"The Jazz Maker," or the sad story of Jelly "Roll" Morton

Morton mixed ragtime with elements of classical and blues. This prompted him to claim that he had invented jazz...

Jelly Roll Morton and his sad story: biography and facts

Although Jelly Roll Morton - a name few may have heard of, the musician was - and still is - an influential, pioneering figure in jazz. Already in his early childhood, Morton mastered various musical instruments, but he especially excelled at playing the piano. Born in New Orleans in 1890 as Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe (although different sources give his last name in different ways).

He began playing the piano when he was 10 years old. Soon he began to make a living performing in brothels New Orleans. Soon Morton began to travel throughout the South. He also acted in minstrel shows and comedy plays in the United States from 1904 to 1917.

A little background: why Morton is called the "creator of jazz

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton

Morton mixed ragtime with elements of classical and blues. This prompted him to declare that he invented jazz.:

"I was the creator of jazz. It was in 1902 when I conceived the idea. It was my style that grabbed the world by the throat with a strangling grip..."

Red Hot Peppers
Red Hot Peppers

Although these remarks annoyed many, Morton's career continued to flourish in the years that followed. In 1917 he moved to California to play nightclubs. By 1922 Morton left the West Coast for Chicago (via New Orleans). In Chicago, Morton achieved success with a band known as Red Hot Peppers (pictured above). The band recorded several songs between 1926 and 1930, including "Black Bottom Stomp" and "Grandpa's Spell. This eventually led to Morton's widespread fame.

At this time he was at the height of his fame and career. By the early 1930s, however, Morton's fortunes were over. His music, though impressive, was considered obsolete. Morton moved to New York, but his career continued to crumble. The Great Depressionprobably contributed to his failures...

Fatal Incident

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton (center)

Morton moved to Washington, D.C., in the late 1930s. There he found work jazz club manager. Morton continued to perform, and in 1938 that is exactly what he was doing when he was attacked. Although details of the incident are scarce, it is known that Morton was stabbed in the head and chest... Although he survived, the injuries led to chronic respiratory problems. Morton then made the decision to return to Los Angeles. Despite his poor health, he sought to revive his dying career.

Unfortunately, Morton never had a chance to return to form. Shortly after booking a performance in Los Angeles, he was hospitalized. Jelly Roll Morton died 11 days after his hospitalization July 10, 1941. He was only 50 years old.

The Legacy of a Jazz Legend

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton

Despite his New Orleans roots, Morton was buried in East Los Angeles at Calvary Cemetery. Before his death, he was interviewed by the musicologist To Alan Lomaxwho also managed to record the jazz legend playing live at the end of his days...

Although Morton's music became lost over time, it was eventually revived in the 1990s years. Recordings were released, which he recorded with Lomax. In addition, a Broadway play debuted in 1992 "Jelly's Last Jam." about Morton, starring Gregory Hines.

Morton went into obscurity long before his death for a variety of reasons. First, many people considered Morton Too vain.. In addition, he could not receive royalties for his music. The musician himself, however, blamed his downfall on voodoo curseThe same is true of his rivals. He's been gone for almost a century! But he is still considered a jazz legend, even though only a few people know his name...

"Morton took a kind of rough, collective music from New Orleans, then polished it up and created a coherence that had never existed before. He was an extremely bright composer and arranger. He was at the origin of jazz," historian Bruce Boyd Raeburn once said.

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