Jelly Roll Morton

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Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (September 20, 1885 – July 10, 1941), known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer.

Widely recognized as a pivotal figure in early jazz, Morton is perhaps most notable as jazz's first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential spirit and characteristics when notated.[1] His composition "Jelly Roll Blues" was the first published jazz composition, in 1915. Morton is also notable for naming and popularizing the "Spanish tinge" of exotic rhythms and penning such standards as "Wolverine Blues," "Black Bottom Stomp," and "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say", the latter a tribute to turn-of-the-century New Orleans personalities.

Reputed for his arrogance and self-promotion as often as recognised in his day for his musical talents, Morton claimed to have invented jazz outright in 1902 — much to the derision of later musicians and critics.[2] However, jazz historian Gunther Schuller writes about Morton's "hyperbolic assertions" that there is "no proof to the contrary" and that Morton's "considerable accomplishments in themselves provide reasonable substantiation."[3]

Contents

Biography

Birth

Morton was born into a Creole community in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. A baptismal certificate issued in 1894 lists his date of birth as October 20, 1890; however Morton himself and his half-sisters claimed the September 20, 1885, date is correct. His World War I draft registration card showed September 13, 1884 but his California death certificate listed his birth as September 20, 1889. He was born to F.P. Lamothe and Louise Monette (written as Lemott and Monett on his baptismal certificate). Eulaley Haco (Eulalie Hécaud) was the godparent. Eulalie helped him to be christened with the name Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s parents were in a common-law marriage and not legally married. No birth certificate has been found to date. He took the name "Morton" by Anglicizing the name of his stepfather, Mouton.

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