THE ICON: Jelly Roll Morton
THE LEGACY: Before Al and Pete, even before Satchmo and Sidney, there was Ferdinand Joseph LaMenthe. That’s what his mother named him anyway. For jazz fans, he was better known as Jelly Roll Morton, and while we’ll let scholars debate whether or not he was the father of jazz, as he once claimed to be, there’s little doubt that he had a hand in its early development and eventual popularization. Passing a bluesy brush over ragtime traditions, with a little Afro-Caribbean influence adding some zest, he is recognized as one of the jazz world’s first and most influential composers, and — with his band, the Red Hot Peppers — helped fan the flames of New Orleans’s most celebrated art form while it was still in its infancy.
THE ARTIST: Jeff Morgan, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “All we had in a band, as a rule, was bass horn, trombone, trumpet, an alto horn and maybe a baritone horn, bass, and snare drum — just seven pieces, but, talking about noise, you never heard a 60-piece band make as much noise as we did.” — Jelly Roll Morton, talking in 1938 to folklorist Alan Lomax