JELLY ROLL MORTON'S KINGS OF JAZZ
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
Eight of Jelly Roll’s rarest early recordings
Jelly Roll Morton’s Stomp Kings (on #1): Natty Dominique (cnt) Roy Palmer (tb) Townes (cl, as) Ferdinand (Jelly Roll) Morton (p) Jasper Taylor (drs) Chicago; 1923
Jelly Roll Morton’s kings of Jazz (on #2 and #3): Lee Collins (tp) Roy Palmer (tb) Balls Ball (cl) Alex Poole (as) Morton (p) others unknown Chicago; 1924
Jelly Roll Moton’s Incomparables (on #4): unknown personnel. Richmond, Indiana; February 23, 1926
King Oliver (cnt) Morton (p) (on #5 and #6). Chicago; 1924 or ‘25
Volly de Faut (cl) Morton (p) (on #7 and #8); unknown kazoo added on #7 only). Chicago; 1924 or ’25.
1. Muddy Water Blues (2:59) (Jellyroll Morton)
2. High Society (3:13) (Clarence Williams)
3. Fish Tail Blues (3:00) (Morton – Collins)
4. Mr. Jelly Lord (2:47) (Morton)
5. King Porter Stomp (2:31) (Morton)
6. Tom Cat Blues (2:49) (Morton)
7. My Gal (2:34) (Morton)
8. Wolverine Blues (2:43) (Morton)
The recordings that make up this LP are some of the least known performances by one of the most celebrated and flamboyant figures in all of jazz. Originally recorded for several of the small jazz labels that flourished in and around Chicago in the 1920s, they present JELLY ROLL MORTON in combination with a number of the outstanding musicians of the era and indicate a good deal of the scope and variety of his music in the period just before that mid-20s burst of recording activity for Victor on which so much of his fame now rests.
At this early date, Jelly was not yet recognized as quite the monumental figure he was to become, but he was hardly to be thought of as just another piano player. He could never have been considered that - overwhelming ego, and the overwhelming skill with which he could back up what he had to say about his own importance as a jazzman, had stamped him as a man to be reckoned with almost from the very start of his career. Morton came to Chicago in the very early '20s with a reputation solidly founded on his work as a pianist in the dives of Storyville, and in other places ranging from Memphis to Los Angeles. Thus, from the first he was able to surround himself with the best available talent for his recording dates.
The numbers in this collection fall into two basic categories, the first four of them having been made with full groups of more or less standard traditional instrumentation, and the other being duets between Morton and a single horn (although, to be strictly accurate, My Gal is a trio, with an unidentified kazoo player getting in a few licks). As is often the case with the earliest of jazz records, documentation is apt to be dim and incomplete, but it would appear that Muddy Water Blues (Paramount 12050) was made in the Spring of 1923, and also that it was Jelly's first record. Outstanding among the men who played with him on it was Roy Palmer, who had been one of the very first New Orleans musicians to settle in Chicago. Palmer, who had a deep and massive tone and played the trombone with a rare sense of humor, didn't make many records, but all of his appearances on wax were apt to be memorable ones. (He can also be heard on Riverside RLP1020: Roy Palmer and the State Street Ramblers.) On the two "Kings of Jazz" numbers, made for the extremely obscure and short-lived Autograph label (they were coupled on Au 606), Roy is joined by Lee Collins, then in the early stages of a career that has continued to the present day, and then as always the master of a driving, authoritatively-New-Orleans cornet style. Mr. Jelly Lord (Gennett 3259) is played by a totally unidentified (though obviously talented group.
The second side of the LP opens with one of the most remarkable sessions ever recorded. Three decades later, it looks as if it might have been an early ancestor of the concept of an "All Star" record, but it was at the time presumably nothing more than the great King Oliver - then at the height of his fame with his Creole Jazz Band - cutting a couple of tunes along with a fellow New Orleans veteran. Although the original labels (these were on Au 617) featured Oliver's name, it's worth noting that, as was the case almost every time Jelly went into a recording studio, the numbers they played were Morton compositions. And the results, while they were inevitably virtuoso performances, rather far from the strict letter of the traditional New Orleans ensemble concept, certainly indicate that whoever thought of this session had a pretty wonderful idea. (Oliver can also be heard on three other Riverside reissues RLP1005: New Orleans Horns; RLP1007: King Oliver Plays the Blues; and RLP1029: King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.)
The same sort of idea was tried again only a short time later (on Au 623), with Jelly sharing horns with Volly de Faut, w white New Orleans clarinetist who appeared on records only very rarely. It may be worth pointing out that, as far as can be determined, these two selections represent the first "mixed" recordings ever labeled as such, and at a considerably earlier date than most people ever think of white and Negro musicians having been able to work together. Morton's Genett sides with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings are the only known earlier mixed numbers, but even they did not list Jelly's name along with this otherwise all-white group.
The extreme rarety of these eight performances has one non-musical aspect that cannot be overlooked. It must be admitted that almost all of these suffer from one occupational disease of rare recordings. They are technically limited, and there is a certain unavoidable amount of surface noise that could not have been removed without excessively distorting the musical values. Unavailability of the original metal parts in all cases has complicated the problem, but the utmost possible engineering care and skill, and the best of modern equipment has been used in the restoring and re-recording processes. As a result, all that seems needed is this slight warning. And certainly this would seem the best solution: to present moderately less-than-perfect recordings, rather then to omit from Riverside's extensive reissue program these obscure and important segments of the full discographical story of Jelly Roll Morton.
The surface noise audible on this LP is due to the limitations of early recording processes: it has been entirely removed in order to preserve highest fidelity possible and to give more faithful reproduction of tone qualities. Some of this material arrangement with Paramount Records and John Steiner.
Produced by Bill Grauer
Notes by Orrin Keepnews
Cover by Robert J.lee
RIVERSIDE PRODUCTIONS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, N. Y.