Jelly's Blues vividly recounts the tumultuous life of Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941), born Ferdinand Joseph Lamonthe to a large, extended family in New Orleans. A virtuoso pianist with a larger-than-life personality, he composed such influential early jazz pieces as "Kansas City Stomp" and "New Orleans Blues." But by the late 1930s, Jelly Roll Morton was nearly forgotten as a visionary jazz composer. Instead, he was caricatured as a braggart, a hustler, and, worst of all, a has-been. He was ridiculed by the white popular press and robbed of due royalties by unscrupulous music publishers. His reputation at rock bottom, Jelly Roll Morton seemed destined to be remembered more as a flamboyant, diamond-toothed rounder than as the brilliant architect of that new American musical idiom: Jazz.In 1992, the death of a New Orleans memorabilia collector unearthed a startling archive. Here were unknown later compositions as well as correspondence, court and copyright records, all detailing Morton's struggle to salvage his reputation, recover lost royalties, and protect the publishing rights of black musicians. Morton was a much more complex and passionate man than many had realized, fiercely dedicated to his art and possessing an unwavering belief in his own genius, even as he toiled in poverty and obscurity. An especially immediate and visceral look into the jazz worlds of New Orleans and Chicago, Jelly's Blues is the definitive biography of a jazz icon, and a long overdue look at one of the twentieth century's most important composers.
|Publisher:||Da Capo Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.22(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.06(d)|
About the Author
Howard Reich is the veteran jazz critic of the Chicago Tribune and winner of the Deems Taylor Award, two William Jones Investigative Reporting Awards, and three Peter Lisagor Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, among other honors.William Gaines retired from the Chicago Tribune in 2001, and is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A remarkable book about a remarkable man. Morton's claim to have invented jazz was often dismissed out of hand, especially in view of his early years as an all-around rascal. Reich and Gaines make a good case that's exactly what he did. On the way, they call up the early years of jazz and music recording in all their grittiness, and bring out the courage, creativity - and gentle humanity - in an unlikely pair: Morton, himself, and his last professional friend, an IRS auditor who went into the music publishing business with him. (My copy's subtitled 'The life, music and REDEMPTION of Jelly Roll Morton.') They also manage a healthy swat at two of the biggest cheats in the publishing business. Best read with the right music nearby: King Oliver, Morton with his Red Hot Peppers, and Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, all recorded in the early 20s, most on CD; and, if you can find it, Gunther Schuller's album 'The Road from Ragtime to Jazz'. Check out 'Grandpa's Spells', especially, before and after Morton.