Complete Morton #13 – Kansas City Stomp / Dead Man Blues

This week’s Morton tunes (full info on project here) feature one of his best hot stomps and a contrasting mournful bluesy tune with a slightly unusual arrangement.  “Kansas City Stomp” is one of Morton’s early tunes, which he first recorded in 1923 for Gennett but was likely written earlier, around 1919.  When he played it for Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress in 1938, he explained that it was in fact NOT about Kansas City, but about the Kansas City Bar in Tijuana, during Morton’s long phase of itinerant travelling, husling people at pool, working as a pimp, owning seedy establishments, etc, in the teens.  It’s a great tune and one which, unlike many of his tunes, returns to an earlier section after proceeding through all the sections of the piece.  In this case, he returns to the first strain for the ending, unlike “Mamanita” and “Frances” which return to the second strain.  Interestingly, this doesn’t happen in the band version, but in both the 1923 and 1939 solo piano versions he does it, and we figured we’d follow suit as it creates an interesting structure.  Each section of this piece has cool features, the 2nd strain is particularly interesting harmonically and the 3rd alternates between chord-blocked chorale melodies and hot breaks at a rather frantic pace!

Secondly this week is “Dead Man Blues,” which was recorded with the Red Hot Peppers in 1926 and featured another hilarious skit (check out the original).  For our version, we also took a section of “Spanish Tinge” (more on that here) that Jelly performed on the piano roll version of this piece and added it to the structure of the band arrangement.  Like many of the other Morton blues tunes we’ve done so far (Sidewalk Blues, Dirty Dirty Dirty), this one again takes a simple form and makes it structurally intriguing with a series of breaks and different textures that move the tune beyond a simple 12-bar blues.

Stay tuned every Tuesday in 2018, and don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube Channel!

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