Is there such a thing as protection from one's self? Danny Barker emphatically characterized Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton as: “eager,” and “independent” and, “defiant.”
Just what was Jelly Roll Morton defying? Dear Reader, the month of May, started with the completion of Jazzfest 2009 (“present by shell”.) Here now, I will continue with a further study into the legendary New Orleans born pianist and composer - “probably one of America's greatest composers” - Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe. Before we encounter his music, let us look into the man.
It's apparent that Danny was very much interested in the piano, and pianists, in the story of Jazz. Danny was fascinated by Jelly Roll and his life. He worked with Morton after having met the musician in New York in 1931. By that time, Jelly Roll had already won his legendary title.
From Danny Barker's memoirs, “A Life In Jazz” we are given carefully nuanced and vivid accounts of this epoch, its central figures, and other names not readily encountered in most of the historical studies. The exact location of most of these accounts, the corner of Seventh Avenue & 132nd Street.
Jelly Roll spent most of the afternoon and evenings at the Rhythm Club, and every time I saw him he was lecturing to the musicians about organizing. Most of the name and star musicians paid him no attention, because he was always preaching, in loud terms, that none of the famous New York bands had a beat. He would continually warn me, “Home Town, don't be simple and ignorant like these fools in this big country town.” I would always listen seriously, because most of the things he said made plenty of sense to me.
Jelly Roll was constantly preaching that if he could get a band to rehearse his music and listen to him, he could keep a band working. He would get one-nighters out of town, and would have to beg musicians to work with him. Most of the time the musicians would arrive at the last moment, or send a substitute in their place. I learned later that they were angry with him, because he was always boasting about how great New Orleans musicians were. Jelly's songs and arrangements had a deep feeling lots of musicians could not feel and improvise on, so they would not work with Jelly – just could not grasp the roots, soul, feeling.
Danny is proud to stand up for Morton, New Orleans, and himself.
I played quite a few of these one-nighters with Jelly, and on one of these dates I learned that Jelly could back up most of the things he boasted of.
Most of the things.
Dear Reader, thank you for your attention. We will have Mr. Barker's recollection as evidence come next Tuesday. In the meantime, you can listen to a piano solo which was recorded several years before Danny's times with Jelly. Take Two of, New Orleans Joys, can easily compel you with its deep feeling... if you listen to him. Do so by going to my Main Page
. Right now, I will close this round with a characteristic fight.
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
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