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JELLY ROLL MORTON'S
PRE-VICTOR BAND RECORDS

A Comparative Discography Model


Compiled and annotated by Allan Sutton

   


Author's collection


Classical jazz discography is in a state of transition. Increasingly, collectors and researchers are repeating the very basic question posed by Tim Brooks in the ARSC Journal several years ago: "Who says?"  Or — to paraphrase a famous Watergate-era query, "What do you know, and how do you know it?" The comparative discography that follows is a preliminary step in determining the sources and credibility or lack thereof of data cited in various jazz discographies, using the early Morton band recordings as an example.

Jazz fans who have never inspected 1920s recording files may be surprised to learn that the personnel listed in jazz discographies are largely conjectural, although often not disclosed as such. Recording companies in the 1920s rarely documented band personnel, other than the occasional studio musicians or outside "extras" who were paid to supplement a group, and who were listed in the files only for accounting purposes. To compound the problem, the recording files for several of the most interesting companies, including those for most Okeh recordings made prior to the Columbia takeover, Paramount, and Marsh Laboratories (Autograph) are long-lost.

Thus, much of what has been published in the way of classical jazz discography has necessarily been arrived at by less-than-reliable means, including vague anecdotal reports, the sometimes-hazy recollections of aged musicians, often-flimsy circumstantial evidence, outright guesses (some "educated," some abysmally ignorant), and wishful thinking. None of this would pose a particularly serious problem were jazz discographers to honestly disclose the sources of their "data" — good, bad, or indifferent — but such is rarely the case. In some instances, one has to wonder if various writers were even listening to the same record note, for example, the discrepancies in the instrumentation cited for the 1923 and 1926 Okeh sessions.

In the personnel listings that follow, the righthand column indicates the published source of information; the abbreviation "n/s" indicates that the author of the listed work did not cite his source for the information. The major discographies cited are Laurie Wright's Mr. Jelly Lord (Stoyville) [MJL]; various editions of Brian Rust's Jazz Records, 1892-1942 [JR]; and the anonymous article "Jelly Roll Morton Disc Recordings" in the Doctor Jazz [DJ] online edition. The Morton personnel listings in Tom Lords' Jazz Discography were taken verbatim from later editions of Rust's Jazz Records; therefore, that work is not cited here. Very early seminal works, such as the Delauney discography, are not sufficiently reliable to merit inclusion.

Only 1920s issues are listed here; the numerous later dubbed reissues are not.



JELLY ROLL MARTON [sic] AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Chicago: June, 1923

Note: DJ speculates that Morton named "Big Fat Ham" for comedian Ham Tree Harrington (a Broadway stage comedian who imitated Bert Williams). This seems unlikely given Harrington's diminutive stature, as evidenced in photographs of the performer and the recollections of Perry Bradford, unless the title was meant ironically.
    


1434-1
1434-2

Big Fat Ham (Morton)
   Paramount 12050
   Paramount 12050

Note: Pressings of take 1 exist in both black- and red-shellac pressings. The record was advertised as "Big Foot Ham" in the Chicago Defender, and some reissues have used that title, but no original pressings are known to be thus labeled.
     


1435-1


1435-2
"
"
"
"
"
"

Muddy Water Blues
   Paramount unissued?
Note: Rumored on Paramount 12050, but no copies have been reliably reported

   Paramount 12050
   Paramount 20251 (most issues labeled “Muddy River Blues”)
   Claxtonola 40251
   Famous 3245
   Harmograph 834
   National 12251
   Puritan 11251
   


Cornet:
No consensus  
  Tommy Ladnier Morton statement to Alan Lomax; Wright MJL, from same
  Unknown Rust JR-2
  Natty Dominique Morton statement to Alan Lomax; widely repeated in various early discographies (n/s), and in many narrative and critical works, including Schuller's Early Jazz.
  Possibly Bernie Young Rust JR-4 (n/s)
  Possibly Tommy Ladnier or Bernie Young Rust JR-6 (n/s)
  Possibly Tommy Ladnier or
Freddie Keppard
DJ (source is the opinion of two modern musicians)
     
Trombone: Roy Palmer (consensus) Morton statement to Alan Lomax
  Unknown Rust JR-4 only (all other JR editions credit Palmer)
     
Clarinet: Wilson Townes (consensus) Morton statement to Alan Lomax. Note that Morton did not state Townes' first name; Wilson is an inferrence by various discographers, at least one of whom apparently incorrectly inferred the first name of clarinetist Harris based on the same Morton statement.)
     
Alto sax: Probably Charles Harris (consensus) Wright MJL (from circumstantial evidence; subsequently repeated in later editions of Rust JR and derivative works, but not qualified there as "probable")
  Arville Harris Rust JR-2 (n/s)
  Harris Morton statement to Alan Lomax (first name not given)
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) All sources
     
Percussion: Jasper Taylor (consensus) Wright MJL, Rust JR (both n/s), listed as woodblocks
  "Brown" Morton statement to Alan Lomax. Morton described Brown as "a crazy guy from New Orleans" and stated that Brown played washboard (not woodblocks) on the recordings.

   
JELLY ROLL MORTON’S JAZZ BAND

Chicago: Late 1923 (Wright MJL, based on a Phonograph and Talking Machine Weekly report for November 7, 1923, which mentions that Morton’s Okeh records “will be out soon.”)

Chicago: October 1923 (Rust JR-2) (n/s)

Chicago: c. October 30, 1923 (Rust JR, later editions) (n/s)

Note: Although all sources agree on the following personnel, none identifies the source of this information. Wright (MJL) goes so far as to to state that this is a "confirmed" Roberston session, but cites no source in support of that claim. Wright also states that Okeh mxs. 8497 and 8500 are untraced and may be “other unissued titles from this session.” In fact, mx. 8500 is a novelty piano solo by Axel Christensen, while mx. 8497 remains untraced but may belong to a session by Greek tenor Haris Patrinos.
 


8498-A


8499-A

Someday, Sweetheart (Spikes-Spikes)
   Okeh 8105

London Blues (Morton)
   Okeh 8105
     


Trumpet:

Natty Dominique (consensus)
All sources (n/s)
     
Trombone: Zue Robertson (consensus) All sources (n/s)
     
Clarinet: Horace Eubanks (consensus) All sources (n/s)
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) All sources
     
Percussion: Possibly/probably W. E. "Buddy" Burton (consensus)
   
All sources (n/s)

   
JELLY ROLL MORTON'S STEAMBOAT FOUR


Chicago (probably Rodeheaver Laboratories): c. April 1924

Note: These recordings have been ascribed in various works to the Marsh Laboratories (makers of Autograph records). However, Marsh was recording electrically by this time, and these are acoustic recordings. The matrix numbers belong to a series normally used by the Rodeheaver Laboratories, to which Paramount sometimes contracted sessions.
 

8065
"
"
"
"
"
8065-2
"

Mr. Jelly Lord (Morton)
   Broadway 11397
   Carnival 11397
   Mitchell 11397
   Puretone 11397
   Triangle 11397
   Paramount 20332
   Puritan 11332

Note: All known copies of the above, except Paramount 20332, are mislabeled "Mr. Jelly Roll."


   
Kazoo: Jack Russell (consensus) Burton letter to Rust; Senter letter to Rust; Rust (JR-6, n/s)
  W. E. "Buddy" Burton Burton letter to Rust
  Jack Russell Senter letter to Rust
  Boyd Senter Senter letter to Rust
  Russell Senter Senter letter to Rust
     
Comb: "Memphis" (consensus) Burton letter to Rust; Rust JR-6 (n/s)
  "Baldy" Senter letter to Rust
  Jack Russell Senter letter to Rust
     
Clarinet: Boyd Senter (consensus) Senter letter to Rust; Rust JR-6 (n/s)
  "Baldy" Letter from Burton to Rust
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) Rust JR-6
   
Note: Senter also recalled playing "harp-banjo" on these sessions. While no banjo is audible on the above two sides, this provides a possible clue to the unknown banjo player on this group's next session.
    

   
JELLY ROLL MORTON'S STEAMBOAT FOUR


Chicago (probably Rodeheaver Laboratories): c. April 1924

This may date to the same session as the above, but Morton's involvement, if any, has long been a subject of debate, given the lack of an audible piano. Some collectors have speculated that Morton is the banjoist. Although Morton could play the banjo (if not very well, as evidenced on his Library of Congress recording of "Li'l Liza Jane"), there is no convincing evidence that he did so on this recording, which is in the style of the Mound City Blue Blowers and other white novelty groups.
   

8066 (-1)
"
"
"
"
"
8066-2
"

Steady Roll (Stitzel)
   Paramount 20332
   Broadway 11397 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Jazz Kids)
   Carnival 11397 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Jazz Kids)
   Mitchell 11397 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Jazz Kids)
   Puretone 11397 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Jazz Kids)
   Triangle 11397 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Jazz Kids)
   Paramount 20332
   Puritan 11332 (as Jelly Roll Morton's Stomps [sic] Kings)

Note: Mxs. 8066 (no take shown) and 8066-1 are identical. DJ inexplicably lists only the Carnival and Paramount issues of this recording.


   
Kazoos: Jack Russell (consensus) Burton letter to Rust; Senter letter to Rust; Rust (JR-6, n/s)
  W. E. "Buddy" Burton Burton letter to Rust
  Boyd Senter Senter letter to Rust
  Russell Senter (consensus) Senter letter to Rust; Wright (MJL)
     
Comb: "Memphis" (consensus) Burton letter to Rust; Rust JR-6 (n/s)
  "Baldy" Senter letter to Rust
  Jack Russell Senter letter to Rust
     
Banjo: Boyd Senter (consensus) Senter letter to Rust
 

  
JELLY ROLL MORTON’S KINGS OF JAZZ

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. September 1924

Note: The following personnel was recalled by Lee Collins, and has been accepted by various discographers, appearing verbatim in all published discographies, with the exception of DJ's claim of a possible second cornetist on "Weary Blues." Intervening mx. 637 is a talk on traffic safety, not a Morton item.

 
635 Fish Tail Blues
   Autograph 606
 
636 High Society (Steele)
   Autograph 606
 
638 Weary Blues
   Autograph 607
   
639 Tiger Rag (La Rocca)
   Autograph 607
   

   
Cornet: Lee Collins (consensus)
Collins; Wright MJL (source cited); Rust JR (source not cited)
     
2nd Cornet: Unknown ("Weary Blues" only) DJ, which is the only work to cite a second cornet (based on the claim of a modern Swedish musician)
     
Trombone: Roy Palmer (consensus) Collins; Wright MJL (source cited); Rust JR (source not cited)
     
Clarinet: "Balls" Ball (consensus) Collins; Wright MJL (source cited); Rust JR (source not cited)
     
Alto sax: Alex Poole (consensus) Collins; Wright MJL (source cited); Rust JR (source not cited)
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) Collins; Wright MJL (source cited); Rust JR (source not cited)
     

   
JELLY ROLL MORTON AND HIS JAZZ TRIO / VOLTAIRE DE FAUT

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. May 1925
     


791

792

My Gal (Melrose) — Jelly Roll Morton and his Jazz Trio
   Autograph 623

Wolverine Blues (Morton) — Voltaire De Faut, Piano accompaniment by Jelly Roll Morton
   Autograph 623
     


   
Clarinet: Voltaire (Volly) De Faut (consensus) All sources
     
Kazoo (792): W. E. "Buddy" Burton (consensus) All sources
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton All sources
   

   
JELLY ROLL MORTON’S INCOMPARABLES

Richmond, Indiana: February 23, 1926  (Rust JR, all editions)
Richmond, Indiana: February 24, 1926  (Wright MJL, from re-inspection of the Gennett files)

Note: Wright (MJL) states that this is the band in which Morton toured the South in early 1926, based on a statement made by Ray Bowling in The Chicago Defender of March 27, 1926. Discographies list Bowling as playing trumpet, but the Defender articles states he plays cornet with this band. The Gennett recording sheet for this matrix exists at Rutgers but does not identify any personnel.
   


   
1st trumpet
or cornet:
Ray Bowling (consensus) Rust JR (all editions, n/s); Wright MJL (from Chicago Defender story, which states Bowling plays cornet)
     
2nd trumpet
or cornet:
Unknown (consensus)
Possibly Punch Miller
Wright MJL
Rust JR-2 (n/s)
  Possibly S. Jones Rust JR-2 (n/s)
     
Trombone: Unknown (consensus) Rust JR (all editions); Wright MJL
     
Alto sax: Unknown (consensus) Rust JR (all editions); Wright MJL
  Possibly Walter Barnes DJ (n/s)
     
Tenor sax: Unknown (consensus) Rust JR (all editions); Wright MJL
     
Piano (1): Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) All sources
     
Piano (2): None present (consensus) Wright MJL; Rust (later editions)
  Possibly Charlie Newman Rust JR-2 (n/s); second piano deleted in later editions
     
Banjo: None present (consensus) Wright and all other except Rust.
  Present but unknown Rust JR (all editions)
     
Brass bass: None present (consensus) Wright and all others, except early editions of Rust JR.
  Present but unknown Rust JR-2; deleted in later editions
     
Percussion: Clay Jefferson (consensus) Rust JR (all editions, n/s); Wright MJL (n/s)

ST. LOUIS LEVEE BAND

St. Louis: May 12, 1926 (consensus; confirmed from the Okeh files)

The recording sheet for this session exists at Sony-BMG, but does not identify Morton or any other personnel.

     
9661-A Soap Suds (Martin)  
     Okeh 8404
  
 

   
Cornet: Unknown (consensus) All sources
  Bob Shoffner Early discographies; denied by Shoffner
     
Trombone: Unknown (consensus) All sources except Rust JR-4
  Possibly Bill Matthews Rust JR-4 only (from an opinion published in Storyville magazine, which in turn was based on an undocumented statement in Samuel Charter's Jazz New Orleans). Does not appear in prior or subsequent editions of JR.
     
Clarinet: Unknown (consensus) All sources except DJ
  Possibly Walter Barnes DJ (n/s)
     
Alto sax: Unknown (consensus) All sources
     
Tenor sax: Unknown (consensus) All sources except DJ
  Possibly Walter Barnes DJ (n/s)
     
Piano: Jelly Roll Morton (consensus) All sources
     
Banjo: None present (consensus) All sources except Rust JR-4
  Possibly Frank Pasley Rust JR-4. Does not appear in prior or subsequent editions of JR.
     
Percussion: Unknown (consensus) All sources except as shown below
  Harry Dial Rust JR-4 and various early discographies. Denied by Dial, and does not appear in prior or subsequent editions of JR.

Document History: Initial posting 3/31/2009.
    

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