David Horniblow and I met about 5 years ago when I moved to London and promptly started a duo project which has since evolved into the Dime Notes and the Vitality Five. We are, of course, highly influenced by the great New Orleans pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton and thought it would be fun to return to the duo setting and undertake to learn all of Morton’s compositions this year. Morton was one of, if not the first jazz musician to integrate a lot of very interesting and complex compositional ideas into the nascent genre, bridging the gap between more composed ragtime and more improvised polyphonic blues-based music, and bringing in very important elements of classical harmony and Caribbean rhythms as well. He wrote around 100 compositions or so which remain accessible to us through publications and/or recordings, so Dave and I are going to post two a week this year and work through the whole lot!
We’ll kick it off with the first published jazz composition, “Original Jelly Roll Blues”, written around 1905 and published in 1915. It’s a great “Spanish tinge” piece, Morton’s term for the tango/habanera/Latin rhythm which was a very important component of his music:
And secondly this week, one of Jelly’s best hot stomps, “Shreveport”, named after the town in northern Louisiana. It has one of his weirdest strains, the second section, which has some of the most advanced harmony of any of his pieces, and a very raucous and climactic third strain, as usual:
Stay tuned as we work through this seminal repertoire of one of America’s most important historical musical figures! Here’s the YouTube channel if you wish to subscribe there, and I’ll be posting a blog entry here each week as well. Happy New Year!