Friday, January 14, 2011

Jelly and another possible influence

I came across this article and just had to share it. Alex Ross is an amazing writer,so check out his blog!

Was Stravinsky ready for this Jelly?
article by Alex Ross

A correspondent has skeptically greeted my claim ("The Record Effect" again) that Stravinsky could have listened to Jelly Roll Morton in 1916. He says that there were no Jelly Roll Morton recordings before 1923. (Or 1918, if you believe the artist's own recollections.) My statement was based on the fact that Morton's "'Jelly Roll' Blues" was published in Chicago in 1915. It seemed to me possible that there was a disc of that classic number in circulation, and that Ernest Ansermet brought it back for Stravinsky to hear after a 1916 American tour with the Ballets Russes. Admittedly, there's no evidence of such a recording. It's more likely that Ansermet found some sheet music. In any case, Gabriel Fournier insisted in a 1952 essay on Erik Satie ("Erik Satie et son époque," Revue musicale, June 1952) that Satie was in the habit of playing Jelly Roll Morton during the period in which he wrote Parade (premiered in 1917), and that he obtained the music from the pile of recordings that Ansermet gave to Stravinsky. Certainly there's potential for confusion on the French end of things. For "apparently," read "possibly."

A striking fact emerges from Lawrence Gushee's important new book Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band (Oxford UP). In the year 1916 the Creole Band was spreading the New Orleans sound across America, and in December of that year it opened a run of shows at the Empress theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Opening that same night at the Omaha Auditorium — Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes! The company was on the second leg of its American tour, and the star attraction was Nijinsky's new production of Till Eulenspiegel.