Jelly's Blues : The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2003-05-01
  • Publisher: Perseus Books Group

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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.

Author Biography

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.

Table of Contents

Preface xi
The District
Inventing Jelly Roll
The Proselytizer
Chicago Hustle
Thirty-fifth and Calumet
Free Fall
A Battle Royal
Flee As a Bird to the Mountain
The Afterglow
Epilogue 245(6)
Notes on Sources 251(12)
Appendix A Compositions written by Ferdinand ``Jelly Roll'' Morton 263(4)
Appendix B Annotated discography: Morton plays Morton 267(4)
Appendix C Notes on Morton's elusive birth date 271(4)
Index 275

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