Bob Greene - piano; Herb Hall - clarinet; Ephie Resnick - trombone; Ernie Carson - cornet; Danny Barker - banjo; Milt Hinton - bass; Tommy Benford - drums
One of the world's foremost authorities on the music of Jelly Roll Morton, New York pianist Bob Greene was 51 years old at the time of this performance at Philharmonic Hall as part of the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in New York. He opens this all-Jelly Roll Morton program with a lovely solo piano rendition of "Alabama Bound," written by Morton when he was a young man in New Orleans at the turn of the century, though he didn't record it until 1939 (under the new title "Don't You Leave Me Here").
The full band resurrects "Mr. Jelly Lord" a tune first recorded in 1923 by Morton and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and later covered by Morton's Red Hot Peppers. Ernie Carson's bright-sounding cornet is prominently featured here on top of Greene's pounding piano accompaniment. Milt Hinton delivers some wonderful slap bass lines in the spirit of New Orleans pioneer Pops Foster and New Orleans legend Danny Barker (who played with Morton in 1930 and was a member of the Cab Calloway Or-chestra through the 1930s) follows with a stellar single note guitar solo. Clarinetist Herb Hall and trombonist Ephie Resnick also contribute potent solos while Greene is high-lighted dancing on the ivories throughout this Morton classic.
"Someday Sweetheart" is a sweet melody that Morton claimed he wrote, though he never copyrighted the tune and thus never got any royalties (which contributed to the fact that he died broke). Trombonist Resnick carries the familiar melody (covered by everyone from Woody Herman to Bing Crosby and Chet Atkins) from the outset before passing it on to clarinetist Hall and subsequently cornetist Carson. The band drops out at one point allowing Greene to stretch out on some authentic stride playing on this juicy nugget, which Morton recorded in 1923.
Next is a faithful recreation of "Sidewalk Blues," which Morton recorded in Chicago with his Red Hot Peppers in 1926 when Al Capone's criminal reign was at its ascen-dancy in the Windy City. Carson's bold cornet lines figure prominently on this swag-gering Prohibition era number. They tackle Morton's "Smokehouse Blues" with bluesy authority, with Resnick turning in a lazy trombone solo that beautifully fits the mood of this laid back piece. Clarinetist Hall also contributes a frisky, blues-drenched solo here while Greene stretches out on a cascading ragtime-informed piano solo. Shifting moods, they next jump into the effervescent "Steamboat Stomp," a 1927 Morton two-beat toe-tapper that celebrates life on the great Mississippi River in his native New Orleans. Hin-ton's driving slap bass lines fuel this upbeat number while cornetist Carson, trombonist Resnick and clarinetist Hall make potent stellar contributions. Greene and his stellar crew close out their 4th of July set with "Winin' Boy Blues," one of Morton's earliest pieces that he wrote in New Orleans and one of the last the he recorded in 1940. As Greene says of this bluesy lament, "It's nostalgic, it's full of memories and it's bitter-sweet, but so was his life." Resnick, Carson, Hall and Barker testify individually on this mournful Morton classic. And Greene turns in another typically eloquent piano solo that beautifully reflects the ragtime tradition while being indelibly tied to the blues.
An early New Orleans jazz scholar, Greene has carried on the legacy of Jelly Roll Mor-ton for decades after Morton's dead in 1941, providing seminars and musical programs showcasing the talents of his musical mentor. In the early part of his career, Greene worked closely with clarinetist Bobby Gordon. The two New Orleans jazz practitioners were reunited over 40 years later in 2007 as part of the NAMM Oral History collection. Greene recorded for the Blue Note label in 1951 and later made some influential albums in the mid '60s with the St. Peter Street Strutters, one of which was recorded live at Preservation Hall in New Orleans' French Quarter. Though he rarely performs anymore at age 90, Greene still writes about the music he has loved all his life. (Bill Milkowski)