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The Piano Rolls

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 27, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Just like he did with Gershwin, pianist/scholar Artis Wodehouse has taken Jelly Roll's player-piano rolls and put them through a Synclavier. The result: a unique opportunity to hear the Father of Jazz play his finest compositions in high fidelity!

Amazon.com

In the same period that Jelly Roll Morton began making acoustic recordings of his piano solos, he was also making piano rolls of his strongest material. This CD presents piano rolls that Morton made in 1924, and producer Artis Wodehouse has done a remarkable job of recording them, capturing them with a convincingly live resonance. Morton was keenly aware of studio technology, and it's fascinating to hear him exploit the extended playing time that the piano rolls provided him. Several of these pieces stretch past four minutes, and tracks like "Stratford Hunch" and "Dead Man Blues" allow Morton to extend his variations further than recording allowed, providing another opportunity to hear Morton's innovative synthesis of ragtime, blues, and spontaneous inspiration. The piano sound compares favorably with even well-restored versions of Morton's contemporaneous acoustic recordings for Gennett, with brighter highs and firmer bass notes. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 27, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005J3E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,411 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Amazon's Jelly Roll Morton Store

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I am very familiar with these Morton piano rolls from their previous incarnations on Biograph, Pianola, and other indie jazz labels, and so am well aware of their assets and limitations. On one LP transfer, "Grandpa's Spells" sounded very natural and fluid, but there was no pedal used and so the thumping bass notes sounded odd and hollow. On the Biograph CD, "Shreveport Stomp" came out very well but, again, no pedal...and Morton was a master of pedal effects.

On this CD, Odis Wodehouse (I wonder if she's any relation to 1920s author P.G. Wodehouse??) has done a remarkable job of emulating Morton's touch, dynamics and pedal effects. Often I caught my breath listening, the immediacy of Morton's presence was so strong! Each and evry track sounds perfectly natural, and the wonderful presence makes every fingering detail stand out.

And what's so wrong about listening to Morton on a Steinway grand??? That's what he played at the Library of Congress in 1938, and no one has complained about those discs!!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
What more could you ask for than to hear 'Jelly Roll' Morton himself playing the piano, sounding so clear that you would think he was in your living room? I can't say anything more suitable than that. Buy this.
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Format: Audio CD
Jelly Roll Morton was such a legend, ballyhoo'ed equally by himself and others, for equally good but somewhat different reasons, that there's no point in my making general remarks.

These recordings replicate, in a very special way, Jelly's piano rolls. They are among the earliest jazz "recordings" we have, and, to my taste, preferable to the others (Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (much better than the ODJB, BTW) and the disappointing early recordings (to my ears, anyway) of King Oliver & Kid Ory). Of course, they were not recordings, but parts of a little machine. These little machines were not to everyone's taste, and it's hard to imagine the era when those who didn't themselves play the piano were compelled, if finances permitted, to collect piano music in this form. (A few antiquarians still collect them, I know, but that is very much a specialist taste.)

This CD is an excellent way to access these pieces for those who can't stand piano rolls. They almost sound like someone playing piano. This is the closest we can get to Jelly Roll Morton, as he sounded, before his not altogether positive fame as an ensemble leader who only late in the game got it together, after his style was seen as archaic or otherwise irrelevant (at the time; few would say this sort of thing now, anymore than they might of JS Bach).

As good as can be gotten out of this particular instance of this not-altogether superseded technology. Committed fans of Morton might want to listen to them in conjunction with the plain recordings of the plain rolls such as these are available on, for example, the first volume of the "Chronogical Classics" (France) disc in their JR Morton series. For a more successful version of this epitechnology, see Wodehouse's productions of the George Gershwin rolls; there are two volumes of these.
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Format: Audio CD
I appreciate the effort and as a Morton fan this is definitively a must have record. However the quality of those rolls being the cheapest rolls of the time, that didn't capture dynamics of the performer, make it loose a lot of the musicality of Morton's talent.
The Gershwin record used the better rolls therefore his dynamics were captured.
If you are a JRM fan check it out
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