From Publishers Weekly
"`It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz and I, myself, happened to be the creator in the year 1902,'" responded Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton to an assertion that W.C. Handy originated jazz and the blues. Pastras (co-editor and co-translator of The New Oresteia of Yannis Ritsos), assistant English professor at Pasadena City College, zeroes in on the great pianist and composer's two Los Angeles tenures (1917-1923 and 1940-1941). His dense, academic study relies heavily on disputing previous Jelly Roll scholarship, such as Alan Lomax's biography (he simultaneously expresses gratitude toward his predecessors). Pastras discovered a scrapbook of Morton's that brings new information to light, particularly illuminating his romance with Anita Gonzales, the love of his life. Jelly left his future royalties to Gonzales, who was his companion for only four or five years, including the last nine months of his life. Pastras details Jelly Roll's relationship to club owners (Ada "Bricktop" Smith says, "He couldn't decide whether to be a pimp or a piano player. I told him to be both") and the music industry. Pastras's distant tone (occasionally tempered by a bubbling enthusiasm), his discussion of other scholarship and his narrow focus on one part of Jelly Roll's career render the book somewhat inaccessible to the general reader. 22 b&w photos. (July)Forecast: This book should prove valuable to music libraries and jazz scholars, as well as to avid Jelly Roll fans, but its specialized approach will appeal only to this small audience.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Pastras (English, Pasadena City Coll.) takes another look at two critical periods in the life of jazz pioneer Morton (1890-1941), n Ferdinand Lamothe. Using Alan Lomax's definitive Mister Jelly Roll (1950) as his foundation, the author begins with a brief overview of the big-spending, rough-and-tumble, self-satisfied Creole pianist, who desperately tried to shed his African heritage yet fervently believed in voodoo practices despite his Catholic upbringing. He focuses on Morton's first stay on the West Coast (1917-23), where he made the transition from a pool-hustling pimp with an interest in the piano to a major musician. He spends another chapter on a newly discovered scrapbook of letters, clippings, flyers, and documents that Morton himself assembled. In the last section, Pastras deals with the last two years of Morton's life, when he traveled to the West Coast to visit his dying godmother and to rekindle his smoldering love affair with Anita Gonzales. Though leaving some questions still unanswered, Pastras adds some interesting detail and critical analysis to the Jelly Roll Morton story and provides a supplemental text to Lomax's standard biography. Recommended for jazz fans. Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.