930s. However, as a singer and raconteur, Morton was nonpareil, as he is on “Dr. Jazz.” Jelly’s elongated “Well” at the start of his vocal (more like “Wal-l-l-l-llll”) sounds like a cicada with strep and draws us right to the side of ‘ole Dr. Jazz.
The success of this tune may have helped convince Morton to devote all his energies to music. Morton claimed to have written “Wolverines” around 1906. Years later, the publishing rights were sold to Melrose Music, and Morton was disturbed when the Melrose brothers published it as the “Wolverine Blues.” Titling a song a “blues” was good for sales; however, Morton was fussy about such things and didn’t like “Wolverines” designated a blues when it wasn’t. Here are three New Orleans masters at their craft, Morton and the Dodds each employing half the record to show just how much the published “Wolverine Blues” wasn’t!
It is among the profoundest ironies in jazz that by the time Morton recorded titles like “Black Bottom Stomp” and “Dr. Jazz,” the New Orleans polyphonic ensemble had become an anachronism. Morton was not entirely unmindful that orchestras were getting larger and the traditional multi-strain compositions displaced by the AABA of Tin Pan Alley popular song. “Freakish” is one sign that Morton knew changes were afoot. Jim Dapogny has noted that the final strain of the piece uses a device that was “enduringly modern in conception: [Morton’s] use of repeated two-measure phrases,” which would prove to be the basis of many a jazz tune in the years to come.
Once he was in New York, Morton’s recording ensembles grew in size. Single instruments gave way to sections. “Deep Creek” was not attributed to the Red Hot Peppers, but to “Jelly-Roll Morton and his Orchestra.” This piece might not be a consensus pick for inclusion in a list of Morton recordings pared to a dozen, but it’s a blues so unhurried and inspired in its use of space that it leaves one mesmerized and stunned by record’s end. It’s unusual for Morton to commit so much of a performance to individual solos, but Morton uses the resources of the ensemble to provide a deep and rich organ-like background that persists until his final floating chord.
Morton remarked on one occasion that “The Pearls” was one of the most difficult of his numbers to perform, and said that its various strains were carefully matched like pearls and strung together to make the perfect necklace. Like the New Orleans polyphonic tradition itself, “The Pearls,” taken as a whole, is greater than the sum of its parts, estimable as they may be. At a running time of nearly five minutes, this rendition of “The Pearls” is contemplative, and laid out with a jeweler’s precision.
King Porter Stomp:
It’s difficult to imagine Jelly Roll Morton and the City of New York sitting down together over a glass of beer. Their respective musical outlooks never charted the same course. Yet, in late 1939, his optimism renewed, Morton made one last assault on the burg he once described as “that cruel city.” Morton made a fresh recording of his “King Porter Stomp” that has a free and unfettered joie de vivre. Named for Porter King, a pianist Morton met in his travels, Jelly Roll dated its origin to 1906. The composition had been a hit for Benny Goodman and served as a major anthem in the launch of the Swing Era four years earlier, but Morton’s inflexibility and grandiosity had not endeared him to the new generation of musicians, and he watched from the sidelines.
– from http://www.jazz.com/dozens/the-dozens-jelly-roll-morton
5-CD Box Set
Total Time: 335:16
Review by Scott Yanow
This five-CD set contains the very best band recordings of Jelly Roll Morton’s career. There are 111 performances in this reissue, including all of the alternate takes. Bypassed are the pianist’s recordings with the vaudevillian clarinetist Wilton Crawley, singers Lizzie Miles and Billie Young, and two songs he performed on a radio broadcast in 1940; otherwise, all of his Victor recordings are here. The classics (most from the 1926-1928 period) include the remarkable “Black Bottom Stomp,” “Grandpa’s Spells,” “The Pearls,” “Wolverine Blues” (a trio with clarinetist Johnny Dodds and drummer Baby Dodds), “Shreveport Stomp,” “Low Gravy,” “Strokin’ Away,” and “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” but listeners will have their own favorites. In general, this is New Orleans jazz at its best, with Jelly Roll Morton (as with the best jazz composer/bandleaders) creating his own world of music.
A negative review by an Amazon customer:
The very best music found in this box set (particularly the Red Hot Pepper Recordings) are essential in any jazz collection, as they are as important to the evolution of jazz as the recordings made by Armstrong’s Hot Fives & Sevens and Ellington’s Blanton-Webster Band. These are the epitome of small combo recordings, celebrated for their composition, arrangements, and performance. Having said that, this particular box set is a disappointment.
It’s bad enough that Morton’s 100th birthday nearly passed without any notice (this box set was virtually the only piece of commemoration; even concert tributes were curiously absent). But this box set adds insult to injury. At first glance, it seemed like a cause for celebration, collecting all of Morton’s RCA recordings and having been directed by Orrin Keepnews, who has given jazz so much invaluable support over the last few decades. However, upon closer inspection, it’s painful to find how poorly this box set was put together.
For starters, the listening experience is dragged down by the lazy sequencing, which places things in order they were recorded. That means master takes are often surrounded by alternate takes. With other artists, like Charlie Parker, it wouldn’t be so bad because the alternate takes are often vastly different and sometimes better than the master take. That is NOT the case with Jelly Roll Morton. These performances were carefully arranged and composed, and early takes were rarely anything more than rehearsals for the master take; basically, the alternate takes sound like imperfect versions of the master takes. While they may still be interesting to jazz enthusiasts, it would have been a lot wiser to place them on separate discs.
The main reason why this set is a disappointment lies in the sound. Up until the mid-90’s, BMG/RCA had a terrible reputation for hastily mastering their CD’s from inferior sources, refusing to spend the time and effort to track down originals. On this box set, a large number of tracks weren’t mastered from original sources or even vintage 78’s. Instead, a large number of tracks were taken from old analogue multi-generational copies. If that wasn’t bad enough, all the recordings were heavily processed with a primitive version of Sonic Solutions’ NoNoise system, stripping the music of any hiss and surface noise, but compressing the life out of the recordings.
BMG/RCA has yet to remaster these recordings, but luckily, there’s a great, affordable alternative: famed jazz expert John T.R. Davies remastered these recordings for JSP, a small, British label. Taking more care in the mastering process and utilizing golden sounding, vintage 78’s from private collections, his work puts this box set to shame. His work is available at a much more affordable price on Amazon as well; also a 5-CD set, it’s called “As Artist” (even thought that’s not really the set’s title).
…but beggars can’t be choosers, e? [edit – perhaps we can… see below]
1 Black Bottom Stomp – Morton – 3:12
2 Smoke-House Blues – Luke – 3:27
3 The Chant [Take 1] – Stitzel – 3:12
4 The Chant [Take 3] – Stitzel – 3:11
5 Sidewalk Blues [Take 2] – Melrose, Morton – 3:32
6 Sidewalk Blues [Take 3] – Melrose, Morton – 3:29
7 Dead Man Blues [Take 1] – Morton – 3:13
8 Dead Man Blues [Take 2] – Morton – 3:23
9 Steamboat Stomp – Morton, Senter – 3:08
10 Someday, Sweetheart [Take 2] – Spikes, Spikes – 3:29
11 Someday, Sweetheart [Take 3] – Spikes, Spikes – 3:29
12 Grandpa’s Spells [Take 2] – Morton – 2:54
13 Grandpa’s Spells [Take 3] – Morton – 2:54
14 Original Jelly-Roll Blues [Take 1] – Morton – 3:01
15 Original Jelly-Roll Blues [Take 2] – Morton – 3:03
16 Doctor Jazz – King Oliver, Melrose – 3:24
17 Cannon Ball Blues [Take 1] – Bloom, Morton, Rider – 2:52
18 Cannon Ball Blues [Take 2] – Bloom, Morton, Rider – 3:33
19 Hyena Stomp [Take 2] – Morton – 3:12
20 Hyena Stomp [Take 3] – Morton – 3:12
21 Billy Goat Stomp [Take 1] – Morton – 3:32
22 Billy Goat Stomp [Take 3] – Morton – 3:27
23 Wild Man Blues [Take 1] – Armstrong, Morton – 3:08
24 Wild Man Blues [Take 3] – Armstrong, Morton – 3:13
25 Jungle Blues [Take 2] – Morton – 3:26
26 Jungle Blues [Take 3] – Morton – 3:30
27 Beale Street Blues [Take 1] – Handy – 3:14
28 Beale Street Blues [Take 2] – Handy – 3:09
29 The Pearls [Take 2] – Morton – 3:22
30 The Pearls [Take 3] – Morton – 3:25
31 Wolverine Blues [Take 1] – Morton, Spikes, Spikes – 3:18
32 Wolverine Blues [Take 2] – Morton, Spikes, Spikes – 3:23
33 Mr. Jelly Lord – Melrose, Morton – 2:51
34 Georgia Swing – Morton, Pecora – 2:28
35 Kansas City Stomp – Morton – 2:53
36 Shoe Shiner’s Drag – Morton – 3:20
37 Boogaboo – Morton – 3:17
38 Shreveport Stomp [Take 1] – Morton – 3:15
39 Shreveport Stomp [Take 2] – Morton – 3:14
40 Mournful Serenade – Oliver – 3:26
41 Red Hot Pepper – Morton – 3:08
42 Deep Creek Blues – Morton – 3:31
43 Pep – Morton – 2:57
44 Seattle Hunch [Take 1] – Morton – 3:12
45 Seattle Hunch [Take 2] – Morton – 3:07
46 Frances (Fat Frances) – Morton – 3:05
47 Freakish [Take 1] – Morton – 2:52
48 Freakish [Take 2] – Morton – 2:58
49 Burnin’ the Iceberg [Take 1] – Morton – 3:03
50 Burnin’ the Iceberg [Take 2] – Morton – 3:01
51 Courthouse Bump [Take 1] – Morton – 3:02
52 Courthouse Bump [Take 2] – Morton – 3:00
53 Pretty Lil [Take 1] – Morton – 3:12
54 Pretty Lil [Take 2] – Morton – 3:12
55 Sweet Anita Mine [Take 1] – Morton – 2:44
56 Sweet Anita Mine [Take 2] – Morton – 2:45
57 New Orleans Bump [Take 1] – Morton – 3:30
58 New Orleans Bump [Take 2] – Morton – 3:21
59 Down My Way – Morton – 3:17
60 Try Me Out – Morton – 2:30
61 Tank Town Bump [Take 1] – Morton – 3:11
62 Tank Town Bump [Take 2] – Morton – 3:10
63 Sweet Peter [Take 1] – Morton – 2:48
64 Sweet Peter [Take 2] – Morton – 2:56
65 Jersey Joe [Take 1] – Morton – 2:24
66 Jersey Joe [Take 2] – Morton – 2:29
67 Mississippi Mildred [Take 1] – Morton – 3:22
68 Mississippi Mildred [Take 2] – Morton – 2:56
69 Mint Julep – Morton – 3:04
70 Smilin’ the Blues Away – Morton, Smith – 2:55
71 Turtle Twist – Morton – 3:09
72 My Little Dixie Home – Morton – 2:58
73 That’s Like It Ought to Be – Morton – 2:57
74 Each Day [Take 1] – Morton – 2:54
75 Each Day [Take 2] – Morton – 3:03
76 If Someone Would Only Love Me – Morton – 3:39
77 That’ll Never Do – Morton – 2:55
78 I’m Looking for a Little Bluebird – Morton – 2:51
79 Little Lawrence – Morton – 2:56
80 Harmony Blues – Morton – 3:29
81 Fussy Mabel – Morton – 3:16
82 Ponchartrain – Morton – 2:56
83 Oil Well [Take 1] – Morton – 2:40
84 Oil Well [Take 2] – Morton – 3:04
85 Load of Coal [Take 1] – Morton – 2:58
86 Load of Coal [Take 2] – Morton – 2:58
87 Crazy Chords [Take 1] – Morton – 3:03
88 Crazy Chords [Take 2] – Morton – 2:55
89 Primrose Stomp [Take 1] – Morton – 3:02
90 Primrose Stomp [Take 2] – Morton – 3:03
91 Low Gravy – Morton – 2:44
92 Strokin’ Away [Take 1] – Morton – 2:54
93 Strokin’ Away [Take 2] – Morton – 2:57
94 Blue Blood Blues [Take 1] – Morton – 3:02
95 Blue Blood Blues [Take 2] – Morton – 3:02
96 Mushmouth Shuffle – Morton – 2:42
97 Gambling Jack [Take 1] – Morton – 2:51
98 Gambling Jack [Take 2] – Morton – 2:45
99 Fickle Fay Creep – Morton – 3:13
100 Oh, Didn’t He Ramble? [Take 1] – Handy – 3:10
101 Oh, Didn’t He Ramble? [Take 2] – Handy – 3:03
102 High Society – Piron, Williams – 2:47
103 I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say – Morton – 3:12
104 Winin’ Boy Blues [Take 1] – Morton – 3:10
105 Winin’ Boy Blues [Take 2] – Morton – 3:07
106 Climax Rag [Take 1] – Scott – 2:27
107 Climax Rag [Take 2] – Scott – 2:25
108 Don’t You Leave Me Here [Take 1] – Morton – 2:23
109 Don’t You Leave Me Here [Take 2] – Morton – 2:36
110 West End Blues – King Oliver, Williams – 2:50
111 Ballin’ the Jack – Burris, Smith – 2:14
mp3 320kbps | cover w/in mp3 files
5 disks in 10 parts in a share-folder:
stomp, bump & strut.
so, uh, after all that, does anyone have the JSP set?. [edit – see below]
Astarte graciously uploaded the JSP set, so ye can all have the pleasure of setting your ears of discretion upon a comparison, and judge for yourself. Though the JSP set we have here is only at 128kbps, and contains a good deal more surface noise, I must say that it preserves more of the life of the music, and sounds less like there’s a blanket laid over the speaker. Anywho, judge for yourself:
Review by arwulf arwulf: [is this name for real?]
JSP’s five-CD set devoted to Jelly Roll Morton contains all of his Victor recordings cut between September 1926 and October 1930. The sound quality is excellent and complete discographical information is provided along with insightful liner notes. Alternate takes are presented on separate discs so as to avoid redundancy. This creates doppelgängers, as it were, of most of the sessions involving larger ensembles. Jelly Roll Morton is heard as a solo pianist and as leader of his trios, Red Hot Peppers, and orchestra. The only shortcoming is the absence of eight titles recorded for Victor’s Bluebird imprint in 1939 by Morton’s New Orleans Jazzmen. Had the producers of this otherwise excellent compilation opted for these classic latter-day Jellies instead of obsessing over every single alternate take from the earlier sessions, this would be a serious contender for the “best and most affordable Jelly Roll Morton set” award. As it stands, JSP’s hefty anthology is a great way to obtain most of Morton’s major work on CD at relatively little cost. The very best way to study this artist is to start at the beginning of his discography using the Classics Chronological Series and then move forward. After hearing these canonic classic jazz recordings as presented by JSP, some folks will indeed want to zoom in for close-ups and study every recorded episode in this primal jazzman’s life and works.
A few amazon-customer reviews:
Jelly Roll Morton made a lot of exaggerated claims in his life, taking credit for the birth of jazz. No one really believes these claims, but it’s amazing how much truth there is to them. For one thing, Jelly Roll Morton revolutionized the form, more than Charlie Parker did and maybe even Louis Armstrong. His early RCA Victor recordings laid much of the music’s foundation, particularly the Chicago “Red Hot Peppers” recordings, and Morton himself has been hailed as the first great jazz composer in a long tradition of composers that include Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Wayne Shorter. Simply put, you can’t say enough about the greatness and the importance of Morton’s music.
This collection by JSP is an absolute godsend. Originally a British import that received poor circulation in the U.S., it went out of print for many years when JSP was bought by another company that went on to re-issue all of their CD’s. As any jazz collector can tell you, these CD’s are famous for the meticulous remastering done by jazz archivist/sound expert, John T. R. Davies, and this Jelly Roll Morton box set is one of THE gems of the JSP catalog. It covers pretty much the same recording as the RCA Victor box set, “Centennial,” including every track of Morton’s best and most famous work with his Red Hot Peppers. JSP’s box set is much more preferable than the RCA Victor set for many reasons. First, alternate takes are place on separate discs (RCA stacks them on top of the master take), which makes for better listening. Second, the JSP box is much less expensive. Third and most important of all is sound quality. RCA’s box set was released in 1990, and like all it’s reissues of that era, it was heavily processed with NoNoise, leaving a squeaky clean sound, but with the high and low end frequencies lopped off. Furthermore, good sources weren’t always secured by RCA, so many tracks on their set were taken from analogue tape copies of old source material. The overall result was a muffled, heavily compressed sound that squeezed the life out of the music. It was all the more depressing considering that the music was recorded extraordinarily well for their time. With this JSP box set, Davies secured superior sources, including some rare 78 rpm records from private collections. Furthermore, noise reduction was very minimal, which means there’s more surface noise on these CD’s, but the liveliness of the sound is simply amazing. Simply put, there’s absolutely no reason to buy “The Centennial” box set when you have this beauty available.
Much of this music is essential to any jazz collection, and this box set from JSP is absolutely the best way to attain it. Great music, amazing sound quality, and a great bargain.
If you want your CD collection to contain only the greatest recordings of the 20th century, then in the field of Jazz this is one collection you should have (along with Armstrong, Bechet, Ellington, Basie, Parker, Miles Davis, and Coltrane).
The music played by Morton in the 20’s ranked 2nd to none, although there was no soloist of Armstrong’s calibre in his bands (there was only ONE Armstrong !). Morton skills as an arranger, composer and pianist were above everyone else during this period.
The first CD is from 09/26 to 06/27. There are the all time classics such as Doctor Jazz, Dead Man blues, and the tracks with the great clarinettist Johnny Dodds (the last eight tracks). Dodds presence added something extra to what was already great music. The last two tracks offer a chance to hear Morton the pianist – as he is joined only by the Dodds brothers.
The 2nd CD offers anything from piano solos to a semi big band, recorded in 1929. Instead of Dodds we have the opportunity to hear Barney Bigard and Zutty Singleton, two other New Orleans giants, join Morton for a trio on the last four tracks. There are also highlights featuring a band with Henry Allen, J.C Higginbotham, Paul Barbarin and Pops Foster, among others.
The 3rd CD was recorded during 1930, and is actually the last CD of the box set, as the remaing two CD’s contain alternative takes of songs that appear in the first three. It contains swinging music, and such names as Wilbur De Paris, Bubber Miley and Albert Nicholas. I love “Harmony Blues”, “Ponchatrain” – to me this is just outstanding music.
CD’s 4 and 5 are alternative takes of some of the best songs. They offer a chance to see how much of the music was actually improvised and how much was written down.
Overall – for its musical depths, it historic value, its great remastering, and the very reasonable price – this is HIGHLY recommended.
1. Black Bottom Stomp
2. Smoke-House Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Luke, Charles
3. The Chant – Jelly Roll Morton, Stitzel, Mel
4. Sidewalk Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Melrose, Walter
5. Dead Man Blues
6. Steamboat Stomp
7. Someday, Sweetheart – Jelly Roll Morton, Spikes, Benjamin
8. Grandpa’s Spells
9. Original Jelly Roll Blues
10. Doctor Jazz – Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver
11. Cannonball Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Bloom, Marty
12. Hyena Stomp
13. Billy Goat Stomp
14. Wild Man Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Armstrong, Louis
15. Jungle Blues
16. Beale Street Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Handy, W.C.
17. The Pearls
18. Wolverine Blues
19. Mr. Jelly Lord
1. Red Hot Pepper
2. Deep Creek Blues
3. Pep – Jelly Roll Morton,
4. Seattle Hunch
7. Burnin’ the Iceberg
8. Courthouse Bump
9. Pretty Lil
10. Sweet Anita Mine
11. New Orleans Bump
12. Down My Way
13. Try Me Out
14. Tank Town Bump
15. Sweet Peter
16. Jersey Joe
17. Mississippi Mildred
18. Mint Julep
19. Smilin’ the Blues Away
20. Turtle Twist
21. My Little Dixie Home
22. That’s Like It Ought to Be
1. Each Day
2. If Someone Would Only Love Me
3. That’ll Never Do
4. I’m Looking for a Little Bluebird
5. Little Lawrence
6. Harmony Blues
7. Fussy Mabel
9. Oil Well
10. Load of Coal
11. Crazy Chords
12. Primrose Stomp
13. Low Gravy
14. Strokin’ Away
15. Blue Blood Blues
16. Mushmouth Shuffle
17. Gambling Jack
18. Fickle Fay Creep
1. The Chant – Jelly Roll Morton, Stitzel, Mel
2. Sidewalk Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Melrose, Walter
3. Dead Man Blues
4. Someday, Sweetheart – Jelly Roll Morton, Spikes, Benjamin
5. Grandpa’s Spells
6. Original Jelly Roll Blues
7. Cannonball Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Bloom, Marty
8. Hyena Stomp
9. Billy Goat Stomp
10. Wild Man Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Armstrong, Louis
11. Jungle Blues
12. Beale Street Blues – Jelly Roll Morton, Handy, W.C.
13. The Pearls
14. Wolverine Blues
15. Georgia Swing
16. Kansas City Stomp
17. Shoe Shiner’s Drag
19. Shreveport Stomp
20. Mournful Serenade – Jelly Roll Morton, Oliver, Joe “King”
1. Shreveport Stomp
2. Seattle Hunch
4. Burnin’ the Iceberg
5. Courthouse Bump
6. Pretty Lil
7. Sweet Anita Mine
8. New Orleans Bump
9. Tank Town Bump
10. Sweet Peter
11. Jersey Joe
12. Mississippi Mildred
13. Each Day
14. Oil Well
15. Load of Coal
16. Crazy Chords
17. Primrose Stomp
18. Strokin’ Away
19. Blue Blood Blues
20. Gambling Jack
When I got this, covers were included, but I didn’t keep coverart at the time. I vaguely remember there was a lot of yellow in it. I decided to not make it a split archive. So, if this might disappoint you , you don’t need to download all of it in order to hear some samples.
and in case any of you have moral squabbles over this, consider the following attest by an Amazon customer:
JSP Records is short for the owner. John Steadman Productions. He is famous in the record world for surreptiously recording concerts he has produced over the years and releasing the material on his label without either paying royalties or making any attempt at getting any permission from the artists he has. The list is very long. He has been called the “British Don Robey” and is so reviled in London he has to have a bodyguard. Beware JSP records. It’s a shame this man gets away with what he does.
pirate is as pirate does; all’s fair on a dead man’s ship, says aye.