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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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1. Big Foot Ham- 1
2. Big Foot Ham- 2
3. Muddy Water Blues
4. Someday, Sweetheart
5. London Blues
6. Mr. Jelly Roll
7. Mr. Jelly Lord
8. Fishtail Blues
9. High Society
10. Weary Blues
11. Tiger Rag
12. King Porter
13. Tom Cat
14. My Gal
15. Wolverine Blues
16. Mr. Jelly Lord
17. Soap Suds
18. Dead Man Blues (Edmonia Henderson - vocal)
19. Georgia Grind (Edmonia Henderson - vocal)
20. I Hate A Man Like You (Lizzie Miles - vocal)
21. Don't Tell Me Nothin' 'Bout My Man (Lizzie Miles - vocal)
22. When They Get Lovin' They's Gone- 1 (Billie Young - vocal)
23. When They Get Lovin' They's Gone- 2 (Billie Young - vocal)
24. You Done Played Out Blues- 1 (Billie Young - vocal)
25. You Done Played Out Blues- 2 (Billie Young - vocal)
26. Soap Suds

Jelly Roll Morton and bands and singers
rec. 1923-30 [78:10]


When Jazz Oracle says `rarities' that's exactly what it means. True, the Morton/Oliver duets are hardly super rarities, but it's surprising how few good transfers we've had of their two records, soon to be eclipsed by the pyrotechnical dalliances of Armstrong and Hines later in the decade. The discs span the years 1923 to 1930. There are rare band sides and blues accompaniments. Not all are masterpieces - in fact hardly any are. But they are vital in assessing the totality of Morton's musical directions throughout the decade, and valuable for introducing us to some of the company he kept, in the studio at least, when not with the Red Hot Peppers or with some of the better known bands he led later.

His band conception was always strictly pianistic, dependent on strains, counter-themes and the like, and his bands were closely rehearsed even when they weren't terribly good. Perhaps more especially then, of course. There are two takes of Big Foot Ham, with Tommy Ladnier on cornet and Jasper Taylor's woodblocks very near the (acoustic) recording horn. Charles Harris proves a competent alto sax player. Jelly goads Ladnier into some rich toned across the beat blues phrasing on Muddy Water Blues. In Chicago in the same year he recorded with cornettist Natty Dominique, whose nanny goat vibrato is a distinguishing feature, trombonist Zue Robertson, clarinettist Horace Eubanks and drummer Buddy Burton. Their Okeh recordings were far better record than the more primitive Paramounts and it's interesting to hear Eubanks's rather `two voiced' clarinet playing.

His Steamboat Four (Chicago, 1924) was a hokey crew - combs and kazoos - but the Kings of Jazz, with cornet player Lee Collins, are the real deal, or should have been. Alas, clarinettist `Balls' Ball - let's not go there - adds to the clipped, military beat and the retrogressive shenanigans aren't even relieved by Collins's `talking' cornet on Tiger Rag, a gag he got from King Oliver (unsuccessfully).

The two Oliver/Morton sides are heard in the best sound they've received. You can even hear some talking before King Porter starts. Reide Kaiser speculates in his brilliant notes - fantastic design, full colour label reproductions, extensive research, super job - that this could be one of the two men. True, but I suppose it could also be one of the studio engineers telling them to get ready? In any case Tom Cat is by some distance the better performance. Morton recorded with clarinettist Volly de Faut in 1925. De Faut was a funny bloke; gas pipe vaudeville one moment, eloquent ideas the next. Morton's `Incomparables' were so incomparable that no one knows who they were. Their Richmond, Indiana 1926 side isn't awfully good.

We hear Soap Suds, played by the St Louis Levee Band in two transfers, pitched in different keys, for those who believe it was played in A flat and those who think, on the contrary, it was in G. I say A flat. Then there are Jelly's Blues accompaniments. Let's pass over the slap tonguing sax player, happily anonymous, on Edmonia Henderson's Georgia Grind and concentrate instead on the quasi-classical licks Jelly brings to I Hate A Man Like You, sung by Lizzie Miles. This is all round excellent from both singer and pianist. Which can't be said of Miss Billie Young, alas, whose bizarre strangulated yodel informs her two songs, preserved in two takes each. So we get four doses of mad yodel, a Florence Foster Jenkins Blues cadenza from Young (who worked in Morton's office), and even a dose of Boogie from Morton. Amazingly Victor issued these two sides.

Well, let's not end on a note of bathos. Yes, this is a specialist release. It reminds me of the old Milestone gatefold twofer LP devoted to Morton rarities. Both contain obscure examples of Morton's work in the Chicago, St Louis, New York and Richmond studios. Let's add though that restoration for this CD is exceptionally fine, documentation outstanding, the discography is bang up to date, the reproduction first class. This is, indeed, a really class act of a CD, so much so that I've checked out Jazz Oracle's catalogue and let me tell you, it looks eye-wateringly good.

Jonathan Woolf

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