Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1902

(Above) Jelly Roll Morton Postage Stamp, issued in 1995 for 32-cents it is today worth over $4.00.  The US Post Office's issued it as part of its Jazz  Musicians stamp book.

From the Birthplace of Jazz website:

(Above) B&W Photo: Jelly Roll Morton Band, 1928, Morton on left.
"Some will say that Jazz was born in 1895, when Buddy Bolden started his first band. Others will say 1917, when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first Jazz record, 'Livery Stable Blues.'  Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton said, 'It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of Jazz, and I myself happen to be the inventor in the year 1902.'"

(Above) B&W Photo: Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe Morton aka 'Jelly Roll' Morton, famed New Orleans musician and composer, and one of the early architects of Jazz music, circa 1921.
From The Mississippi Rag Article The Elusive Truth About Jelly Roll Morton:

(Above) There is an editorial sub-title of “Jelly Roll Morton Calls Handy A Liar” inserted as the headline of page 31 in the August 1938 issues of Down Beat, however, these words do not actually appear anywhere in the article.  Very likely the editor of Down Beat decided to publish that sensational headline to promote sales of the magazine.  Photo courtesy of Dr. Jazz.

"Despite his ... 'gift for gab' ... I found that many of Morton's statements dismissed over the years as vain bragging and hyperbolic self-promotion were, in fact, true. Morton was a surprisingly accurate, organized speaker, and he exhibited total recall for music, incidents and people in a professional career jam-packed with travel and replete with adventure. The big, bold statements critics and historians laughed off or dismissed as wildly improbable, egocentric ravings contained much truth. 

'I invented jazz in 1902 . . .' This boast from the feud Morton instigated in print with W.C. Handy in 1938 and earned him the most scorn from literal-minded and limited jazz journalists and musicians. But in following Morton's versions of this idea, I found he has a complex definition of 'invention' worth understanding. Of course, Morton didn't single-handedly 'invent jazz,' and he never really said that.  He was one of a generation of inventors, and by 1938 a fairly rare survivor, who had witnessed the Big Bang from which jazz emerged as a whole new musical universe."