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to make a few records of Jelly Roll* little knowing that I had encountered a Creole Benvenuto Cellini.
The amplifier was hot. The needle was tracing a quiet spiral on the spinning acetate. "Mister Morton/* I said, "How about the beginning? Tell about where you were born and how you got started and why . . . and maybe keep playing piano while you talk. . . ."
Jelly Roll nodded and his hands looked for soft, strange chords at a lazy tempo. . .
"Well, as I can understand. . .
... a gray and oHve chord. . „ "My folks were in the city of New Orleans. . "
... a whisper of harmony like Spanish moss. . . "Long before the Louisiana purchase. . *
... a chord of distant bugles. . . "And all my folks came directly I mean from the shores of France And they landed in this new world years ago. . "
... a gravel voice melting at the edges, not talking but spinning out a life in something close to song » . . each sentence almost a stanza of a slow blues . . . each stanza flowing out of the last like the eddies of a big sleepy Southern river where the power hides below a quiet brown surface. ...
♦That hot May afternoon in the Library of Congress a new way of writing history began—history with music cues, the music evoking recollection and poignant feeling—history im* toned out of the heart of one man, sparkling with dialogue and purple with ego. Names of friends long dead and of honkey-tonks quiet for a half century, songs and tunes and precise musical styles of early New Orleans musicians for^ gotten by everyone but Morton—he recalled these things as if they were of the day before, smoothly filling in uncomfortable gaps in his own story with the achievements of his friends, building a legend.