Wynton Marsalis: King Porter Stomp

This track—and this entire CD—deserve to be far better known. But Wynton has recorded prolifically, and by the time he delivered this end-of-the-millennium tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, the idea of "Marsalis does New Orleans" was old hat and few were paying close attention. Yet this music makes my short list of the best traditional jazz performances of the modern era.

In 1924, Jelly Roll Morton teamed up with King Oliver for a duet performance of this same song. Can any duo today surpass the "inventors" of New Orleans jazz at "King Porter Stomp"? Ah, Marsalis and Lewis do just that. Both are absolutely true to the inner meaning and spirit of Morton's classic tune, yet also are absolutely true to themselves—not an easy combination given the tendency to treat these old New Orleans songs like venerable relics from a golden age. You hear this and you can't help concluding that the golden age is right now, when an artist of this statue can take on the mantle of past masters and bring their music so vividly to life.

August 18, 2009 · 0 comments


Benny Goodman: King Porter Stomp

Five years after Jelly Roll Morton recorded his tribute to pianist Porter King, bandleader Fletcher Henderson adopted it, first as arranged by Bill Challis (1928), then by Fletcher's brother Horace (1933). By 1935, as re-scored for Benny Goodman by Fletcher himself, the chart was more Henderson than Morton. In particular, it better focused the catchy hook that Jelly Roll had needlessly buried in mid-piece. With Bunny Berigan's superb trumpeting, B.G.'s saucy clarinet, Red Ballard's mellifluous trombone and an unforgettable call-&-response finale, this is one of the Swing Era's signature records, and a landmark in American pop culture. Not to be missed.

November 12, 2007 · 0 comments


Jelly Roll Morton: King Porter Stomp (solo piano, 1939)

It’s difficult to imagine Jelly Roll Morton and the City of New York sitting down together over a glass of beer. Their respective musical outlooks never charted the same course. Yet, in late 1939, his optimism renewed, Morton made one last assault on the burg he once described as “that cruel city.” Morton made a fresh recording of his “King Porter Stomp” that has a free and unfettered joie de vivre. Named for Porter King, a pianist Morton met in his travels, Jelly Roll dated its origin to 1906. The composition had been a hit for Benny Goodman and served as a major anthem in the launch of the Swing Era four years earlier, but Morton’s inflexibility and grandiosity had not endeared him to the new generation of musicians, and he watched from the sidelines.

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments


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