Although Jelly Roll Morton did not invent jazz, he was certainly one of its early innovators. His distinctive piano playing developed as early as 1905-10 and, while he sometimes used structures and frameworks in his compositions that were similar to ragtime, he infused the music with the blues and improvising, becoming one of jazz’s earliest stride pianists. Arguably jazz’s first great composer, he was also an important arranger. Morton’s early piano solos often found him emulating a jazz band, and many of his recordings with his Red Hot Peppers (1926-30) were expansions on his piano playing.
The Retrieval label collected together all of Morton’s earliest piano solos (from 1923-24 and 1926) on 24 Rare Recordings Of Piano Solos. While Morton also documented some songs with bands during 1923-25, those were primitively recorded and pale next to his superb piano solos.
Among the many highlights are two versions of “King Porter Stomp” (the one from 1926 is his most exciting-ever recording of the classic), “Grandpa’s Spells,” “Wolverine Blues,” “The Pearls,” and “Shreveport Stomp,” although each of these 24 performances are delightful, swinging and ahead of their time.
The piano solos, along with Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Pepper recordings and his Library of Congress sessions of 1938 are all essential for any classic jazz library. However in reality, every Morton recording is a must!
24 Rare Recordings Of Piano Solos (Retrieval RTR 79002, 24 selections, TT = 67:40) www.challengerecords.com
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