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THE BITTERS WITH THE SWEET
tunes from the already famous Library of Congress session.* Mister Jelly Roll pulled together a band of the most accomplished and temperamental New Orleans men, and in the tense atmosphere of the recording studio looked not like a museum piece at all, but like a great orchestra leader. He may have felt he was back in the business the way he wanted to be as he heard Sidney Bechet take solos on Winding Boy, as his hot piano paced the men through High Societij, and as the boys clowned on the choruses of . . .
He rambled all around
In and out the town
He rambled till the butcher cut him down . . .
But Mister Jelly had derided the old butcher for the last time. I met him one day on a subway stair in New York and walked a little way with him. He had to stop every few steps to get his breath; then, after a moment of coughing, he went on in a weak voice with his plans for suing ASCAP and breaking MCA. He was often tired, he told me. His composing had slowed down. "From writing music, playing pool and looking for spots on cards under bright lights, my eyes is shot/' said a very subdued Mister Jelly Roll. Charley Smith, who supervised the recording of his fine piano album, "New Orleans Memories," recalls that "his fingers were stiff and his heart wasn't pumping the way it should/5 But the old ram couldn't stop rambling no matter how sick and bad he felt. Mabel Morton recalls his last try. . . .
... He was to open at the Golden Gate Balkoom in Harlem with a band, she said. All the time he was rehearsing he was getting sicker and sicker. I noticed when he walked upstairs he breathed very hard and had shortening of the breath. The evening of the opening he was shaving in his tuxedo, and he
* Fred Ramsey, jazz critic, lias graciously permitted a paraphrase of his notes on this session—the only picture of Mister Jelly Roll in action. It appears in the Appendix of Records.