The jazz pianist and composer Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe "Jelly Roll" Morton, born Gulfport, La., Sept. 20, 1885, died July 10, 1941, was one of the first great New Orleans jazz artists and orchestrators and perhaps the first jazz theorist. Morton learned his art as a RAGTIME pianist in New Orleans bordellos and then played in other cities as a part-time musician; he was also a pool shark, vaudeville comic, and nightclub owner. His most memorable recordings were made in the 1920s: a number of piano pieces recorded in 1923-24, and a series of instrumentals (1926-30) made with his group, The Red Hot Peppers.

Morton was proud to the point of arrogance both of his talents and of his Creole heritage, which separated him, he felt, from his black jazz colleagues. His claim to have invented JAZZ is treated seriously by many musicologists. Ther ecordings Morton made (1938) for the Library of Congress are an invaluable contribution to the history of jazz.


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