The Jazz Estate - Born this month in 1890, Jelly Roll Morton was not only an exceptional pianist, he
Born this month in 1890, Jelly Roll Morton was not only an exceptional pianist, he was also regarded as the first true jazz composer. He was the first to write down his jazz arrangements. His composition "Jelly Roll Blues" was one of the first published jazz compositions in 1915.Reputed for his arrogance and self-promotion as often as recognized in his day for his musical talents, Morton also claimed to have invented jazz outright in 1902.In an interview from 1938, Morton claims that he “created jazz in 1902, not W.C. Handy. I still claim that jazz hasn’t gotten to its peak as yet. I may be the only perfect specimen today in jazz that’s living. I guess I am 100 years ahead of my time. Jazz is a style, not a type of composition.”This claim was strongly criticized. Music critic Scott Yanow wrote, "Jelly Roll Morton did himself a lot of harm posthumously by exaggerating his worth. Morton's accomplishments as an early innovator are so vast that he did not really need to stretch the truth."Morton was clearly one of the great innovators of early jazz, whose method of improvisation within rehearsed group arrangements became the established approach to jazz. He left behind many original compositions as well a legacy of creative genius that influenced many later jazz players and band leaders.
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