Jelly Roll Morton: High Society
Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Jazzmen
The Jelly Roll Morton Centennial: His Complete Victor Recordings (RCA Bluebird 2361)
Jelly Roll Morton (piano), Sidney De Paris (trumpet), Claude Jones (trombone), Albert Nicholas (clarinet), Sidney Bechet (soprano sax), Happy Caldwell (tenor sax), Lawrence Lucie (guitar), Wellman Braud (bass), Zutty Singleton (drums).
Composed by Porter Steele, A.J. Piron & Clarence Williams.
Recorded: New York, September 14, 1939
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Although Jelly Roll Morton is the leader of this recording, it is a rare instance where the pianist/composer is not the center of attention. We barely hear a note from his piano and the arrangement sounds nothing like the Red Hot Pepper charts of the previous decade. Indeed, on this version of "High Society" it sounds as if half the band is improvising their parts (or playing from memory). The sound is like a New Orleans street parade, but in this recording, both Sidney Bechet and Albert Nicholas play the famous clarinet obbligato. Bechet goes first, playing the serpentine line on soprano sax. He has some issues with breath control and the phrasing is quite choppy. NIcholas (who probably played this obbligato more than Bechet) sails in on clarinet, and he plays flawlessly until he realizes that he's showing up Bechet. Then the nerves hit and he fumbles one of the lines. Other than the double clarinet obbligato and a minor strain used to change keys, the rendition is quite faithful to the original march.
Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe