When Ragtime Met the Blues
In 1938 the jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton appeared on the US Radio Show, “Believe it or Not”. He was very angry. W. C. Handy, the composer of “The Saint Louis Blues”, had claimed, on an earlier broadcast, that he was the creator of Jazz. Morton responded by claiming that he was the true creator of Jazz music. At the time this was seen as typical bragging by Jelly Roll, but, as the years have gone by, his claim has come to appear very just.
Let us go back to the early years of Jazz music. In the years around 1905 the word “Jazz” in its present sense was not recognised. This was the age of Ragtime and there were “Ragtime” bands, not “Jazz” bands. But two young, very talented, musicians were already working in New Orleans. They were Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton and “Joe “King” Oliver. They both loved the sophisticated ragtime tunes of Scott Joplin, but they also loved the earthier music of the ‘Negro’ “Blues”. As Morton was beginning to earn a living playing piano in Storyville, the “Red Light” district of New Orleans and Joe Oliver was playing his cornet in street parades, in dance halls and bars, they both brought to their music the distinctive African and Caribbean rhythms among which they grew up. Thus “Jazz” evolved from the more restricted patterns of Ragtime to become a looser, freer, more expressive music.
This free talk by Peter Batten will be accompanied by music.
Bookings are closed for this event.