Jelly Roll Morton The Complete Library of Congress Recordings

As the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz, Jelly Roll Morton remains one of larger-than-life figures in American culture. The New Orleans piano master exemplified everything that made the city unique, from his mixed blood to his second career as a pimp in the French Quarter. By 1938, Morton’s legend was already secure as the first musician to transcribe and compose jazz pieces. It was then that the young folklorist Alan Lomax coaxed Morton to record his story for the Library of Congress, and this gorgeous eight-disc set marks the first time that the full session has been released together. In essence, it is probably as rich an oral history of the origins of jazz as there ever has been, given that Morton’s lucid, and highly engaging stories provide links to his surprisingly hefty catalogue of songs, among them "Wolverine Blues,” "Kansas City Stomp” and "Darktown Strutter’s Ball.” Enough can’t be said about the restoration process on all of this material, much of which has never been heard since the original acetates were made. A piano-shaped package with Robert Crumb artwork, as well as Lomax’s biography of Morton, Mister Jelly Roll, provides the icing on the cake. Although it is a major investment on several levels, this collection is an essential release for any fan or scholar of old time music. (Rounder)