The best way to acquire Jelly Roll Morton's classic Victor recordings is on a five-CD set put out by Bluebird that includes all of the alternate takes. But listeners who do not care about alternates may find the Morton CDs in the European Classics series to be as satisfying. This particular CD actually starts off with 14 selections that predate the Victors. Several of the early selections (such as the first four numbers, which include cornetist Lee Collins and trombonist Roy Palmer and "Soap Suds") are a bit disappointing due to the low-level recording quality. However, "My Gal" does have some good clarinet work from the underrated Volly DeFaut, there are four superb piano solos (including "The Pearls" and the definitive solo version of "King Porter Stomp"), and blues singer Edmonia Henderson is excellent on "Dead Man Blues" and "Georgia Grind." Despite these highlights, it is the final nine numbers on this disc that are most memorable. Morton is heard with his finest group, a septet with cornetist George Mitchell, trombonist Kid Ory, and clarinetist Omer Simeon. In addition to Morton's piano playing, his arranging is innovative and very inventive for the time; listen to all of the different tone colors and instrumental combinations that he gets from the group on "Black Bottom Stomp." These versions of "The Chant," "Sidewalk Blues," "Dead Man Blues," and "Grandpa's Spells" are quite famous and "Someday Sweetheart" is an early example of jazz (including Omer Simeon, who reluctantly plays bass clarinet) with strings. Classic music.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow
feat: St. Louis Levee Band