Jelly Roll Morton, Inventor Of Jazz, Online Book by Alan Lomax

with Some sheet music & lyrics.

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
Maybe nothing quite like this ever happened before. Maybe no music, no fresh emmanation of the spirit of man ever spread to so many people in so short a time. Jazz, in this sense, is one of the marvels of the century—a marvel that has spawned a monster—a monster entertainment industry, feeding upon jazz, growing gigantic and developing a score of interlocking colos­sal bodies whose million orifices pour out each week the stuff of our bartered dreams.
Jelly Roll's life story spans the whole of the "jazz age,** from the street bands of New Orleans to the sweet bands of New York. With him we can leave behind the marketplaces of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley and return to the moment of germination in New Orleans. In his sorrows and his fantasies we can find the very quality which distinguishes jazz from the many other forms of American music rooted in Africa—from the spirituals, from the work songs, from the blues and rag­time.
"We had every different kind of a person in New Orleans," Jelly said, "We had French, we had Spanish, we had West Indian, we had American, and we all mixed on an equal basis. . .** So tolerant New Orleans absorbed slowly over the centuries Iberian, African, Cuban, Parisian, Martiniquan, and American musical influences. All these flavors may be found in jazz, for jazz is a sort of musical gumbo. But the taster, the stirrer, the pot-watcher for this gumbo was the New Orleans colored Creole. There were 400,000 free colored Creoles in Louisiana at the time of the 1860 census. Their capitol was New Orleans, where for a hundred years they raised the most beautiful girls, who cooked up the tastiest dishes and were courted with the hottest music of any place in the Mississippi Valley.
It is within the folklife of these Creoles that the emotional character of hot jazz is to be found, for their music was not only an Afro-American offshoot, not merely a complex of many elements, but a new music of and by New Orleans—a wordless Creole counterpoint of protest and of pride. Thus