Fifteen classic stomps and blues by Jelly Roll Morton, including “King Porter Stomp” and “The Pearls,” give Wynton the opportunity to demonstrate that the music of this New Orleans jazz pioneer remains as modern as tomorrow. Wynton performs here with fellow New Orleans natives Kent Jordan (flute), Reginald Veal (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), Don Vappie (banjo), and Harry Connick, Jr. (piano). And don’t miss Wynton’s duet with pianist Eric Reed on “Tom Cat Blues,” recorded on the same sort of wax cylinder equipment that Jelly Roll Morton used on his first recordings in the early years of the 20th century.

Track Listing

Red Hot Peppers 3:42 Play
New Orleans Bump 4:36 Play
King Porter Stomp 3:13 Play
The Pearls 3:55 Play
Deep Creek 5:16 Play
Mamanita 2:51 Play
Sidewalk Blues 5:14 Play
Jungle Blues 6:51 Play
Big Lip Blues 3:20 Play
Dead Man Blues 4:44 Play
Smoke House Blues 4:54 Play
Billy Goat Stomp 3:02 Play
Courthouse Bump 3:31 Play
Black Bottom Stomp 4:23 Play
Tom Cat Blues 2:14 Play

Liner Notes

All Jazz is Modern:
The Music of Mr. Jelly Lord

Of this, his latest effort, Wynton Marsalis says, “I wanted to, once again, reiterate the contemporary power of even the earliest jazz. Jelly Roll Morton’s music proves that all jazz is modern. His music captures the full range of New Orleans life. Jelly Roll Morton’s music, however, still applies to the New Orleans of today. It is dated neither in form nor feeling.”

“In New Orleans, we still play funerals and parades, we still have blues clubs, and we still have the same easy, poetic attitude toward the carnal. We still have the willingness, if the wrong thing is said at the wrong time, to sink all the way back to those ways that underlie the wild side of our reputation. Jelly Roll Morton knew all of that, and the music he wrote and spent so much time meticulously teaching his musicians, has grooves, emotions and forms that exist for the purpose of expressing those powerful New Orleans artistic sensibilities.”

“That is why I have always enjoyed playing Jelly Roll Morton’s music over the last twenty years. It has taught me a great deal about the meaning of jazz and it always refreshes your understanding of how timeless art is. What makes something art is that it’s true for the time in which it existed and remains true in the times that follow. Whenever you endeavor to play the music of Mr. Morton correctly, you discover that what he was doing is just as strong now as it was when he created it. His compositions tell the story of the eternal New Orleans, which is the eternal human story, the timeless thing that jazz musicians express when they master blues and swing.”

“In or out of jazz, there has never been a major composer who was quite like, or even near, Jelly Roll Morton. Morton was something. He had just about every kind of bad quality a human being could have and just about every trait necessary to prove himself a genius. He was a braggart; he was racially prejudiced; he sold poisonous snake oil door to door; he was a pool shark; he was a pimp; he was a sharp shooter, and he was a man who believed in his art as much as any great artist of any idiom has ever believed in the aesthetic form of choice.”

“He was the first who had serious theories about jazz, and all of them were correct. As much of a street thug, hustler, and self-promoter as he might have been, Morton was the initial intellectual to enter the music. His impact was profound, whether it was on those he taught to play as he rambled from state to state or those such as Duke Ellington. All were indelibly touched. Morton understood how form should be manipulated and he recognized the importance of dynamic shifts and improvisations to intensify the quality of compositions. There was a rather direct relationship between his music and his life. Our first great composer of jazz had an epic sense of life. He played in parades, hung out in after-hours joints where the high and the low class gathered to pursue joy. His piano provided the live soundtrack for whorehouse erotic melodramas. He heard the most primitive blues sung by New Orleans dock workers. The worst side of the criminal life was familiar to him and Morton also spoke of women belting out the blues from their doorways. He heard that music of the opera and the symphony and recognized that jazz should contain the best elements of the musical gutbucket as well as the technical penthouse. The mixed parentage of jazz was obvious and it was Morton who recognized the essential significance of riffs and of the Afro-Hispanic rhythms he called “the Spanish tinge.”

Wynton Marsalis, who is easily the most gifted and the most sophisticated musician of his generation, has brought together young musicians to play his music just as someone in the European idiom would bring young musicians together to play the music of the Eighteenth Century, and for the same reason. When you get into the profound, those who started it all or put the first serious refinements on it, or foresaw what could be done by doing everything possible at the time, you not only instruct those performers in ways that will influence whatever they do in whatever style, you also reiterate the fact that in human terms there is no past, only a present when it comes to art. This is what this recording is all about. Here you will witness just how well musician, who have no problems addressing the sweep of their art, perform the work of Jelly Roll Morton. From the clarity of the ensembles to the wring of the group, to the precision, wit, lyricism, and fire of their improvisations, they achieve victories of the very same quality that they do when Marsalis and his players address any kind of jazz, whether basic, in the middle or all the way out of the frontier where blues and swing are given extraordinary reinterpretations. Here, with the same kind of authority Kenneth Branaugh brought to his Henry V. Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet, they let us know that old and new are only as meaningful as the material and the artists who give it life or fail to do so. In this case, life brims up out of every note, just as Mr. Jelly Lord intended.

–Stanley Crouch

Sidemen

Eric Lewis (piano), Eric Reed (piano), Danilo Perez (piano), Reginald Veal (bass), Victor Goines (tenor and soprano saxophones), Wessell Anderson (alto saxophone), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Lucien Barbarin (trombone), Ronald Westray (trombone), Victor Goines (clarinet), Michael White (clarinet), Harry Connick Jr. (piano), Herlin Riley (drums)