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Happy Black History Month! Jelly Roll Morton

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

In honor of this years Black History Month, I will be posting a brief history of some of our less common, yet highly influential, pioneering Jazz musicians.

The first to be honored is, Jelly Roll Morton.

Jelly Roll Morton sitting at the Piano

Born in 1890, Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, was professionally known as "Jelly Roll Morton." From New Orleans, Lousiana, Jelly Roll Morton was also a pianist, vocalist, an American ragtime and jazz composer.

He started studying the piano around the age of ten. A few years later he was playing in Storyville, the red light district in New Orleans. That is where he earned his name, Jelly Roll.

Jelly Roll Morton was a pioneering figure of early jazz development. He achieved recognition with his big band, Red Hot Peppers, however his fame was overshadowed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and Hot Seven.

Jelly Roll often introduced himself as the "Inventor of Jazz"; while that claim is debatable, he was the first to put his music to paper. His earliest composition, originally copyrighted as "Original Jelly Roll Blues," was the first published jazz composition in 1915.

In 1938, three years before his death, he met Alan Lomax, a musical archivist. Alan Lomax documented Jelly Roll playing the piano and telling his stories; which is currently being preserved at the Library of Congress.

Jelly Roll Morton, was rediscovered again In the 90s via a Broadway tribute to his life and times entitled, "Jelly's Last Jam."Jelly's Last Jam was nominated for eleven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The musical won three of the eleven Tony Awards it was nominated for, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Gregory Hines.



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