The stories and songs on these recordings are a document of the big bang of jazz music at the dawn of the 20th Century. New Orleans composer, pianist and pool shark Jelly Roll Morton was one of the key figures in the creation of jazz. Alan Lomax was the visionary folklorist who created a legacy that illuminated roots music sounds from around the world. Together, in 1938 at the Library of Congress, they made these groundbreaking recordings--the first recorded oral history in jazz.
When folklorist Alan Lomax made these epic 1938 recordings of Jelly Roll Morton's reminiscences and piano playing, he was creating the first great oral documentation of early jazz. This material has never been issued with the care, sensitivity and completeness that it gets here, with the complete interviews and musical performances sequenced over seven CDs in the order in which they took place. Morton was almost as great a raconteur as he was a musician, and his accounts of New Orleans in the early years of the 20th century--from bordellos to riots to funeral parades--are vivid, bawdy, and sometimes hilarious. His accounts of the music and his performances, from "King Porter Stomp" to the lengthy "Murder Ballad," provide a brilliant window on the mechanics and progress of jazz in its earliest years. The sound restoration is excellent and the complete package--cover art by R. Crumb, a piano-shaped box, a reprinting of Lomax's groundbreaking book Mister Jelly Roll, and an additional book with an essay by John Szwed and extensive photographs--befits a document of this significance. An eighth CD excerpts interviews Lomax conducted in 1949 with various New Orleans musicians (most notably Johnny St. Cyr) reminiscing about Morton and the early years of jazz. --Stuart Broomer