Building Rhythm Together for Christ's Love

August 31, 2019

Thinking About Jazz   1-3pm

(free event: light lunch served,

door prizes, great discussion)

Jelly Roll Morton:

Jazz's First Arranger

Born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe on October 20, 1890 and known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, he was a pioneering American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer who started his life and career in New Orleans.  Emerging from an insular Creole community he showed exceptional musical talent from an early age.  By age 14 he was playing piano in a brothel, often singing smutty lyrics which is the source of his preferred nickname.  When his devout grandmother with whom he lived found out he was not really a night watchman at a barrel factory she evicted and disowned him.  Changing his name to Morton, he spared his family any further disgrace.

Widely recognized as a pivotal figure in early jazz, Morton was jazz's first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential spirit and characteristics when notated.  His composition "Jelly Roll Blues" (1915) was the first published jazz composition. Morton also wrote the standards "King Porter Stomp", "Wolverine Blues", "Black Bottom Stomp", and "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say," the last a tribute to New Orleans musicians from the turn of the 20th century.  Morton's claim to have invented jazz in 1902 aroused resentment but jazz historians say of Morton's "hyperbolic assertions" that there is "no proof to the contrary" and that Morton's "considerable accomplishments in themselves provide reasonable substantiation."  Alan Lomax, who recorded extensive biographical interviews of Morton at the Library of Congress in 1938, defended Morton against charges of extreme egotism.  He pointed to Morton’s own writing in which he expressed a sense of inferiority, deferring to superior technique of fellow musicians.  By slowing tempo he developed a flexible style that made room for more notes and other accents that distinguished his style.  Morton had moved to D.C. in 1935 and worked at the “Music Box” in Shaw as manager, piano player, MC, bouncer and bartender.  In 1938, he was stabbed by a friend of the owner and suffered wounds to head and chest.  He suffered respiratory problems thereafter and died of that ailment on July 10, 1941.  Because of his arrogance and alienating persona, no colleagues or admirers attended his funeral.  Yet, his legacy is unmistakable with extensive compositions and an impressive body of work.  Rob Bamberger joins us to provide an engaging presentation.


Other 2019 TAJ Events

February 23th
Jamil Nasser:  Upright Bass

April 27th
Billy Eckstine:  Mr. B

 June 29th
Lee Morgan:  I Called Him Morgan

August 31st
Jelly Roll Morton:  Jazz’s First Arranger

October 26th
Oscar Peterson:  The Will to Swing

December 4th

Mary Lou Williams:  1st Lady of Jazz Keyboard

Thinking About Jazz is a public service brought to you by Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation (SRDC)--a cultural ministry arm of Westminster DC. 

This free educational experience happens every other month from 1-3pm  on the 4th Saturday (except December).  Each one focuses on a different giant or genre of jazz and features vintage video footage and select audio recordings delivered by experts in the subject matter.

The material along with Q & A allows participants to go deeper into the history, stories and power of the art form and those who have created it.

Light refreshments are served and door prizes are given.

  • Rev. Brian Hamilton, President
  • Lloyd Jordan, Chair
  • Dick Smith, Jazz Night Program Director

Marilyn Abraham, James Besley, Yolanda R. Coleman, Vyllorya Evans, Gwen Fleming, Wilma Goldstein, Sue K. Gresham, Blanche Hamilton, Alicia Hetzner, Donald Roe, Tangela Roe, Brenda Wilder, Von Deleah Williams
The Thinking About Jazz Committee
holds a planning meeting the last Saturday of January, March, May, July, Sept, Nov, 10am to noon at Westminster.  You are invited to join this committee!  Check the calendar for the next meeting.  You will enjoy your welcome to the committee and the opportunity to be part of planning another great Thinking About Jazz event.