Though he claimed to have invented jazz outright in 1902, there's no denying Morton, as one of the genre's first serious composers, was a pivotal figure in its early development. Presented here are his first commercial recordings, such as King Porter Stomp; Kansas City Stomp; Wolverine Blues; The Pearls; Tia Juana; Mamanita; Jelly Roll Blues; Big Foot Ham; Stratford Hunch; Perfect Rag; Frog-I-More Rag , and Muddy Water Blues , plus an exceptionally rare alternate take on New Orleans Joys . Genius!
These are Jelly Roll Morton's earliest recordings, and if you have any plans to become a Morton completist, this Jazz Classics issue with its chronological presentation is a good way to cover the early work. While the sound quality inevitably leaves much to be desired, the freshness of Morton's invention will surmount that, from the wonderfully percussive smacks at the keyboard in "Grandpa's Spells" to the rollicking energy of "Shreveport Stomp." Other perennial Morton vehicles that are heard in their first versions are "The Pearls" and "King Porter Stomp," while "Big Fat Ham" and "London Blues" are heard in both band and solo piano versions. The CD even goes so far as to include "Steady Roll" by a novelty band called Jelly Roll Morton's Stomp Kings. The group consisted of comb, banjo, and kazoos, but it didn't include Morton. --Stuart Broomer