Jelly Roll Morton, Chicago, c. 1924.
Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.
Born October 20, 1890, in New Orleans, LA
Died July 10, 1941, in Los Angeles, CA
“It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of jazz,” Jelly Roll Morton once said, “and I, myself, happened to be [its] creator in the year 1902.” Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe didn’t create jazz – no single person did -- but he was a master of piano ragtime, the first important jazz composer, the first to demonstrate that New Orleans music could be formally arranged, and the first to break down the elements of the music so that musicians beyond the city of his birth could learn it.
Best known for the recordings he made with his Red Hot Peppers between 1926 and 1928, he was one of the most creative – and colorful – artists in jazz history. His admonitions remain as valid today as when they were first set forth: “A lot of people have the wrong conception of jazz,” he said. “Jazz music is to be played sweet. Soft, plenty rhythm. When you have your plenty rhythm with your plenty swing it becomes beautiful.”
Listen to more music at Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio: www.jazzatlincolncenter.org/jazzcast/program.asp?programNumber=76