Jan 23

Mr. Jelly Lord – Jelly Roll Morton

Mr. Jelly Lord (1:33)

Recorded 1/21/24

Jelly Roll Morton, born October 20, 1890 in New Orleans, has been called the first great composer and piano player in jazz. Actually, Morton once confessed that his innovations resulted from his inability to remember and play ragtime pieces properly. He had to “fudge” the notes. His improvisations led him to create loose, swinging rhythms that were more informal than ragtime, and sounded a lot more fun.

Morton was jazz’s first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential characteristics when notated. I can personally attest to that. How else would a kid from the Philadelphia suburbs be able to record this song 100 years later? His composition “Jelly Roll Blues”, published in 1915, was one of the first published jazz compositions. He also claimed to have invented jazz. I don’t know about that (Louis Armstrong and others might also take issue with that claim), but he was certainly foundational and very influential in the development of jazz from ragtime.

Morton had an eye for the ladies and the charm of a snake oil salesman. To tide himself over, from time to time, he put his talents to use as a card shark, a pool hustler, a pimp, and a sharpshooter in a Wild West show. He played the vaudeville stage in blackface, worked as a boxing promoter, a bartender and a bouncer, but most often as a piano player.

Although I learned Mr. Jelly Lord (published in 1923) by reading the sheet music, I hadn’t listened to other covered versions until recently. It’s been covered by many musicians. Here’s how I interpret it, especially the tempo. I’ve tried it faster and slower, but this sounds about right for the image that I have in mind: a day laborer in the French Quarter of New Orleans, who just got paid for 2 weeks, bounding down the pavement to his nearest lair with a pocket full of cash, ready to have a real good time!


Dr. Weiss

Some info from Wikipedia

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