Today’s Complete Morton Project tunes commence with “Sweet Anita Mine,” recorded by Jelly in 1929 and named after Anita Gonzalez, with whom Morton had a complex and tempestuous relationship. This is the second piece we’ve done so far dedicated to Anita, the other being the wonderful Spanish Tinge tune “Mamanita” (from way back in Week 4!). Anita was a fixture throughout Morton’s life. They met sometime before 1920 when Jelly was travelling around the country and travelled up and down the West Coast together, even as far as Mexico and Alaska, and at one point opened a nightclub together in Los Vegas. By all accounts Anita (whose brother, interestingly, was Bill Johnson, the original bass and banjo player in King Oliver’s band) was a difficult woman and after having left for Chicago and New York in the early 20s, Morton eventually came back to her in the late 30s when his health and career were failing him in Washington D.C. In the end, all of his royalties were bequeathed to her, despite the objections of Morton’s legal wife Mabel back in New York. I recently stumbled upon a bizarre radio interview with Anita from 1950 which sheds very little light on anything but is an interesting read! Anyway, this tune from one of Morton’s first larger group recordings, which is a bit of a mess in the original recording, but we discovered that it’s actually a really nice tune to play with a catchy opening melody which comes back throughout:
Secondly is one of Morton’s several low-down bluesy numbers, “Honky Tonk Music.” This was recorded as a piano solo in 1938, in the same session as “Fingerbuster.” It’s not very complex and seems like a casual solo blues rendition at first, but it surprises with a nice minor key Spanish Tinge section in the middle.
We’re getting near to the halfway point of the year, thanks for staying tuned so far and there’s more to come!