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Jelly Roll Morton Complete Library of Congress Recordings

5. “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor” (recorded summer 1938; available on The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax, Rounder, 2005)

Back to Morton with Lomax, for the 17-plus-minute “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor,” one of our finest blues performances, and a feat of storytelling. More on that idea anon. The song originated in the decades before Morton himself entered this world; he would have known many versions of it, but there is none like his. Sometimes he talks to us, sometimes he sings, and sometimes there is no difference. Morton is never discussed as a vocalist, but he is a jazz singer with whom you must spend time. I’ll go so far as to say that he sings as well as he does anything else. Not hard to picture Lomax transfixed, thinking to himself, “Am I really here? What a job I have.”