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I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say

9. “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” (recorded Sept. 14, 1939; available on The Best of Jelly Roll Morton, WNTS, 2014)

Morton died aged only 50, in July 1941. An early end wouldn’t have seemed shocking; he lived hard, and was himself hit hard, having been stabbed by the friend of a club owner in 1938 and then, continuing a tragic theme we see throughout the early years of jazz, refused treatment at a white hospital. “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” dates to Morton’s final sessions, at the end of the 1930s, when “early jazz”—that is, the music of only a decade prior—was being viewed as passé, antediluvian. The march of technology had something to do with it, the Depression something else. Jazz, though, was akin to what Merry Olde England represented for Orson Welles with Chimes at Midnight. This nod to Bolden—himself given credit for inventing jazz—is Morton’s Chimes. His piano tolls the bell, but to say it does so for the past would be a mistake, and a most limiting one at that. The music feels outside of the space-time continuum.