Revisiting Jelly Roll Morton

A piano concert with Dave Burrell exploring the transition from ragtime to contemporary jazz


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Performance
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Ars Nova Workshop, Slought


Mark Christman, Aaron Levy


Richard Groman

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


25% Formal - 75% Informal

  • Jazz

Slought is pleased to announce a live concert by Dave Burrell performing the music of Jelly Roll Morton on an Aeolian Technola Player Piano (1911). This performance will take place on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 from 8-10pm at Slought.

Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton (1890-1941), perhaps the first great jazz composer, is credited as the transitional figure between ragtime and contemporary jazz piano. He spent the early part of the 1900s in New Orleans - as a pianist, pimp, minstrel-show entertainer, comedian and hustler - and, until 1922, in Los Angeles. Morton began recording in Chicago in 1923, then bandleading with his Red Hot Peppers, making some of the classic early jazz recordings for the Gennett and Victor labels. Best known for songs like "King Porter Stomp," "Grandpa's Spells," "Mr. Jelly Roll," "Black Bottom Stomp," "The Chant," "Original Jelly Roll Blues," "Doctor Jazz," "Wild Man Blues," "Don't You Leave Me Here," and "Sweet Substitute," his recordings featured some of best New Orleans musicians including Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dobbs, Johnny St. Cyr and Baby Dobbs. The popularity of big bands, the Depression and the shift to New York as the center of jazz, gradually pushed Morton into obscurity. However in 1938 (and released a decade later) Alan Lomax recorded him in an extensive and colorful series of musical interviews for the Library of Congress. Jelly Roll died just before the Dixieland revival rescued so many of his peers from musical obscurity. He blamed his declining health on a voodoo spell.

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Dave Burrell has established himself as one of the most innovative and original pianists and composers while collaborating with leaders in contemporary jazz. Since graduating from Berklee in the mid-1960's, he has appeared on over 100 recordings which include the critically acclaimed and pivotal collaborations with saxophonists Archie Shepp, Pharaoh Sanders, Marion Brown and David Murray. Among his major works are the groundbreaking jazz opera Windward Passages and Suite for Piano and Violin which he is currently arranging for symphony orchestra.

Burrell has participated on several National Public Radio documentaries including W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices, for which he composed the score. He is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, Meet the Composer, and, among others, the Pew Fellowship in Jazz Composition. The New Yorker exclaimed "Burrell personifies the best of neoclassicism, uncompromising individuality and in-the-moment gusto." His new CD, Expansion, featuring William Parker and Andrew Cyrille will be released Summer 2004.

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