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

with Some sheet music & lyrics.

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New Orleans, in its own small, subtropical way, was a sort of Athens for the popular music of the world.
Why did the streets of Athens during one century throng with the brightest collection of souls that the world has ever seen? This must always be a matter for speculation for Athens is lost to us in time. But New Orleans and its time of creativity is close at hand Some of the old men who watched the first awkward and charming steps of the infant jazz are still alive. In their recollections, in their story of the hot music of New Orleans we may come close to the magic and mystery of cul­tural flowering.
For Jelly Roll and his fellows were aware that they had par­ticipated in one of the rare moments of ecstasy by means of which cultural transmutations take place. They spoke of this experience with the special feeling of men who have lived through an earthquake or witnessed a dance of the elephants. They were, indeed, the children of a golden age, and, because they were part folk, they recalled the emotions of those bright days in vivid feeling. This volume is, I hope, a testimony to their eloquence and their sensitivity.
With Jelly Roll the days of the interview flowed on into a month; scores of records stacked up onstage at the Library of Congress in a rich evocation of underground America.* It has proved vain to try to check or correct Jelly's story. Jazz musicians are strong on downbeats but weak on dates. There are almost as many versions of every happening as there were men in the band. The big outlines of his story are solid and true to life; if there is niggling about facts, there is unanimity among the feelings of Jelly and the other boys in the bands.
In fairness to Morton, I have tried to give his narrative as much inner consistency as possible, something he would cer­tainly have done if he had been able to write this story him­self. Otherwise Morton and the boys in the bands tell the story their own way. Sometimes they brag; sometimes they remem-
* Twelve albums of these records liave been beautifully published by Circle Records. See appendix 2.