Jelly Roll Morton- The Complete Library Of Congress Recordings By Alan Lomax (Disc 8)
"The Complete Library of Congress Recordings of Jelly Roll Morton is staggering in its depth and magnitude. Here is an intimate oral history of music and culture in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast with demonstrative musical accompaniment. Beautifully restored -- especially considering the fact that this material was originally etched onto aluminum platters -- the Morton interviews are able to seep into the mind of the listener with unprecedented clarity and precision, along with numerous instrumental piano solos. Sipping whiskey and narrating in what Alistair Cooke described as his "billiard ball baritone," Morton speaks of spirituals, blues, jazz, ragtime, opera, symphonies, and overtures. He airs his own theories of harmony, melody, discords, rhythms, breaks and riffs, scat singing, swing, and the value of jazz when played slowly so as to enhance its bouquet. He speaks of musical origins, antecedents and precedents, originality and piracy, of nocturnal entertainments, musical cutting contests and impromptu fisticuffs, 24-hour honky tonks and street parades. With all the descriptive power of a Zola novel Morton describes horses, fine food, alcohol, narcotics and body lice; cardsharps, pool sharks, prostitutes, pianists, and hoodoos; race riots and funerals, gang violence and cold-blooded murder. He tells stories of hitting the road and scuffling to get by, even selling bogus patent medicine door to door. He plays Miserere from Verdi's Il Trovatore, explains the use of tangos, waltzes, and habanera rhythms, traces the quadrille origins of the "Tiger Rag," sings Mardi Gras Indian chants, and describes the circumstances which led to his being called "Jelly Roll." Loosened by liquor and encouraged by Alan Lomax, Morton even revives the smutty songs he used to perform in the sporting houses of Storyville. Morton's scatological lyrics to "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" and his own cheerfully lewd "Winin' Boy Blues" are almost as bracing as his version of the ever-popular "Dirty Dozen," peppered with references to inter-species copulation. Even the epically proportioned "Murder Ballad" contains its share of overt sexual verbiage. Disc eight contains a series of interviews recorded in 1949 with New Orleans musicians Johnny St. Cyr, Alphonse Picou, Albert Glenny, Paul Dominguez, Jr., and Sidney Bechet's brother, the trombone-blowing dentist Dr. Leonard Bechet. Also included on this disc is an Adobe Acrobat PDF document packed with extra liner notes, word-for-word transcriptions of all lyrics and dialogue heard on this set, unrecorded interviews and research notes, as well as rare documents from the Jelly Roll Morton archive. The eight discs, a paperback edition of Lomax's excellent biography Mister Jelly Roll, and a wonderfully informative, insightful booklet are encased in a rather ungainly, piano-shaped package that seems precariously fragile. The words and music housed within, however, will now be able to circulate anew and endure in the body politic for many years to come."
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