Morton - Melrose "Stocks".
By Björn Englund
From 1923 to 1928 Jelly Roll Morton was contracted to the Melrose Brothers publishing company and nearly all his works from this period were published by them, as piano sheet music and most also as stock arrangements "for small orchestra". I have never seen any of these stocks and wonder how they compare with Morton's Gennett, Victor and Vocalion orchestral recordings of the period. The strange thing is that in not a single case is Morton himself given as arranger (and as far as I know he was never given credit as arranger on tunes by other composers published by Melrose either). Most appeared after they were recorded for Victor and the other labels and are supposed to include solos transcribed from the discs. Elmer Schoebel is credited with nine tunes, Mel Stitzel with three and others are credited to Tiny Parham, Joe Jordan and others. What did these arrangers do? Did they write simplified arrangements and include a few solos from Morton's records or did they actually transcribe his records? If the latter, wouldn't it have been more natural to credit Morton as arranger? And how could Morton accept the names of other arrangers if they actually based his work on his arrangements and recordings?
There are many questions to be answered here. Add to this that seven of the Victor
titles from this period were by other composers:
The Chant (a "spooky serenade" by Mel Stitzel) was arranged by the composer and published by the Melrose Brothers on August 2, 1926. Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that this was the basis for the Morton recording?
Steamboat Stomp by Boyd Senter was published with Elmer Schoebel's arrangement on July 6, 1926.
Charles Luke's Smokehouse Blues was published with Elmer Schoebel's arrangement on October 4, 1926, but in this case the composer had already recorded this tune under the title Creole with the Ross Reynolds orchestra on November 22, 1924. This recording (which I haven't heard) is said to be remarkably like Morton's.
Then there were Oliver's Doctor Jazz and Mournful Serenade (the stock of the latter was stated to be based on Oliver's recording), Handy's Beale Street Blues and the Spikes Bros. Someday Sweetheart.
Below follows a list of those Melrose titles published as stocks (based on the listing
in the "doctorjazz" internet site).
Date of publication
Billy Goat Stomp
Black Bottom Stomp Elmer Schoebel 4/10/26
Boogaboo Tiny Parham 1928
Cannon Ball Blues
not published as stock
Chicago Breakdown Elmer Schoebel
Dead Man Blues
Mel Stitzel & Carrol Martin
Grandpa's Spells not published as stock
not published as stock
Jungle Blues not published as stock
Kansas City Stomp[s]
King Porter Stomp " 9/12/24
London Café Blues
Milenberg Joys (w/ Roppolo/Mares) Joe Jordan 22/6/25
Mr. Jelly Lord F. Alexander 1923
New Orleans Blues
Original Jelly Roll Blues
Shoe Shiner's Drag
published as stock
Shreveport Stomp Elmer Schoebel 4/10/26
Side-walk Blues Charlie Rider 22/10/26
Tom Cat Blues
Wild Man Blues (+ Louis Armstrong; Morton's part originally published
as Ted Lewis Blues)
Wolverine Blues Bill Howard 26/6/50!!!
Who were F. Alexander and Charlie Rider? Does any VJM reader have any of these stocks and if so, how do they compare with the Jelly Roll discs?
This could be the start of re-evaluation of the Morton Victors; perhaps he didn't do the arrangements for all of them? For instance, I could very well imagine it is Tiny Parham's arr used for Boogaboo, he wrote/arranged such "exotic" pieces. Does the Library of Congress or some other institution have these arrangements so a qualified researcher can compare them with the discs?
It is also strange that while Morton is always given credit as being arranger for the Melrose company from 1923 to 1928 not a single tune was published (as far as I know) where he was credited with the arrangement. Stranger still, I think I read somewhere that he told his friend Roy Carew that he could only arrange for a small band, but when he was on the West Coast 1940-41 he wrote for full-size swing band, and they are good (and for their time "modern") arrangements. I have heard recordings of some them (probably from the William Russell collection). Unfortunately most of them are lost, although Buster Wilson had them all in a trunk and promised to give them to that white old jazz writer who writes regularly for Jazz Journal (I cannot recall his name right now).
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