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September 24, 2000

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Jammin' With Jelly

Two views of the life and mucic of Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, born 9/20/1885.

A quick biographical note: Born either Ferdinand La Menthe or Lamothe (depending on which source you believe), in New Orleans in 1885, Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton is generally recognized as one of the seminal figures in the development of jazz. A flamboyant and relentlessly self-promoting performer at his peak of popularity in the 1920s, Morton antagonized many of his contemporaries by claiming that he "invented jazz in 1902", that "all styles are Jelly Roll style" and that many other performers stole and popularized his material. From childhood on, Morton absorbed a mix of musical influences, from the blues, stomps and ragtime of the streets and honky-tonks of New Orleans to the refined influences of the opera. The result was a brilliant mix of Afro-American and European influences that formed the basis for jazz.

Morton first gained notice as a solo performer, then as the leader of his own band the Red Hot Peppers. The personnel varied, but included such jazz notables as trombonist Kid Ory and clarinetist Johnny Dodds. Some of Morton's best recordings were made in Chicago in the 1920s when he as at the peak of his fame. By the time Morton moved on to New York in 1929, however, the Depression had hurt the music business as much as any other and Morton's fortunes declined with it. He died, bitter and in poor health, in Los Angeles in 1941.

For an exhaustive biography of Morton, check out www.doctorjazz.freeserve.co.uk/page10.html
PLAYLIST
Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Mr. Jelly Lord Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Vernel Bagneris, Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) Bagneris received an Obie award for this performance and the show was voted "Best Off-Broadway Musical" by the Outer Critics Circle for the 1994-95 season.
The Family Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Vernel Bagneris, Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) Morton describes his origins and background.
Le Miserere Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) An example of the combination of European and American influences in Morton's work: Verdi done in "Jelly Roll" style.
Jelly Roll Blues Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Vernel Bagneris, Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) Another example of Morton's modesty.
Animule Dance Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Vernel Bagneris, Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) Down in Jungle Town.
Tiger Rag Jelly Roll (OC 1996) Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano) Morton's arrangement of the New Orleans classic.
The Whole World's Waiting for Your Song Jelly's Last Jam (OC 1992) Gregory Hines, Savion Glover Morton shows his younger self the path ahead..
Michigan Water Jelly's Last Jam (OC 1992) Gregory Hines, Mary Bond Davis, Ruben Santiago-Hudson ..including it's earthy origins.
Black Bottom Stomp Jelly Roll Morton - The Pearls (1988) Jelly Roll Morton's Hot Peppers Recorded 9/15/1926
Sidewalk Blues Jelly Roll Morton - The Pearls (1988) Jelly Roll Morton's Hot Peppers Recorded 9/21/1926
Grandpa's Spells Jelly Roll Morton - The Pearls (1988) Jelly Roll Morton's Hot Peppers Recorded 12/16/1926
Whinin' Boy Blues Jelly Roll Morton - The Pearls (1988) Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Jazzmen Recorded 9/14/1939 (one of his last recordings)


Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.


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