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Jelly Roll Morton: The Piano Rolls

4. “Midnight Mama” (created as a piano roll in 1924, realized by Artis Wodehouse on The Piano Rolls, Nonesuch, 1997)

You could write, perhaps not a book, but at least a tidy dissertation on Morton’s piano rolls like “Midnight Mama,” which rinse away some of the dirt (not that jazz dirt is bad) and serve up something befitting the concert hall. His note articulation is to die for, as if it were some precious country—a republic of genius. Morton was akin to a control pitcher painting the black. I love when a passion guy is a finesse guy. We can say the same about Dickens or de Kooning: controlled ardor, focused virtuosity. Don’t be fooled by Morton’s tall talk. He delivers in the details.