Jelly Roll Morton

While New Orleans works to rebuild itself, one of its most legendary sons — Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, who was among the primary architects of the city's vibrant musical culture — has been resurrected via this astonishing seven-disc, 128-track box set. It's a fully restored, remastered, and complete version of his famed 1938 recording/interview sessions with music preservationist Alan Lomax, and the set's added clarity means you'll get a richer sense of Morton's jubilant piano-playing and compositional gifts, especially on such touchstone numbers as "King Porter Stomp" and "Wolverine Blues." But it's the interview's narratives that command the most attention. Recollections of a youth spent hustling pool along the Gulf Coast give way to colorful sketches of Mardi Gras parades and the Storyville denizens that inspired "New Orleans Blues" and "Mister Jelly Lord." Morton's folksy-yet-professorial illustrations of jazz tenets and regional influences will remind attentive listeners of "Kansas City Stomp" and "La Paloma." The CDs provide one of the most vital and engaging histories of jazz ever recorded — celebrating the legacy of a pioneering artist and his cherished city, neither of which could ever be extinguished.

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Michael Alan Goldberg