Pa Per

1670 words - 7 pages

The music of jazz became an important aspect of American culture in the early 20th century. The crisp syncopation of ragtime and the smooth tunes of the blues seeped into American mainstream music through dance halls and saloons and later through ballrooms. Instruments like the piano, trumpet, trombone and clarinet became important and symbolized the “swing-feel” of jazz because of their capability to syncopate and improvise precisely. With the help of the booming recording industry, musical geniuses were discovered and their talent and contributions to the emergence of jazz spread throughout the entire country. Such musicians include composer, arranger and pianist Jelly Roll Morton who heavily influenced the development of early jazz by his unique piano style, his “invention” of musical notation for jazz, and his compositions that have become the core in the jazz repertory. Because the style was new and different and so successful in drawing in large audiences, musicians around the world tried to mimic it. Furthermore, Morton’s masterpieces were the first to show notation for complicated jazz music and thus, formed the basis for standard notation in jazz compositions today.
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, more commonly known as Jelly Roll Morton, was born to a creole family in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Morton lived with several family members in different areas of New Orleans, exposing him to different musical worlds including European and classical music, dance music, and the blues (Gushee, 394). Morton tried to play several different instruments including the guitar; however, unsatisfied with the teachers’ lack of training, he decided to teach himself how to play instruments without formal training (Lomax, 8). Thus, at the age of ten, Morton began playing the piano receiving little training, but showing early talent. Unfortunately, he began his career in the infamous town of Storyville where he played “ragtime, French quadrilles, and other popular dances and songs” in saloons (“Jelly Roll Morton”). He would play well into the night trying to earn whatever he could and even strived to learn as much as he could about show business and the music industry during his time in the saloons. When his grandmother discovered that Morton was a musician making money from tips in saloons, she kicked him out of her house saying that he was a disgrace to the family and the family’s name (Lomax, 26). This closed the door to one chapter of Morton’s life, but opened yet another exciting new chapter.
After a few years of wandering around, Morton finally secured a job that would help spread his fame around the entire city of New Orleans. Morton would play the piano in Hilma Burt’s mansion which was one of the “highest class mansions” in the Red Light District where music flourished and the prostitution business thrived (Lomax, 46). The mansion served rich, white people who would leave large tips for Morton who easily made over a hundred dollars a...

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