JELLY ROLL MORTON
ALL THE AVAILABLE RECORDED WORK 1926-30 (5CD)
JSP (JSP903 )
I've just read Jelly Blues - The Life and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton by Howard Reich & William Gaines (Da Capo Press 2003) and this vibrant book made me want to listen to the music I was reading about. Unfortunately, my Morton CDs on RCA sounded pretty lifeless, nothing like the music described so I checked to see if Gaines & Reich had recommendations and they did - this JSP set! After telling us that the RCA is easily superseded by this box, they go on to say "it is a revelation in purely sonic terms, bringing new acoustic clarity to Morton's work with various incarnations of his Red Hot Peppers. Inner voices, rhythmic details and subtleties of colour that modern-day listeners had never heard before become palpably clear on these five CDs. This set stands as essential listening. Without it, Morton devotees cannot claim to have heard the Red Hot Peppers in their full, contrapuntal glory".
Full credit goes to mastering genius John RT Davies who lovingly transferred the music from top quality 78s into this JSP box set that now stands as the definitive account of Jelly Roll's earliest masterworks.
Pick any track from this wonderful 99 track set and let it roll and you'll be amazed at the sound quality. Try Shreveport from 1928 and listen to the astounding clarity of the piano and clarinet and the timbre of the drums, or Deep Creek where every instrument comes popping out of the speakers with such disarming freshness and vitality that it's hard to believe it was made in 1929. There are delicate guitar lines and soft piano moments that I'd never heard in this performance before. I could go on for hours describing the sonic excellence of these transfers but space is short. In the jazz world, it's universally accepted that Morton's brilliant music is the complex and passionate work of a genius who could write and arrange with ease, filling every tune with tonal contrasts and dynamics that demanded the immense talents of only the very best to deliver his conceptions.
How lucky we are to have the means to appreciate Morton's music in all its glory - and you don't even have to pay an arm and a leg for it! Thanks JSP - You've done it again!
Review Date: March 2010