I am not just referring to its determination to wear us all into an early grave through having to stay up till half an hour after midnight for its regular Jazz Notes offering, and give us terminal fatigue. I have spotted a new tactic on the part of Radio 3 - to give jazz listeners heart attacks and apoplexy. It is well-known that jazz fans are among the most pedantic and nit-picking of all people, fanatics of accuracy with recording dates, personnel details etc. If they spot one bad mistake, they go red in the face. Give them half a dozen, and they might keel over.
Such was my feeling, at any rate, after listening to a 15-minute programme last Friday on Radio 3 devoted to the music of the jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton. It was so misinformed and crazily wrong that it must have been deliberate. For example... But decide for yourself. If you are a jazz fan, see how many mistakes you can spot about Morton and jazz in this paragraph of the script, transcribed exactly as I recorded it.
"Throughout the Twenties and Thirties he toured America and became renowned not only for his music but also for his flamboyant dress, showmanship and eccentric accessories; he wore diamonds in his teeth and in his sock garters.
"Musically he had a huge influence on the pianists of the Thirties, Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Erroll Garner among them, who all paid him tribute in their own work. The pianists Carl and Spencer Williams also paid him tribute in the song, 'Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of my Jelly Roll', which we're going to hear now played by the Sidney Bechet (sic) and his New Orleans Feetwarmers again.
"It's followed by a virtuosic farewell from Jerry, er, Jelly Roll himself, 'Tom Cat Blues', which he co-wrote with his friend Franklin Taft Melrose."
OK? That's the text. How many deliberate errors can you spot? Well, time's up and here are the answers.
1. Morton didn't do much touring in the Thirties. His music was out of fashion by 1930 and he hardly worked again, being as good as broke throughout the Thirties. As he died a forgotten man in 1941, it wasn't really quite as good a final decade as Radio 3 thinks.
2. Nobody outside Radio 3 ever thought Morton had much influence on Hines, Waller or Garner, who were all much finer pianists than he was.
3. Only on Radio 3 do they think of Erroll Garner as a pianist of the 1930s; he was not yet out of his teens in 1940.
4. There is no such person as Carl Williams. The man who wrote the song was Clarence Williams.
5. "Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll" has nothing to do with Jelly Roll Morton at all. It refers to a piece of sexual double entendre which was common in black American parlance of the time, and which Morton, too, borrowed for his nickname.
6. This means that the following record in this special Jelly Roll Morton quarter of an hour had nothing to do with Morton at all, being written by someone else and played by someone else.
7. He may turn up in reference books as Franklin Taft Melrose but he was never known in jazz history as anything but Frank Melrose.
8. And finally, though you won't get this from the script, you would have been disappointed by Jelly Roll Morton's "virtuosic" performance of "Tom Cat Blues" if you had stayed to listen to it. This is because the man on Radio 3 didn't play a record of "Tom Cat Blues" at all; he played a very different Morton piece called "King Porter".
This may sound to you like jazz pedantry, and of course it is, and I enjoyed it tremendously. All I am saying is that if you can get eight fairly basic errors about jazz into 133 words of text, which is about one error every 16 words, then it is probably not an accident. It is deliberate. I can only imagine that the head of Radio 3 has ordered his minions to start putting out little jazz programmes riddled with mistakes in order to give heart attacks to those jazz listeners who have not yet succumbed to terminal fatigue.
Put it another way: if I keel over with a red face and peg out in the near future, I want a warrant for murder to be issued against a man called Nicholas Kenyon.Reuse content