Donald Harrison, Jr. (far left) and the New Orleans Music Interns (photo: Joel A. Siegel)
2. “The Finger Breaker” (recorded December 1938; available on Jazz Chronicles Volume III, Mach60, 2014)
“The Finger Breaker” was the performance that hooked me on Morton for life, and I think it was the third or fourth thing of his that I heard. I was a fish who willingly took the hook. Reel me in, son. How can you not love the title, which is such Morton-esque swagger, in that it says, “Good luck trying to play this,” and then you hear him execute one of the most technically demanding compositions in all of jazz. Is he showing off? Sure, but he’s showing off in service to the larger idea of his art, which is eternal and beats all. I’ve always laughed when hearing this piece, but one of those laughs that’s a mixture of “Oh come on, sir!” and gratitude that I have this to listen to.