Monday Notes

Jelly Roll Morton, Hyena Stomp. Laughter is contagious

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[Monday’s Note No. 3] Jelly Roll Morton boasted that he had invented jazz, he had a diamond in his tooth, and he often used to exhibit his gun to persuade his musicians to play his way. Eccentric and over-the-top, the character long overshadowed the musician. Let’s listen to his curious composition Hyena Stomp.

However, Jelly Roll Morton was a meticulous and imaginative musician, a virtuoso pianist and one of the first authentic jazz composers. In his pieces, improvisation is combined with a great sense of form, and elaborate and refined arrangements.

In Hyena Stomp we can appreciate different timbral textures, with numerous breaks in which the ensemble responds to the solo instrument. The piece is indebted to Vaudeville shows, in which music was part of funny sketches.

Here, then, is the theme of laughter, which was usually interpreted by wind instruments and is here instead realised by Jelly Roll Morton himself, with his voice. In addition to the irresistible humour, notice the sharp swing of this laughter, which emphasises the most important element of jazz: rhythm.

Until next Monday!

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