Jelly Roll Morton: Grandpa's Spells
Jelly Roll Morton (piano)
Jelly Roll Morton: 1923-1924 (Milestone 47018)
Jelly Roll Morton (piano).
Composed by Jelly Roll Morton.
Recorded: Cincinnati, Ohio, June or July, 1924
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
This was recorded after "Keep Off the Grass," but it was reportedly composed a decade earlier. (At any rate, Morton is usually considered the influence on James P., not the other way around.)
"Grandpa's Spells" is nearly a rag in feeling, except with a swing beat and a generally rougher feel. A lot of the time Morton plays overtones in the left hand (usually the fifth note up from the bottom) that imply drums while the brilliant graces on top imply New Orleans-style clarinetists. The F-major trio features a left-hand smash, a dark cluster tossed off casually like a whiskey bottle kicked under the piano.
The sheer strength of Morton's playing is remarkable. Sometimes I read that such-or-such stride or early jazz pianist has a 'delicate' or 'subtle' touch. There are complicated and refined elements in all the pianists on this list, but all of them also knew how to make the piano project: you could hear them even through a wild revel.
Morton is commonly considered the first great composer of jazz. He was also surely one of the greatest dance pianists in history.
Reviewer: Ethan Iverson
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