Two kinds of surprise, one subtle and one cinematic-vaudevillian-theatrical from the Complete Morton Project. More details here.
First, DIXIE KNOWS — a composition Morton never recorded — played beautifully by Andrew Oliver, piano; David Horniblow, clarinet:
Then, a party! The Complete Morton Project invited two friends over, increasing the band by 200%: Michael McQuaid on reeds and Nicholas D. Ball on drums and hilarity — for HYENA STOMP:
Should you be tempted to dismiss HYENA STOMP as pure goofiness, listen to Morton’s Library of Congress solo rendition:
Anyone who thinks of Morton as a limited improviser who didn’t swing should be given a fifteen-minute immersion in that performance, which I marvel at.
But HYENA STOMP (in the 1927 Victor version) is elusive in one detail. I tried to find out about Lew LeMar, who says, “That’s terrible, Jelly!” and then does the laughing — choose your own adjective. I know there is a tradition of laughter being recorded as part of an act (consider the OKeh LAUGHING RECORD and later, LAUGHIN’ LOUIE) but I can find no information on the exuberant Mr. LeMar. Even William Russell’s seven-hundred page Morton scrapbook has no entry for him in the index.
And thus I am free to imagine. Did Jelly and Lew know each other from vaudeville? Had they met at a theatre or bar, with Jelly saying, “I’ve got a record date in three days and I want you on it?” Or was LeMar appearing on another Victor recording at the same time? Was he the recording supervisor’s idea? Was HYENA STOMP — very close to one strain of KING PORTER — created for LeMar? What was union scale for vocal effects? This unsolved mystery pleases me. But it makes me smile, which is a good thing in itself. Let us hope that we always have reasons to laugh.
May your happiness increase!