As some of my devoted readers may remember, I was commissioned earlier this year by CBC Radio to compose a suite of music in tribute to the late great Jelly Roll Morton. In particular, the music was intended to celebrate his time spent living and working in Vancouver back in 1919. The music was recorded live at the Patricia Hotel (where Jelly Roll worked) along with a host of other fantastic musicians.
And so, in lieu of a podcast I’m just making the music available for your listening pleasure, just click on the song titles below. Alongside each of the track titles are descriptions to give you a sense of what each song is about. This way, I don’t have to listen to myself speak any more than necessary and you get to bypass at least 10 minutes worth of pregnant pauses as JD attempts to explain the music,… it’s a win-win, believe me.
The band includes: Miles Black (piano), Joe Poole (drums), and Yours Truly (licorice stick)
THE JELLY ROLL SUITE
Part 1: As Luck Would Have It
The title of this piece refers to the story of Jelly Roll losing everything he had while gambling in Seattle and then fortunately receiving an extended engagement offer by the owner of the Patricia Hotel. The piece itself however, depicts the bustling and developing city of Vancouver that Jelly Roll would have witnessed in 1919.
Part 2: Jelly Rolls In
This piece refers to Jelly Roll’s practice of “setting up shop” and checking out the music scene whenever he moved to a new town. Always careful to make sure there weren’t any jazz pianists better than him and always securing his other sources of income as pool shark, gambler, etc…
Part 3: Never Again
“Never Again” incorporates the “Spanish tinge” (a mix of Latin and swing rhythms) which Jelly Roll made popular. The title refers to his long and fiery relationship with Anita Gonzalez. Although Jelly Roll later married another woman, late in his life he attested that Anita was the only woman he ever truly loved.
Part 4: Smoke & Mirrors
This piece alludes to Jelly Roll Morton’s early days working as house-pianist in the high-class brothels of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. “Smoke & Mirrors” tries to capture the seductive, dangerous and mysterious nature of that time and place.
Part 5: Swingin’ At The Patricia
A fast and exciting romp through the blues, the title says it all.