Today’s selections for the Complete Morton Project (full info) are two of Morton’s absolute best compositions! In addition to the anthemic Mr. Jelly Lord, we’re starting it off with “Froggie Moore,” a rag he wrote in his early years and dedicated to a vaudeville performer and acquaintance of Morton’s called Frog-Eye Moore. This classic tune was recorded in Jelly’s first series of piano solos in 1923 and then again in the same year by the King Oliver band in a great ensemble version with a memorable chorus by a very young Louis Armstrong. Morton later retitled this piece “Sweetheart O’Mine” with a different first strain, but we’ve stuck to the original version and used an idea from our buddy Nicholas D. Ball to arrange the song like Morton’s “Wolverine Blues” trio version, with a piano solo of the first two strains and the 3rd strain featuring the clarinet in various registers and textures:
Next is, as promised, “Mr. Jelly Lord”, which Morton recorded in numerous versions with early bands and with his trio, as well as in the Library of Congress interview in 1938 at a very melancholic tempo. He used the chord progression of this song throughout that long interview as a sort of theme tune, and the lyrics describe his superiority as a musician in typical Mortonian fashion:
In foreign lands across the sea,
They knight a man for bravery,
Make him a duke or a count, you see,
Must be a member of the royalty.
Mister Jelly struck a jazzy thing,
In the temple by the queen and king,
All at once he struck upon a harmony chord,
King said, “Make Jelly a lord.”
We’ve made a new arrangement based on his versions as well as two other interesting sources: a double-time section inspired by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings version, recorded with Morton as a guest pianist, in 1923, and an extra rarely-played strain which we heard on the piano roll version. Enjoy!