Jelly Roll Morton, Jelly Roll Morton

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Morton was something of a bohemian rebel, fleeing his bourgeois Creole family to play in the Storyville bordellos, then roaming the country before settling in Chicago in 1922. There, he staked his claim as jazz's first composer, soon forming the Red Hot Peppers (mostly New Orleans Creoles) to play his ingenious African-American hybrid music, which had apparently gelled well before he first recorded. Songs like "Black Bottom Stomp" and "Grandpa's Spells" were bold, mature ensemble compositions enhanced by equally daring soloing. He was likewise an inspired pianist ("Smoke House Blues"), and on "Original Jelly Roll Blues" he introduces what he called the "Spanish tinge" to New Orleans music.