Jelly Roll Morton: Dead Man Blues (Take 1)


Dead Man Blues (Take 1)



Birth of the Hot: The Classic 'Red Hot Peppers' Sessions, 1926-1927 (RCA/Bluebird 66641-2)

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Jelly Roll Morton (piano), Kid Ory (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo),

George Mitchell (cornet), Omer Simeon, Darnell Howard (clarinets), John Lindsay (bass), Andrew Hilaire (drums); spoken dialogue by Morton and St. Cyr, sound effects by Marty Bloom


Composed by Jelly Roll Morton


Recorded: Chicago, September 21, 1926


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

According to Rex Stewart's fine book, Jazz Masters of the '30s, Omer Simeon was elsewhere for this track, and the young and already excellent Barney Bigard filled in, with added clarinet backing from Darnell Howard. That explanation rings true, since it makes little sense to have three clarinets on a small group session with only one cornet and one trombone.

In any case, "Dead Man Blues" opens with a vaudeville-style, stagy humorous spoken exchange between Jelly Roll Morton and Johnny St. Cyr—"Somebody must be daid; … must be a fuunral, I b'lieve ah hear that trambone-phone"—which is followed by a rendition of the classic New Orleans music played for the marching procession going to the cemetery. A pure tailgate trombone slide transitions into the main body of the song. Thereafter, like its partner track "Sidewalk Blues," "Dead Man Blues" is a gem of classic New Orleans-style ensemble jazz, with superb solo breaks. This track especially features beautiful clarinet work (probably by Bigard), along with George Mitchell's cornet playing. This Jelly Roll composition is at least as good as "Sidewalk Blues," and the group again shows the substantial rehearsal efforts of Morton. This is hugely enjoyable music, fine classic jazz and significant jazz history.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

If you liked this track, also check out

Jelly Roll Morton: Sidewalk Blues
Jelly Roll Morton: Doctor Jazz
King Oliver: Canal Street Blues

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