Cambridge, MA--Rounder Records and the Alan Lomax Archive will release an extensive Jelly Roll Morton boxed set, The Complete Library Of Congress Recordings By Alan Lomax, on September 27.
New Orleans composer, pianist and pool shark Jelly Roll Morton was one of the key figures in the creation of jazz. Alan Lomax was the visionary folklorist with an unparalleled legacy of preserving the world’s traditional music. Together, at the Library of Congress in 1938, they made these groundbreaking recordings — the first recorded oral history in jazz. Jelly Roll’s earthy and remarkably detailed stories of the milieu that surrounded jazz’s formative years are punctuated by his musical illustrations and stunning solo piano versions of his best-known compositions. The dandies, piano players, prostitutes, hustlers, and musical legends of Jelly Roll’s world are brought to life in this riveting narrative — an essential document of American culture.
It is clear that Jelly Roll Morton saw these sessions as an opportunity to affirm, which he does with great dignity and with a keen eye for detail, his role in early jazz. As John Szwed writes in his introduction, “He made it clear by word and example that he wanted to be seen as a winner: jazz was an art, and he was a pianist of the highest order, having developed a style that was rhythmically virtuosic and orchestral in its detail and fullness. He was the first composer in jazz, and a modernist…” Indeed, Morton’s central role in the groundbreaking emergence of compositional jazz – jazz as we know it today – cannot be overstated. As he declares in the interview, “jazz is a style that can be applied to any type of music.”
The album is co-produced by Anna Lomax Wood - Alan Lomax’s daughter and director of the Alan Lomax Archive, and Jeffrey A. Greenberg - producer of the Alan Lomax: Popular Songbook CD. Anna Lomax Wood sums up the symbiosis of the encounter between Jelly Roll and her father. “Jelly Roll Morton and Alan Lomax came together like a beautifully fitted-out boat and the wind on a perfect sailing day, not a moment too late or too soon for either one. In 1938 Morton was a mature artist, ready for his fully-scored ramble through early jazz. Though only 23, Lomax had years of U.S. and Caribbean field recording and a musical oral biography (Lead Belly’s) under his belt and could offer Jelly the formality of the Coolidge Auditorium Hall at the Library of Congress. Lomax’s questions are mere suggestions in the wings of this unfolding narrative that poured out over several sessions – engaging, poignant, funny, and quintessentially American – which is also a history, a master class, and a concert.”
This release of the Morton-Lomax sessions marks the fulfillment of a decades-old dream for scores of jazz fans. Over the years, the majority of these stories and songs have been issued on 78 RPM disc, LP, and compact disc, but never in their original and complete running order. For this release, pitch-corrected digital transfers from the original acetate and aluminum discs (including newly discovered and