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Jelly Roll Morton: Absolutely the Best

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Album Review

A braggart, a piano player for bordellos, and a legendary character, Jelly Roll Morton was the type of person who makes the study of jazz so fascinating. He was an important early innovator, both with his piano technique and with his composing/arranging skills. Absolutely the Best collects many of his early instrumentals, recorded solo on the piano in the mid-'20s. For those new to Morton, it will be easy to recognize the influence of ragtime in his music. "King Porter Stomp" and "Jelly Roll Blues," like ragtime, are bouncy and happy tunes. But unlike ragtime, a musical form that never varied from the sheet music, a new complexity slips into Morton's music. "Wolverine Blues" offers frills and fills, with piano runs and plenty of rhythm. While the melody is ever present, Morton is continually dressing it up, throwing in little stylistic variations. He alludes to Chopin's "Funeral March" at the beginning and end of "Dead Man Blues." It's a rather humorous reference in a piece that would work perfectly for a New Orleans funeral march, and one might believe that Chopin, if he could have been whisked from the netherworld to the 1920s, would've approve. The fidelity of these early recording sessions is what one might expect from music committed to wax some 75 years ago: it isn't great, but the music is clearly discernible. For the music fan wanting to know more about the early history of jazz, Morton's Absolutely the Best would be a good place to start. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Customer Reviews

Absolutely the best

Stomp and smile; this is great music, but needs a Zenph re-recording to bring it up to 21st century iPod listening level.


Born: October 20, 1890 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

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...
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