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240 THE BITTERS WITH THE SWEET
The most cynical verse of the blues, intoned in a soft trombone-growl and below it, supporting the clean line of the melody, a procession of limpid chords, balanced, crisp, delicately textured, and tender with color—Mister Jelly grinned at me. He knew what he would find hi my face; he'd been "professor" a long time and he knew how to please even a folk-lorist. The amplifier of the recorder was hot; the needle was quivering with Jelly's arpeggios. I sat down on the floor with the machine behind me—to put the contrivance out of sight-as Mister Jelly was saying, "Now, of course, that will give you an idea of just one of my styles—5* his tone was solemn, a mite condescending. I grinned in my turn. It always had helped to sit at their feet; they begin telling you at once. "But I believe I might begin at the beginning—" Jelly went on. , . .
"That s right, Mister Morton. Tell us who your folks were, where you were bom, when, how. . . /'
With not a moment's pause—as if all his life he had been waiting for this moment and treasuring up the sentences—Jelly Roll began to think out loud in a Biblical, slow-drag beat. . .
As I can understand,
My folks were in the city of New Orleans
Long before the houmana purchase
And all my folks directly from the shores of France,
That is, across the world in the other world,
And they landed in the New World
Years ago. . . .
A throbbing stream of tropic chords flowed softly behind the deep voice, and the husky voice spun out a story like a song of Louisiana live-oaks on a lazy afternoon. The warm magic caught Jelly Roll and transformed the almost icy auditorium. One could feel the back seats filling up with ghostly listeners: Mimi and Laura in their black shawls, Eulalie holding a John-the-Conqueror root, Mamk Desdoumes smiling a fuzzy drunken smile, King Bolden with his red undershirt showing