Morton, Jelly Roll, 1890–1941, American jazz musician, composer, and band leader, originally named Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe, b. Gulfport, La. He began studying piano as a child and in his youth was a pianist in the colorful Storyville district of New Orleans. Later he played with Johnny Dodds, Baby Dodds, Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, and other noted jazz musicians, and in the late 1920s made a series of highly praised recordings at the head of the Red Hot Peppers band. His popularity severely declined in the 1930s. Although Morton is regarded by many as the greatest New Orleans pianist and the first great jazz composer, his egocentricity, moodiness, and quarrelsome disposition led many musicians and critics to disparage him. His compositions and arrangements, many of which reflect his Creole background, include Dead Man Blues,Jelly Roll Blues,King Porter Stomp,Black Bottom Stomp,Mama Nita,Mamie's Blues (or 219 Blues), Moi pas l'aimez ça,The Pearls,Sidewalk Blues, and Wolverine Blues. The publication of his collected scores in 1982 helped to spark a Morton revival in the United States.
See biography by A. Lomax (1950).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.