Not the best purchase to make for this music
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The very best music found in this box set (particularly the Red Hot Pepper Recordings) are essential in any jazz collection, as they are as important to the evolution of jazz as the recordings made by Armstrong's Hot Fives & Sevens and Ellington's Blanton-Webster Band. These are the epitome of small combo recordings, celebrated for their composition, arrangements, and performance. Having said that, this particular box set is a disappointment. It's bad enough that Morton's 100th birthday nearly passed without any notice (this box set was virtually the only piece of commemoration; even concert tributes were curiously absent). But this box set adds insult to injury. At first glance, it seemed like a cause for celebration, collecting all of Morton's RCA recordings and having been directed by Orrin Keepnews, who has given jazz so much invaluable support over the last few decades. However, upon closer inspection, it's painful to find how poorly this box set was put together. For starters, the listening experience is dragged down by the lazy sequencing, which places things in order they were recorded. That means master takes are often surrounded by alternate takes. With other artists, like Charlie Parker, it wouldn't be so bad because the alternate takes are often vastly different and sometimes better than the master take. That is NOT the case with Jelly Roll Morton. These performances were carefully arranged and composed, and early takes were rarely anything more than rehearsals for the master take; basically, the alternate takes sound like imperfect versions of the master takes. While they may still be interesting to jazz enthusiasts, it would have been a lot wiser to place them on separate discs. The main reason why this set is a disappointment lies in the sound. Up until the mid-90's, BMG/RCA had a terrible reputation for hastily mastering their CD's from inferior sources, refusing to spend the time and effort to track down originals. On this box set, a large number of tracks weren't mastered from original sources or even vintage 78's. Instead, a large number of tracks were taken from old analogue multi-generational copies. If that wasn't bad enough, all the recordings were heavily processed with a primitive version of Sonic Solutions' NoNoise system, stripping the music of any hiss and surface noise, but compressing the life out of the recordings. BMG/RCA has yet to remaster these recordings, but luckily, there's a great, affordable alternative: famed jazz expert John T.R. Davies remastered these recordings for JSP, a small, British label. Taking more care in the mastering process and utilizing golden sounding, vintage 78's from private collections, his work puts this box set to shame. His work is available at a much more affordable price on Amazon as well; also a 5-CD set, it's called "As Artist" (even thought that's not really the set's title). Don't be a fool; buy the JSP set, not "The Centennial.""
The Genius That Roared
Peter Acebal | Christiansburg, VA United States | 12/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone conversant with Jelly Roll Morton is aware of his notorious Ego,he claimed,after all,to have invented Jazz.While of course that were not the case,he DID make some of the most revolutionary music of the 20th century! YES you can quibble about the muddy sound quality and awkward track sequencing AND you WOULD have a point(s);but this set is not for party play.This superlative set contains all of Morton's Victor recordings,from the 1926-1927 Red Hot Peppers records where Morton brings New Orleans polyphony to its ultimate summit to the orchestra records where Morton midwifes the birth of Swing a decade before his time on through the various combo and solo cuts where he displays his tonal palette in full glory on to the 1939 sides where the rediscovered Morton reinvents his roots yet again.Actually,this set is intended for close study,its NOT a party CD and by close listening we begin to grasp the enormity of gifts this Narcissist possessed...the sound quality be darned...this is essential to any understanding of Jazz and 20th century music for that matter....sorry MTV,but This is the music that transcends the ages! Hip Hop what?"
COMPLETE, BUT LACKING IN SOUND QUALITY
Barry McCanna | Normandy, France | 12/28/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this set when it first came out, in 1990, and over the years I've become resigned to the fact that the "NoNOISE" processing has had the effect of flattening the tonal quality and dynamics of the original recordings, which were brilliant in every sense of the word. Those recordings were collectors' items, and I had various sides on the original 78s, both Victor and HMV, many of which sounded better that their digital counterparts. Which is a pity, because someone at Victor went to some trouble to put together this centennial set, which includes all known alternates, and is well-documented in the accompanying 64-page booklet."