JELLY ROLL MORTON — Mr. Jelly Lord (review)

JELLY ROLL MORTON — Mr. Jelly Lord album cover Boxset / Compilation · 2006 · Original New Orleans Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Matt
It's all dates and times of who played with who, where and when, was it Jazz or Blues but when one goes back to the those first early recordings on shellac (78's) that were all done in the 1920's one thing for sure is at this transition point in music the Blues were still there and in not some altered slight influence but actually standing in the room when Jazz was first recorded but you might say "Trad Jazz does not sound too Mississippi to me" but the time and structure are there with both, and Blues is the beating heart. These recordings are not Jelly Roll Morton's first as they were done 2 to 3 years earlier in 1923 to 24 and all of these were solo piano which unfortunately were recorded for Paramount who were more quantity and not quality with their sales approach and did not use quality materials in their productions with the result being what has survived is wall to wall static or surface noise if you prefer and not really an enjoyable listen due to all the interference with the sound of Jelly Roll's piano. In 1926 Jelly Roll signed with Victor Records and they were not cheap with their production at the time with the result being a great sound which can still be heard today even with the recording equipments limitations used at that time. Enjoyment and clarity are bountiful within this compilation of Victor recordings from the dawn of Jazz with some of Jelly Roll Morton's best compositions and also with these tunes the bonus is we have a band (Jelly Roll Morton's Hot Peppers) present for many of the compositions with some outright New Orleans pioneers accompanying him. Kid Ory is on trombone, Johnny Dodds playing clarinet with Johnny St Cyr plucking banjo and Warren "Baby" Dodds on drums and all of these greats would be present at the Hot Five recordings done by Louis Armstrong in 1925 except for Baby Dodds who does not appear in Louis's recording band until the Hot Five became the Hot Seven in 1927.The first three gentlemen who I mentioned should be credited as much as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong due to the fact they were part of this new sound in the 1920's and actually Kid Ory ran his own band in the 1910's in New Orleans with Louis, Johnny Dodds and the great King Oliver actually being members during this period. He was one of the most influential trombonists and he put down the foundations for Jazz with his instrument. Johnny Dodds on clarinet is another pioneer as it was Benny Goodman himself who said that it was Johnny Dodds who was his major influence. One thing that I particularly like about Trad Jazz is the banjo many people think the opposite but it is such an important part of the sound and Johnny St Cyr played it beautifully for the time as well as providing the odd verbal introduction assisting Jelly Roll as only a black musician from the South would in the 1920's with hokum and a bit of comedy. Jelly Roll Morton claimed that it was he who first played Jazz and perhaps he was right as he was recording before Louis Armstrong and a lot of his material he claimed to have written in the 1910's but most likely due to his drop in popularity in the early thirties and lack of decent material Jelly Roll Morton was almost forgotten although his compositions were still being played by Swing bands much to his chagrin. Jelly Roll Morton at this time had no money or decent work until Alan Lomax recorded his Library of Congress material in 1938 and although it was not released during this period it gave him exposure again for his career in later life.

The twenty track compilation "Mr Jelly Lord" is a mix with primarily the Hot Peppers being present but there are five solo piano tunes from Jelly Roll included as well as the Hot Peppers line up changing with Omer Simeon playing clarinet instead of Johnny Dodds on various songs with just as much panache as Johnny for the first three numbers on the album as well as later tunes in the compilation which begins with the frantic dixie of "Black Bottom Stomp" with its arranged sections but the added fireworks in the quick improvised solos from each of the main band members only add to this superb frantically played tune. "Smoke House Blues" is next with that southern New Orleans wail from George Mitchell's cornet opening this fairly slow Blues number and as before Jelly Roll Morton is stunning with his technique and actually at the end of his solo in "Smoke House Blues" one of the band yells "Oh Mr Jelly". A bottle of bootleg hooch might come in handy right now with the up tempo "The Chant" and Johnny St Cyr's superb banjo is everywhere with that 1920's trad jazz sound. The first piano solo number is "Tom Cat Blues" followed by "King Porter Stomp" with both giving you the chance to hear just how good Jelly Roll Morton was with his technique, just listen to both tunes throughout with the changes he makes to keep the compositions interesting and moving along but all the while keeping that Rag Time rythmn. A car horn is the introduction for "Sidewalk Blues"with Jelly Roll telling Johnny St Cyr to move along in a not too polite fashion with Johnny replying "Sorry boss I have the Sidewalk Blues" and the car horn is an added effect used as well later in lovely little dixied-up old exquisite Blues song. Another great old time number follows with "Dead Man Blues" with Jelly Roll yelling in a part of the opening section "Somebody must be dead" with Johnny St cyr replying "Aint nobody dead, somebody must be dead drunk" and then the horns deliver a funeral march for this great mid tempo blues which of course contains some quick wonderful solos. During this session in 1926 there were three on clarinet present with the great Barney Bigard being one. There are many more great and what have become classics in Jazz with "Steamboat Stomp", "Doctor Jazz", "Mr Jelly Lord" are included but one special mention must go to the classic tune "The Pearls" with the lucky inclusion on this compilation of a solo piano version as well as one with the band. The last four tracks are not quite up to the mark as the first sixteen but still the two piano solo tunes are the standouts in them but the band had changed and it is apparent on the other compositions they were no where near the calibre of the earlier members.

Great clear sounding compilation and being on the Naxos label you will not have to take out a loan for it. About the price of a good hamburger should cover it. For many this may just be dreary old stuff but the band is the complete opposite for me with great fireworks and music that could only be made back then. These recordings are as good as Louis Armstrong's but instead of having Louis's wonderful trumpet you trade off for Jelly Roll Morton's piano technique. Classic Jazz with the Blues still holding its hand on this masterpiece of early music and one must remember Charlie Patton had not released anything till 1929 and Blind Lemon Jefferson had just cut his first in 1925 with Jelly Roll Morton beating them all to the punch and he even turned those Blues into Jazz as well.
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