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October 1997

Jelly Roll Morton
The Piano Rolls
Nonesuch Records

For the first time since their initial appearance in 1923, Jelly Roll Morton's piano rolls can now be heard in a manner far more closely reflective of real performance sound than even the digitally remastered reissues of his best-made Victor phonograph recordings. Using advanced computer technology in conjunction with a nine-foot Disklavier reproducing keyboard, pianist Artis Wodehouse transformed the 12 extant rolls from colorless, mechanical artifacts only superficially suggestive of Morton's performance style into vibrant documents replete with subtle dynamic shadings, discrete accentuations of touch and swinging pulse-shifts heretofore heard only on his recordings. Those familiar with the limitations of piano rolls and their corresponding methods of sound reproduction will be amazed at the new dimensions of expressivity, sensitivity, and sheer swing that Wodehouse's artistry has revealed. Bycomputerized comparisons with the recordings that Morton made of most of the titles, Wodehouse also made corrections in speed not in evidence on the earlier Biograph LP and CD versions. Titles include "Shreveport Stomps," "Stratford Hunch," "Grandpa's Spells," "King Porter Stomp," "Original Jelly Roll Blues," "Mr. Jelly-Lord" and "Dead Man Blues," which is especially noteworthy for the heretofore unheard funereal diminuendo at the close.

Originally published in October 1997
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