B1570. MISTER JELLY ROLL: THE FORTUNES OF JELLY ROLL MORTON (Alan Lomax), w. Drawings by David Stone Martin. New York, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950 - First edition, stated. - 318pp.
“Alan Lomax’s influential biography of Jelly Roll Morton opens with an evocative description of the first of the Library of Congress recordings he made with the ageing pianist and composer in 1938. ‘The amplifier was hot,’ he begins. ‘The needle was tracing a quiet spiral on the spinning acetate.’ ‘Mister Morton,’ I said, ‘How about the beginning? Tell us about where you were born and how you got started and why … and maybe keep playing piano while you talk.’ The account of Morton’s life that unfolds across the pages of Lomax’s book highlights a number of important issues for jazz historians. He demonstrates that what we think of as ‘the story of jazz’ is inseparable from our method of telling it; that the different media through which we record the past do not simply reflect, but actually create, what we take that past to be about. He also wants to show us that in narrating someone’s life, it is more than just a case of getting the facts right. The way in which someone speaks is as significant as the things they go on to say; and that in their way of saying it - Lomax calls it the surge of speech – they may create stories or fictions as good as any we know of.
This has been THE book on the life and music of Jelly Roll Morton - composer, pianist, arranger, personality and showman extraordinaire - since it was first published in 1950. Jelly Roll's story is effectively Jazz's story and legendary musicologist Alan Lomax treats his life and art with great esteem while never losing sight of the enthralling spirit and mystique at the heart of Mr. Jelly Lord's music. Alan Lomax has fashioned a biography that, for utter candor and spontaneity of utterance, rivals the self-revelations of Rousseau and Saint Augustine."
-THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“It wasn’t a matter of folklore. It was the way I felt.”
- Alan Lomax
“In my early youth, I thought New Orleans was the whole world."
- Jelly Roll Morton