Jelly Morton was born on October 20th in the year 1890 in Louisiana in the United States of America. The name Jelly Roll Morton was a professional name that he acquired in his career as a pianist for jazz music and also a songwriter (Lomax, 62). His real name was Joseph Ferdinand LaMonte. Roll Morton is regarded as one of the early jazz songwriters and pianists in American history of the ragtime music. Jelly Roll Morton grew up in the New Orleans in the Unites States of America where he developed interest in learning the piano and playing it at the age of ten. By the year 1902, he had started working with several music groups such as Storyville and French quadrilles where he took part in the playing of the piano for the dances and songs.
Tony Jackson, who was also a pianist and a jazz music writer is said to have been the biggest influence to Jelly Roll Morton since Jelly admired his songs and always wanted to be like him. He used to sing his works and practice playing his tunes on the piano so as to become just like him. However, the training of Jelly Roll Morton as a Jazz music composer and pianist is a bit shocking. He did not go through any formal training in the field of music and this has made many people who have examined his compositions to call him the genius of jazz compositions (Morton and Dapogny, 32). It is said the Jelly Roll Morton started playing the piano in one of the sporting houses which were known as brothel those days. At this time he was living with his grandmother who was very religious with very strict morals in matters of Christianity. Jelly had therefore to lie to her grandmother that he worked as a night time security man at some place in their town and this was the only way he was allowed to go out of the house. Little did the grandmother know that he went to the brothel to play piano and compose jazz music. However, when the grandmother came to realize that he was working in the Brothel as a jazz composer and pianist, she kicked her out of her house and this led him to a full engagement in the jazz field of music.
By the year 1904, Jelly Roll Morton was actively involved in the jazz Music I the areas surrounding St. Louis. He is also said to have been a very active gambler in the casinos of the city where he played games like pool and the poker. Although he took part in gambling, music and specifically jazz music remained his main area of interest in his life. He composed songs for many artists which he gave to them to sing as he himself took part in the piano playing so as to bring out the style that he really wanted his compositions to have. As such, he became very popular and started travelling to other cities far from his dwelling place and travelled Far East and other parts of the Unites States of America (Morton and Dapogny, 28). Some of the cities he travelled to include Mississippi, Kansas City, New York and Los Angeles.
Jelly Roll Morton is highly remembered for his effort which fused various different compositions to give birth to the music so called jazz today. He combined the religious hymns and the Hispanic music from the Caribbean as well as with the popular white songs from other countries fusing them with the black music idioms that was called ragtime that time and this helped him to come up with very unique music that resembled the popular music those days which had acquired the name jazz music. His creativity and effort made many people to like his composition s so much and this brought a lot of success to him.
By the year 1922, Jelly Roll Morton had joined an eight-piece jazz band where he composed his solo musical works and recorded with the band. He did quite a number of solo works and recorded them and his styles of the composition coupled with the piano rhythms showed a lot of maturity in the jazz music that people started calling him the father of jazz (Pastras, 53). Morton recorded with Red Hot Peppers which comprised of his colleagues who were well versed with the New Orleans Musical styles and were also familiar with the musical style of Jelly Roll Morton. This richness in the team that Jelly Roll Morton worked with produced perfect works because of the improvisation that enabled them to fuse different music styles and make the compositions of Jelly bean a perfect fit for the jazz music lovers in America.
Some of the works that Jelly Roll Morton produced as a composer, pianist and arranger of jazz music include the Grandpas spells, Black Bottom Stomp as well as the Pearls (Howard and Gains, 104). These works are some of the perfect results of the creativity of Jelly Roll Morton in his music career. These pieces of works were well rehearsed and made perfect by the Red Hot Peppers team which made them to surpass the standards of other jazz compositions of the day. They had a variety of texture and timbre and were very clear to the point of interest. They had very interesting climax were every team member was given an opportunity to give a small bit of solo to make part of the whole composition made by Jelly Roll Morton. This made his works to be the favourite of many people in the Unites States of America because they were unique in nature but never compromised the clarity of the message. This worked as major influence to other artists who came later such as Earl Himes and Art Tatun.
After touring various parts of the Unites States of America, Jelly Roll Morton Settled in Washington DC, where he almost drifted to obscurity due to the fact that many other jazz artists had come up and were doing very well. However, the library of congress did and recorded a number of interviews with him where the folklorist by the name Alan Lomax conducted a series of interviews that saw Jelly Roll Morton expound a lot on his works and this went a long way in reigniting the interest on the works of Jelly Roll Morton among the Americans (Lomax, 25). His interviews revealed his as one of the historical figures in jazz music in the United States of America. Due to the rekindled interest in his works, Jelly Roll Morton did recordings in the year 1939 and early 1940 but due to ill health he died on 10th of July 1941 in Los Angeles in the Unites States of America.
In conclusion, Jelly Roll Morton was a jazz composer who was driven by passion for the jazz music and the love of the piano. His creative works or compositions brought him a lot of fame and made him tour various parts of the United States of America where he built his legacy as a jazz composer, arranger and pianist. His fame however dwindled in the late 1920s but the Library of Congress revived him through a series of interviews that rekindled the public interest in his works (Lomax, 46). Today, he is remembered as one of the early jazz composers in the United States of America.
Lomax, Alan. Mister Jelly Roll: the fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans creole and" inventor of jazz". Univ of California Press, 1993.
Morton, Jelly Roll, and James Dapogny. Ferdinand" Jelly Roll" Morton: the collected piano music. G Schirmer Inc, 1982.
Pastras, Philip. Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West. Vol. 5. Univ of California Press, 2001.
Reich, Howard, and William Gaines. Jelly's Blues: The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton. Cambridge, Mass: Da Capo, 2003. Internet resource.Top of FormBottom of Form
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